The Vice Presidential Candidate Debate


Mike Pence (R) and Tim Kaine (D) square off on Oct. 4 in the first and only US Vice Presidential candidate debate.
Mike Pence (R) and Tim Kaine (D) square off on Oct. 4 in the first and only US Vice Presidential candidate debate.

Tonight is the first and only scheduled Vice Presidential Candidate debate for the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election cycle. Meeting on the stage will be the Republican VP candidate, Gov. Mike Pence, and the Democratic VP candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine. I’ll live blog this evening if there is anything of particular note that leaps out at me, but here is what I expect:

  1. Remember, we are not voting for VPs… we are voting for the people at the top of the ticket. For these parties, those people are Donald Trump (R) and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton (D). While the VPs may come off as more likeable or informed than the top of the ticket, who cares? When you vote, you’re voting for the Presidential Candidate. Other than needing to break ties in the Senate or take over if the President is unable to execute their duties, there isn’t much of a bar the VP candidates have to cross.
  2. That said, expect the VP Candidates each to attach the top of the ticket of the other party. If they’re smart politicians, they will always take the fight to the top of the other party’s ticket. Nobody really cares about the VP candidates scoring points against one another; what matters is a bruising of the other party’s Presidential Candidate.
  3. From a scientist’s perspective, the Republicans are a mess this year and the Democrats are generally in good shape. By that, I mean that the policies expressed by the Republicans regarding issues where science is a leading player (e.g. whether or not to act on Climate Change, how to shape the Energy Economy) are largely unaligned or anti-aligned with the best science; the Democrats are generally aligned well this year, though it’s never perfect. Pence has a history of expressing a misunderstanding of the fundamentals of biology, which underpins all of the successful medical procedures known to our species and our total understanding of the biological world. He’s often advocated for watering down science by introducing one branch of one religion’s beliefs into the science classroom. Kaine has little such nonsense in his past statements. Watch for Pence to be sticking to personal or party ideologies on issues where science is a leading component of the issue: the environment, energy, and climate policy. Democrats have their anti-science demons, too: watch for Kaine to make missteps on food policy, for instance.

With that in mind, let’s relax until the event begins at 9pm US Eastern Time.


The fact-checkers are going to be fighting a war on two fronts: streams of nonsense from the VP candidates, and the usual flood of nonsense from Donald Trump in parallel.


Amen to this!


OK, the debate is nearly upon us! I’ll keep this light tonight.


Pence, in his response to what makes him the VP to step in should the President be compromised, mentions the “War on Coal.” No such thing. Coal has been challenged mostly by having to compete against cheap natural gas… coal has been losing the economic fight for dominance of the energy market. Pence brings Republican anti-science talking points to his intro.




Pence seems more uncomforable being the attack dog than does Kaine. Unexpected. Every time Pence has to make an attack, he pauses, glances away, and then finally gets into it.


The interruptions have begun! That didn’t take long.

Question: is it “mansplaining” if two men explain over each other? Whatever. Keep to your time, kids.


I can’t follow this. They are just talking over each other. It’s a mess. Moderator has lost control.



Pence brings up fake “war on coal” again. Repeating Republican talking points. Clearly meant to appeal to Virginia voters. Except the “war on coal” is just “market competition between coal and natural gas that coal is losing.”




Time for tax return talk…


Pence is trying to run a traditional Republican campaign in this debate. Good luck selling that to Trump.

Also, avoiding the question entirely about Trump and his personal taxes.


Moderator tries to bring Pence back to the question.

Pence keeps saying “God bless you for it” to Kaine. That’s Christian speak for “Let me shove this knife in between the third and fourth rib and twist.”

Pence: “[Trump] went through a difficult time and used the tax code brilliantly.”

Kaine: “How do you know that? How do you know that?”


I THOUGHT Pence said the wrong University name at the beginning! Yikes. A real Gary Johnson moment for Pence.

More fact checks:





Indeed, Kaine and Pence are running verbally over the moderator left and right.


Pence speaking for himself, not for Trump:



Pence denies that humans are “implicitly biased,” but the evidence says that every human has biases that they may not even be consciously aware of. Race-based (social group) biases are among them. Police are no more immune to that than others. Police do noble work, but like all members of the human family they have flaws, and being aware of those flaws and how they might affect professional choices is just part of being a responsible professional.

Again, Pence dismissing science of bias to make an appeal to emotion.


On bias in policing:


On other subjects:





And what about that claim that former President Clinton criticizing the current national health care framework?


Fact checking:


Tonight, it’s clear that the Clinton campaign is really taking advantage of the fact that Trump cannot stop talking, and puts his foot in his mouth so much he’s just handing material to the opposition.


I think Kaine just took the rhetoric over the top with the claim that “Trump has a personal Mt. Rushmore” of the world’s worst dictators.




Oof. Harsh but true:


Pence then says that his plan to block Syrian refugees because Syrian terrorists have infiltrated the U.S. is supported by the following evidence, according to him: “Syrians have been involved in terror-related activities in Germany.” Who now what?

So much for “innocent until proven guilty.”


Oh, Kaine… don’t misuse the word “Cyber”. You will sound like such a Donald Trump if you do that. C’mon man. Get your shit together.


If only Mike Pence could teach Donald Trump to use the word “cyber” as correctly as he does.

Moderator getting talked over by Pence and Kaine again. So awkward.






“The question was about Aleppo,” says the moderator.

Sigh. I don’t think they’re listening to you anymore. I am so sorry.


“How would those safe zones work?” the moderator asks.

Either candidate: avoid talking about safe zones, then engage by saying that they would be made safe. Yikes.


And this lovely sexist tweet, retweeted by Trump, from “Team Trump” and attributed to Pence. Thanks for making our gender look classy, boys:


… and on Iran:


The person who lost most tonight was no person at all, but the decorum expected for “debate” participants. The moderator did the best she could, short of cutting mics. Any moderator would have been steamrolled… but Quijano should definitely be pissed at both of these folks.


A fact check on claims by the Trump ticket on “Obamacare”:


Pence had Virginia with “War on Coal,” but Trump lost Virginia by calling is a “failed state” on twitter:



So, what DID they say about Obama and Putin? A fact-check:



A look at Pence’s “$400 million ransom paid to Iran” claim:


Checking Pence and Trump on Clinton Foundation claims:

Wow. Kaine EVISCERATING Trump Foundation by comparing it to Clinton Foundation.

WAIT?! This question was supposed to be about North Korea? 🙂

Wow. Pence jumped off a bridge without a bungee cord on this topic.


Asked about a time when religious faith was tested by a policy issue:

  • Kaine: as a Catholic, does not believe personally in death penalty. But, was Governor of a state with death penalty. In the U.S., personal religious beliefs should not conflict with upholding the law. Did not personally support this, but upheld the law as was his duty. “Important that those of us who have deep faith lives can’t substitute our views for others in society.”
  • Pence: also grew up with a deep faith tradition. Talks about sanctity of life, ties this to Biblical text about “before you were born I knew you.” Pence talks about expanding alternatives in Indiana to abortion. Not really a challenge to his faith so far. How is passing alternatives to something that makes you uncomfortable a challenge to your faith, and not just forcing your faith on society? Doesn’t matter whether you support abortion or not – this is not a good example of “Acting in the public good to execute the office thought the action conflicts with my faith.”

Kaine challenges Pence on this – mandating the tenets of your faith for those who do not subscribe to it.

This was prescient:


Fact-checks on this issue:

and then this:


Whew, boy. Then there was this from Pence:


Last question: “It has been a divisive campaign. How will you unite the people who voted against you?”

Really? A divisive campaign. No.

  • Kaine: Republicans in government regard and respect Hillary Clinton. Talks about her bi-partisan efforts. So… just highlights her bi-partisan history.
  • Pence: talks about a weak America under “Obama and Clinton”, crippled by taxes, a war on coal, and bad trade deals. Best way to bring people together: change in D.C. Talks about his own service in D.C. – doesn’t talk about Trump at all. Finally talks about Trump when he says “Trump’s entire career has been about ‘building’.” America will unite when Trump changes America.



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