COLUMN: Everyone loses in VP debate



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Vice presidential candidates Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence had a debate Tuesday night.

And as much as I’d like to focus on something else — something that’s not two grown men talking over each other and their female moderator — vice presidents do matter.

Historically, 14 vice presidents have become United States presidents, and eight times that happened because the sitting president died.

When you consider we’ve had only 44 presidents total, this means about one in three presidents started out as a vice president.

The ages of our presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton at 68 and Donald Trump at 70 — makes them susceptible to health issues in the next four years. If elected, Clinton would be the second-oldest inaugurated president, and Donald Trump would be the oldest. We can’t rule out the possibility of a Kaine or Pence presidency.

But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Personally, I found this debate utterly disappointing.

It was filled with incessant interruptions and attacks that made both men look childish and impolite — unfitting characteristics for men who might take over the presidency at some point.

Despite his efforts to underscore his small town Indiana raising, Pence came off as arrogant and dodgy. While he remained composed as he spoke, he avoided answering many of debate moderator Elaine Quijano’s questions. Kaine was quick to point this out, but his constant interjections and attempts to talk over Pence made him seem easily ruffled.

I was most uncomfortable to realize that neither candidate respected Quijano’s efforts to do her job. While her performance wasn’t great — she sporadically switched topics and gave out seemingly random times for each man to speak — Pence and Kaine sometimes blatantly ignored her to finish arguing with each other.

And the thing is, they weren’t often arguing about policy. They let discussion about their running mates dominate the conversation.

Watching this debate was painful. I turned it off before it was over and decided to read the transcript later. While doing so, I counted all the times Trump and Clinton came up in the conversation — about 165 mentions of Trump and 110 mentions of Clinton.

Why so much Trump? Because Kaine. Would. Not. Stop.

I like Kaine. He made a great speech at the Democratic National Convention, and he seems to have stuck to his principles throughout his political career. I understand that he probably wanted to corner Pence into admitting he doesn’t completely support everything Trump does or says, but it became obvious early on that Pence would not.

Of course Pence was not going to throw Trump under the bus. Of course he wasn’t going to badmouth the man who chose him as a running mate even after Pence publicly endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, over him.

That’s not to say it wasn’t infuriating that Pence would neither condemn nor defend Trump’s outrageous actions.

But let’s not forget that Pence might very well be preparing for a presidential run in 2020 — in which case, he showed Republicans he can be the cool, conservative, “presidential” candidate they so badly wish they had now.

Many debate recap articles point to Pence as the winner, but I’d say everyone lost, including Quijano and anyone watching on 
television.

Sadly, I think any hope of getting a more delightful duo than President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden is out of the question. But my own biases aside, if Pence or Kaine ever want their own bids for president, both could use some brushing up on their debate skills.

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