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Thursday, May 23, 2024

It was astonishing, the vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. It looked oddly familiar. It looked nothing like the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a few weeks ago. No, this debate was full of substance, political theory and, for the most part, well-developed arguments. Kaine and Pence got on that stage and actually looked like what two respectable candidates ought to. It seems the debate we watched Tuesday is the debate we had traditionally been watching. For once, we felt nostalgic.

During the debate, Kaine asked Pence several times to defend some of the things Trump has said in his past and during this campaign cycle. Examples include (but sadly are not limited to) Trump saying he would release his tax returns if he ran for president and that women should be punished for choosing to terminate a pregnancy. Pence’s defense worked one of two ways: He would blatantly lie to the American public and say Trump never said those things, or he would say something along the lines of, “Well, he didn’t mean that.”

This is confusing. One of the most common arguments we’ve heard for Trump is he “means what he says.” Despite this, the Republican Party, Pence and his supporters seem like they’re constantly re-interpreting Trumpisms because, well, “he didn’t mean that.” Either he means what he says or he doesn’t, dear readers. Not sure which option is more terrifying.

Noticing that Pence was learning how to become a bulls--- artist of Trumpian proportions, famed conservative radio host Glenn Beck posted a Facebook rant including amazing quotes like, “Come on … you and everyone know he said ALL of those things,” and, “There are better and acceptable answers, but you chose to simply lie.”

When Beck calls a Republican leader a liar and a verbal manipulator, he’s probably right. The Trump-Pence campaign lies so often that even Beck, who over the last 10 years has been responsible for the rise of the Tea Party movement and a variety of outright conspiracy theories, has pointed it out. The Tea Party movement and conspiracy theories that, mind you, probably concocted the cesspool of primordial ooze the Trump campaign crawled out of.

It seems that everywhere you look, conservative leadership is abandoning its party. Captain Trump has lit the S.S. GOP on fire, and while some people, like Pence, are staying onboard to see how far they can get before they inevitably sink, some smart ones took the life rafts. Mitt Romney, George H. W. Bush and even Beck cannot in good conscience stand behind Trump. Pence can, but he has to lie and squirm his way out of it.

Kaine was not without his shortcomings either. We’re very critical of Trump interrupting Clinton repeatedly over the course of the previous debate and wish we saw a calmer demeanor in Kaine two nights ago. Kaine’s explanations also seemed repetitive, long-winded and even scripted. While there’s nothing wrong with preparing for a debate (in fact, it’s encouraged), it’s understandable why common folk see this as cold, rigid and distant. It looked, for a minute, like Kaine lost the debate.

But be patient, and we think the tides will turn. Kaine forced Pence to react to some pretty bad Trumpisms, and as mentioned previously, Kaine’s responses deflected the responsibility of answering those questions. Yet, despite the absurdity of this debate, it still looked better than anything we’ve seen in a long time.

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