After watching Tuesday night's vice presidential debate, we couldn't help but feel some sympathy for Mike Pence. While we disagree with the Indiana governor on a variety of issues (quite profoundly in some cases), he demonstrated that he is clearly a serious, experienced public official with a broad range of knowledge on public policy, domestic and foreign. He was smooth, calm and unflappable at times when his opponent was not. It was obvious that he had taken the time to consider what questions might be raised and to prepare clear answers to them. In fact, he must have been so busy studying everything from abortion to the Syrian civil war that he didn't have time to read up on the guy whose ticket he's running on.
Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee for vice president, clearly had not failed to notice the presence of Donald Trump on the campaign trail and was extremely well versed in all of the crazy things he has said and done during the last year. We can only imagine what was going through Mr. Pence's mind as Mr. Kaine brought up one dangerous, offensive or ill-considered idea after another that has spewed forth from Mr. Trump's mouth or Twitter account — surely that can't be true, right?
We hate to be the ones to break it to you, Governor Pence, but it is.
When Senator Kaine mentioned the Trump plan to create a "deportation force" to get rid of the nation's undocumented immigrants en masse, Governor Pence said, "That's nonsense." It is nonsense; there's no way something like that would be possible, much less palatable to the American people. But it is, nonetheless, Trump policy. He's been talking about it at least since a primary debate in 2015 and reiterated the idea during an immigration policy speech in August.
We can understand how Mr. Pence would assume that calling NATO obsolete and getting rid of the alliance couldn't possibly be Mr. Trump's plan. But he did call it that, in an interview on ABC's "This Week" in March. And while he didn't explicitly advocate for ending the alliance, he did suggest he wouldn't necessarily honor its central tenet — that an attack on one member be treated as an attack on all. The governor was similarly nonplussed by Mr. Kaine's references to Mr. Trump's repeated praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin or the notion that we would ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Mr. Pence must have thought Mr. Kaine was deranged when he suggested that a Republican candidate for president endorsed nuclear proliferation. "More nations should get nuclear weapons. Defend that," Mr. Kaine said. "Well, he never said that, senator," Mr. Pence replied. Sorry to say it, governor, but he did. Repeatedly. He has specifically floated the idea of South Korea and Japan having nuclear weapons (an idea that the Japanese, for obvious reasons, find abhorrent) as a deterrent to North Korea. As for Saudi Arabia, he didn't get worked up about the idea in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, saying such a development was "inevitable."
Even as staunchly anti-abortion as Governor Pence is (he actually signed a bill requiring burial or cremation for fetal tissue, whether in the case of an abortion or miscarriage), he couldn't conceive of someone advocating that a woman be subject to criminal sanctions for getting an abortion. "Donald Trump and I would never support legislation that punished women who made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy," Mr. Pence said. But actually, Mr. Trump did at one point float the idea that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions, though he quickly backtracked.
The one Trumpism that Mr. Pence apparently caught wind of at some point was the candidate's unkind words about Mexican immigrants. When Mr. Kaine referred to remarks from a 2015 speech in which Mr. Trump said, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," Mr. Pence was swift to offer a correction: "He also said and many of them are good people. You keep leaving that out of your quote." Actually, the end of the quote is, "And some, I assume, are good people." Big difference.
Surely, at some point, Mr. Pence started to wonder why Mr. Kaine couldn't have pointed all this out to him before he agreed to be on Mr. Trump's ticket. Even so, he clearly owes the senator a debt of thanks. Not only did Mr. Kaine provide him with some valuable insights into his prospective boss, but he was so busy doing it that he failed to point out any of the crazy stuff Mr. Pence has done or said over the years — like when he wrote in 2000 that "smoking doesn't kill," when he compared the Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare to the Sept. 11 attacks, or when he sparked a massive backlash from Indiana businesses for signing a law allowing discrimination against gays. Maybe Mr. Pence would feel right at home in a Trump administration after all.