Thursday, October 06, 2016

Pence vs. Kaine

The “Winner” 
Is the Boldest Liar

            The Second Great Debate of 2016, between U.S. Vice Presidential candidates Tim Kaine (D) and Mike Pence (R), is fluttering off into the pages of history, where it may ultimately find its place in a footnote. Yet it was the political event of the first half of this week, with as much coverage or more as the killer hurricane Matthew.
            The consensus among non-partisan observers is that Pence won on deportment but Kaine won on substance.
            Therefore, by some inexplicable metric, the conclusion is that Pence won the debate. Obvious, isn’t it?
            Not really.
            Kaine’s interruptions of Pence annoyed me, to be sure. He could never be as crude as Donald Trump, but he brought Trump to mind with that style, even if his interruptions were justified by the outrageous assertions and, alternately, stone-walling on the other side.
            The thing is, Pence could not have “won” the debate because he could not defend the indefensible except by bald-faced lies. News reports admit that Pence lied by flatly denying about half-a-dozen or more statements either he or Trump has made in the course of this endless campaign. Yet the weight of opinion I’ve read and seen, liberal and conservative, gives Pence the edge in the debate because he was so contained and controlled, even as he lied.
Mike Pence
            How can you win a debate when you offer no valid counter-arguments but only a flat denial of the opponent’s well-supported charges? Or have the rules changed since I was in college? To win a debate today, do you only have to deny valid points with so cool and straight a face that people will either believe you or congratulate you for being such an unflappable liar? Is politics just a well-paying gig for an actor?
            Several commentators say Pence has his beady blue eyes on the 2020 Presidential race. They point out that Pence’s popularity as Governor of Indiana was down as he came up for re-election this year, so he hopped the Trump train out of town and avoided what might have been a defeat and a dead end to his political ambitions. Some say those ambitions are high, and that some prominent Republicans are already talking Pence for President in 2020.
            They say he’s such a cool, conservative cucumber of a guy that he could take the party back from Trump, who apparently many if not most Republicans have already assumed will lose this election. Or so they fervently hope.
            I’m sure many contenders are ready to join the slug-fest that’s coming in 2020. It’s amazing that it’s already started, but, be that as it may, I’m struck by the political popularity of a man who we know very well is lying through his teeth. The Nation’s John Nichols writes that he out-performs Richard Nixon for lying with such a straight face. Even Nixon gave himself away with tiny facial quirks. Not Pence. He’s cold as ice as he tells us what we all know to be true is false—just to win an election or as a consolation setting him up as a prime contender in 2020.
            And that’s a problem for Pence, giving me hope that after losing this election he’ll join that landfill heap of ambitious men—and women, too—who fall off the mountain before they reach the top, for which we can all breathe a sigh of relief—until, perhaps, we see the one who makes it there instead.
            Bernie said Tim Kaine is “a decent guy,” just not as progressive as Bernie would like. As a resident of Virginia when Kaine was Governor, I have to agree. I hardly knew he was Governor, he was that inoffensive, which isn’t to say he was ineffectual. But he’s a party Democrat, a kind, decent, conscientious guy, and clearly Pence’s intellectual equal and, frankly, moral superior, criticized by the hot-shot media for lacking style over substance.
Tim Kaine
            We should by now be used to such disrespect for substance in our public debates, but substance is nourishing and our public debates are anything but, even though the problems we face are truly alarming. Among them are politicians who are vacuous slaves to fund-raising. Why do they do it?
            Why does Mike Pence lie about what his CEO is up to when everyone knows he’s lying? Why do press secretaries and campaign managers efface themselves in the same way? Do we lie with a straight face to preserve our own positions or advance our ambitions? Or just to deny the other side is correct?
            It’s difficult when the men and women who want to be our leaders—make the rules for us, decide critical matters on our behalf—are so flawed. Just like any one of us. Think of it. President of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, but what makes that so? All the weapons at his/her command. Not because this person is an example of Homo-Superius, who behaves with an enlightened hand.
            I think the Presidency, like the leadership in any historical empire, is a matter of destiny. It’s something you’re born with, it has an inevitability about it, whether you’re conscious of it, as some are, or you’re not. There are no accidental Presidents, though we may all be surprised when a particular person becomes President.
            In any case, it’s said we get the President we deserve, even if we didn’t vote for the one who wins, which is food for thought for a long time to come.
            I hope I don’t deserve Trump-Pence, and I also hope I don’t deserve Pence in 2020. The man uses blatant dishonesty to gain his ends. Whatever you think of Kaine’s politics, you can’t accuse him of that.
            I admit I’m a registered Democrat, but I say Kaine “won” the debate on substance and, if it means anything, on sincerity, too. I don’t think he’s a great candidate but I also don’t think he’d stoop to Pence’s low level of argument and certainly would not support his right-wing policies. It discourages me that Pence got points for both in the early polls and media. What are people thinking?
            Or is it just a ploy to keep us all watching the unfolding drama of who will finally be our leader? Who will take charge over us and shape our history next?
            When you put it that way, it sounds sort of important.


At 10:15 AM , Anonymous Bud said...

You could substitute Clinton for Pence and your blog would be just as valid 😄!

At 10:54 AM , Blogger Delaney said...

Even in Dante's hell there are degrees of evil.


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