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Kaine, Pence spar in vice presidential debate in Virginia

Kaine challenges Pence to defend Trump; Pence criticizes Clinton’s foreign policy tenure

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

virginia mugFARMVILLE, Virginia (CFP) – Vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence have squared off in their first and only debate, with Kaine challenging Pence to defend Donald Trump’s behavior and Pence criticizing Hillary Clinton as a tax-and-spend liberal whose tenure as secretary of state has led to chaos around the world.

The October 4 debate, at Longwood University in central Virginia, is the only one of this year’s four national debates to take place in the South, and Kaine, a Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, is the only Southerner on a major party ticket this year.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine

Kaine was clearly the aggressor, repeatedly interrupting Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, and challenging him to defend controversial statements that Trump, the GOP standard-bearer, has made in the past.

“He’s called women slobs, pigs, dogs, disgusting,” Kaine said. “He attacked an Indiana-born federal judge and said he was unqualified to hear a federal lawsuit because his parents were Mexican … And he perpetrated this outrageous and bigoted lie that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.”

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Pence, in turn, derided what he termed Kaine’s “avalanche of insults” and tried to turn the tables on the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

“If Donald Trump had said all of the things that you’ve said he said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said that half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables,” Pence said.

However, Pence was willing to defend Trump on one line of Democratic attack—namely, that the Republican nominee may have used nearly $1 billion in business losses to avoid paying federal income taxes for decades.

“Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician. He actually built a business,” Pence said. “His tax returns showed he went through a very difficult time, but he used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used. And he did it brilliantly.”

Kaine responded by taking issue with Trump’s assertion in the first presidential debate that avoiding taxes made him “smart.”

“So it’s smart not to pay for our military?” Kaine said. “It’s smart not to pay for veterans? It’s smart not to pay for teachers? And I guess all of us who do pay for those things, I guess we’re stupid.”

Pence retorted with a question: “Senator, do you take all the deductions you’re entitled to? I do.”

Pence and Trump also sparred over their respective economic plans, with Pence criticizing the Democratic ticket over a proposal to raise income taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers.

“In the wake of a season where American families are struggling in this economy under the weight of higher taxes and Obamacare and the war on coal and the stifling avalanche of regulation coming out of this administration, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same,” he said. “It really is remarkable that they actually are advocating a trillion dollars in tax increases.”

But Kaine criticized the Republicans for proposing new corporate tax breaks that would benefit “people just like Donald Trump,” which he said would repeat the same mistakes made during the Bush administration that led to the 2008-2009 economic downturn.

“Independent analysts say the Clinton plan would grow the economy by 10.5 billion jobs. The Trump plan would cost 3.5 million jobs,” he said. “Why would (Trump) do this? Because his tax plan basically helps him. And if he ever met his promise and he gave his tax returns to the American public like he said he would, we would see just how much his economic plan is really a Trump-first plan.”

Pence, however, insisted that Trump had not broken his promise and would release his tax returns once an ongoing IRS audit was concluded.

IRS officials have repeatedly said that an audit does not preclude a taxpayer from releasing his tax returns. Because of federal privacy laws, the IRS cannot confirm whether Trump is actually being audited.

Pence also offered sharp criticism of Clinton’s tenure as America’s top diplomat, charging that “America is less safe today than it was the day that Barack Obama became president of the United States.”

“It’s absolutely inarguable. We’ve weakened America’s place in the world. It’s been a combination of factors, but mostly, it’s been a lack of leadership,” he said. “Our primary threat today is ISIS, and because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiation a status-of-forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard-fought gains the American soldier had won by 2009, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert.”

But Kaine noted that at the time the Obama administration came into office, Al Queda leader Osama bin Laden was still alive, the United States had more than 175,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons program that it has now agreed to give up.

“Under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, she was part of the public safety team that went after and revived the dormant hunt against bin Laden and wiped him off the face of the earth,” Kaine said. “She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.”

Pence also criticized Clinton for using a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, which he said may have allowed foreign hackers to gain access to sensitive information.

“If your son or my son handled classified information the way Hillary Clinton did, they’d be court martialed,” Pence said, referring to the candidates’ sons who are both serving in the Marine Corps.

Kaine shot back: “That is absolutely false, and you know that,” noting an FBI investigation that resulted in no criminal charges against Clinton or any of her aides over use of the email server.

On other issues:

Immigraton: Kaine said he and Clinton both support comprehensive immigration reform leading to an eventual path to citizenship while Trump “believes in deportation nation.”

“Donald Trump proposes to deport 16 million people, 11 million who are here without documents. And both Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to get rid of birthright citizenship, so if you’re born here, but your parents don’t have documents, they want to eliminate that,” he said. “They want to go house to house, school to school, business to business, and kick out 16 million people.”

Pence insisted that claim was “nonsense,” saying Trump first wants to strengthen border defenses and deport illegal immigrants who have committed crimes “and once we’ve done all of those things, … we’re going to reform the immigration system that we have.”

He accused Clinton and Kaine of wanting “to continue the policies of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all the things that are driving wages down in this country.”

Abortion: Pence, who was raised a Roman Catholic and considers himself a born-again Christian, said his opposition to abortion flows from a passage in the Bible where “God says, before you were formed in the womb, I knew you.” He criticized Clinton’s support for repealing a provision in federal law that forbids use of taxpayer funds for abortions—a provision Kaine has supported in the past.

But Kaine, a Roman Catholic who has said he is personally opposed to abortion, said he and Clinton support the right of women to make their own decisions on the issue.

“I think you should live your moral values. But the last thing, the very last thing government should do is have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices,” he said.

In an interview earlier in the campaign, Trump indicated he might support criminal penalties for women who have abortions. But he quickly walked back from that position, and Pence told the debate audience that he and Trump “would never support legislation that punished women who made the heartbreaking choice to end a pregnancy.”

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