The Vice Presidential Debate : The Good, The Bad, And The Very Bad

By Harry C. Blaney III

This debate was in some ways a shame for the commentator who permitted again over talking of the VP candidates especially Pence, and she largely did not question lies and false assertions. The greatest fault of the media has been lack of focus before and after these debates on the substance and meaning of the policies that have a real impact on people’s lives and security. The post debate commentary was strictly the “horse race” rather than on what the policies and statements will mean for the future of our nation. It was a sad example of the lack of  honest oversight by the media.

The good part of this debate is that they did cover international issues. The bad part is they left out climate change, global inequality, and other issues. The really bad was the absence of truth and lack of deep analysis of cost, risks and benefits of proposed policies.

The quotes however provide some insight on how each party and the candidates themselves view the role of America in the world, how exactly they see that world, and finally how they would act if they got in power. The VP debate, while not the main event, still indicates the direction each party would take if they won in November.

It seems clear that like the first debate between Clinton and Trump their divide on realistic assessment, means of solving or not solving problems and challenges is as wide as ever. It also reveals from this perspective how little the Republican candidates know or really understand how to act in the complex, often dangerous and fast moving world we live in.

On the specific foreign affairs and national security issues some short takes:

Nuclear Weapons

Governor Pence: “We need to modernize our nuclear forces and we need an effective American diplomacy that will marshal the resources of nations in the Asian-Pacific rim to put pressure on North Korea, to abandon the nuclear ambitions. It has to remain the policy of the United States of America, the demilitarization of the Korean peninsula… We will go back to the days of peace through strength.”

Senator Kaine: “On the foreign relations committee we just did an extensive sanctions package against North Korea and interestingly enough, the UN did virtually the same package. Often China will use their veto on the security council for that. They are starting to get worried about North Korea as well. So, they supported the sanctions’ passage, even when many of the sanctions are against Chinese financial institutions. So, we are working together with China and we need to. It is competitive and also challenging and we have to be able to cooperate against North Korea. Hillary understands that. She went famously to China and stood up at a human rights meeting and said, against North Korea. “Women’s rights are human rights.” She worked on many important diplomatic deals with China and that is what it will take.”

Clearly once again on the topic of nuclear weapons and associated issues like North Korea and the placement of such weapons in our strategic plans, Gov. Pence seems deeply in the dark. This despite having served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He had a hard time defending past irresponsible quotes on this issue from Trump.  The key issue here is which set of candidates will act in the most careful and responsible way and this debate did not change the view that we have in the GOP team — very dangerous people with little understanding of key security issues.

Illegal Immigration

Pence: “Donald Trump has made a plan to end illegal immigration once and for all in this country. We have been talking it to death for 20 years. Hillary Clinton wants to continue the policy of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all of the things driving wages down in this country, senator, and also too often, with criminal aliens in the country, it is bringing heartbreak.

It begins with border security. After we secure the border, not only build a wall, but beneath the ground and in the air, we do internal enforcement. The focus has to be on criminal aliens. We just had a conversation about law enforcement, a conversation about the violence that is the setting our cities. The reality is, there is heartbreaking tragedy that has struck American families because people who came into this country illegally are now involved in criminal and reprise and activity, and we do not have the resources or the will to deport them systematically.

Donald Trump said we are going to move those people out. People have overstayed their visas. We are going to enforce the law of this country and strengthen immigration and customs enforcement with more resources and personnel to be able to do that, and then Donald Trump has made it clear. Once we have done all of those things, then we are going to reform the immigration system that we have in this country.”

Kaine: “Donald Trump believes in deportation nation. You have got to pick your choice. Hillary and I want a bipartisan reform that will keep families together, second, that will help focus enforcement efforts on those were violent, third, that will do more border control, and third, write a path to citizenship for those who play by the rules and take criminal background checks. That is our proposal.”

While Pence had a hard time defending the indefeasible lies and policies of Trump he stood clearly on the side of building the “Wall” which would be as an act of total madness and hurt our relations with every Latin American government let alone many of our citizens and undocumented residents. Senator Kaine gave the right answers about how impossible the Trump stance was and how self-defeating.

On Immigration and Refugees:

Pence: “It really does begin with us reforming our immigration system and putting the interest, particularly in the safety and security of the American people, first. Donald Trump wants extreme vetting for people coming in. Donald Trump and I are committed to suspending the Syrian refugee program and programs in immigration around the world that have been compromised by terrorism. Hillary Clinton wants to increase it.

If you’re going to be critical of me, that is fair game. After two Syrian refugees were involved in the attack in Paris that is called “Paris’ 9/11,” you bet I suspended that program. I stand by that decision. If I am vice president, we’re going to put the safety of the American people first.

The director of the FBI said we cannot know for certain who these people coming are.”

Kaine: “As opposed to violating the constitution by blocking people from coming in based on their nationality, we have different views on refugee issues and immigration. Hillary and I want to do enforcement based on “Our people dangerous?” These guys say “All Mexicans are bad.” With regard to refugees, we want to keep people out of they are dangerous. Donald Trump said “Keep them out if they are Muslim.” An appellate court with three public and judges struck down a pence plan and said it was this majority. It was discriminatory.”

Pence stuck to the Republican platform that opposes admitting refugees from Syria. By echoing Trump’s call for ‘extreme vetting,’ the Governor of Indiana demonstrated a shared ignorance in the robust vetting process already in place. Refugees are screened over a period of two years before they’re admitted into the United States. Kaine used the topic as an opportunity to highlight this week’s court ruling against Pence’s proposal to block refugees settling in his home state of Indiana. Overall, this topic is a choice between base fear, a lack of understanding of current refugee vetting, and xenophobia or accepting our share of the burden in assisting the world’s most helpless victims.

Iran, Iraq, and ISIS

Pence: “Other goal was always that we would only lift the sanctions if Iran terminally renounced their nuclear ambitions. They have not done so. And when the deal’s period runs out, there is no limitation on weapons. $1.7 billion was used in a ransom payment.

Iraq has been overrun by ISIS. They failed to negotiate. Hillary Clinton has failed to renegotiate the status of forces agreement.

The primary threat today is ISIS. Because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard-fought gains that the American soldier has won, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert and it has overrun vast areas.”

Kaine: “Let me come back to talk about — he does not want to acknowledge that we stopped the Iranian nuclear weapons program. He does not want to acknowledge that Taylor was part of the team that got Osama bin Laden… She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.

I would like to correct — President Bush said we would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. Iraq did not want our troops to stay. They would not give us the [directive] of our troops. If a nation where our troops are serving does not want us to stay, we are not going to stay —

Here is her plan to defeat ISIL. They have to take out their leaders on the battlefield. She will lead the team that will get the head of ISIS. We have got to disrupt the financing networks.

Third, disrupt their ability to recruit on the internet, in their state havens. Fourth, we also have to work with allies to share intelligence. That is the Hillary Clinton plan.”

On these issues Pence was either badly informed or downright lied, following the tradition of his leader. Sen. Kaine corrected these mistruths. But a campaign based on security issues and especially the Iran one on nuclear issues provided such prevarications beyond acceptable. Most well-read people know that it was President Bush who decided to take our troops out when he could not get immunity for our troops.

Russia and Putin

Pence: “Hillary Clinton’s top priority when she became secretary of state was the Russian reset. After the Russian reset, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea. The small and bullying the leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America, the greatest nation on Earth, just withdraws from talk about a cease-fire while that Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense in Syria while he marshaled the forces and begins — look, we have got to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership that begins by rebuilding our military… The provocations by Russia need to be met by American strength. If Russia continues to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the US needs to be prepared to strike military targets of the Assad regime, to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis taking place in Aleppo.”

“There is a broad range of other things we ought to do as well. We should deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland, which had Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on. We have to have American strength on the world stage. When Donald Trump becomes president, the Russians and other countries in the world will know they are dealing with a strong American president.”

“What we are dealing with is — there is an old proverb that says the Russian bear never dies, but hibernates. This foreign policy from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has awakened a Russian aggression that first appeared a few years ago with their move into Georgia and Crimea and into the wider Middle East. All we do now is pull out our arms and say, “We are not having talks anymore.” We need to marshal the resources of our allies in the region and end the immediate — we need to act and act now to get people out of harm’s way.”

“Strength. We are going to rebuild our military. This whole Putin thing, look, America is stronger than Russia. Our economy is 16 times larger than the Russian economy. Our political system is superior to the corrupt capital system in Russia it every way.”

“When Donald Trump and I observed in Syria and Iran and Ukraine that the bullying leader of Russia has been stronger on the world stage than this administration is stating facts. That is not an endorsement of Putin.”

Kaine: “Consistent with the UN Security Council resolution passed would be a good idea. Hillary Clinton has the way to stand up to Russia. Donald Trump again and again has praised Vladimir Putin.”

“It is clear she has business dealings with Russia and is very connected to Putin. The trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections.”

“Governor Pence made the odd claim, he said, and arguably, Vladimir Putin is a better leader than president Obama. Vladimir Putin has run his economy into the ground and he persecutes LGBT folks. If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you got to go back to a fifth grade civics class. That offends me.”

“Vladimir Putin is a dictator. He is not a leader.”

“Anyone who thinks otherwise does not know Russian history and they doesn’t know Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton knows exactly who this guy is. John McCain, I look at that guy and I see KGB. So, how do you deal with him? We do have to deal with Russia in many different ways. There are areas where we can cooperate.”

Here Kaine held clearly the edge and noted the many weakness of Trump’s and Pence’s understanding and indeed especially of Trump’s admiration for Putin. He weakly defended that position at the same time Putin’s forces were bombing and killing hundreds of innocent civilian including woman and children and hospitals in Syria. This was also not addressed or noted by our clueless moderator. Pence had no decent ground on this issue. Kaine seemed to repeat the argument that are going on within the administration but sadly few on any side have any easy answers.

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Image result for US Presidential Election 2016

By Harry C. Blaney III

We have focused rightly on the positions and statements of the key presidential candidates and American opinion as reflected by our media and our citizens, including experts in foreign and national security issues. But voices abroad do matter in an ever more connected world.

Here are some of the voices we have found which reflect on what leaders and others abroad think of our election debates, candidates, and the implication for their own lives and security.



Great Britain:

Donald Trump is “no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland”, his views on Muslims “do not represent the mainstream views of people across America.” – First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon  –

“I want Donald Trump to come to London so I can introduce myself to him as a mainstream Muslim, very, very comfortable with Western liberal values, but also introduce him to hundreds of thousands, dare I say millions of Muslims in this country, who love being British, love being Western,” – London Mayor Sadiq Khan

“I thought that was an extraordinary thing for a candidate for the office of president of the United States to say. Basically because America as I understand it is a country built on the ideal of welcoming people irrespective of their race, religion, color or creed or whatever. And I think that’s a fine thing about America…very, very disappointed” about Trump’s proposed Muslim Ban – Boris Johnson  – CNBC

Trump’s claims that pockets of London are so radicalized that the police do not enter them are “nonsense” – British PM Theresa May BBC

Donald Trump’s Muslim ban “divisive, stupid and wrong” – Former British PM David Cameron – BBC

“I cannot possibly tell you how you should vote in this election. But you know I get it, I get it. I’m hearing you. But I will say this, if I was an American citizen I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. In fact, I wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton if she paid me.” – UKIP Former Leader Nigel Farage, stumping for Trump in late August – Huffington Post


“Whether Donald Trump, Marine le Pen or Geert Wilders – all these right-wing populists are not only a threat to peace and social cohesion, but also to economic development,” – German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel

“I value her long political experience, her commitment for women’s rights, family issues and health care.”I value her strategic thinking and that she is a strong supporter of the transatlantic partnership. Whenever I had the chance to work together with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Reuters


Donald Trump “makes you want to retch” and his election could shift world politics to the right. He makes “hurtful, humiliating comments” and politicians “should be respected when they are respectable” – French President Francois Hollande – The Guardian


“I think it is obvious for me and for a lot of us to prefer Hillary Clinton as commander-in-chief, because with her, there is a woman able to know every dossier, able to have a history and a future with all the partners.” – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi – CNBC 


“I would have no difficulty in meeting Donald Trump” “Certainly. I would be very happy to. [explain why Trump’s comments are “racist and dangerous”]” – Irish Prime Minister End Kenny – Reuters


“There might be one more thing that we don’t agree with Mr. Prime Minister, and this issue is Donald Trump. I am sure that there is only one thing that we can learn from him: that a man should never dye his hair.”– Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern – Euronews


“A lot of what Donald Trump says makes for a more unstable world…
I hope this is part of local election campaigning and not what he will do if he is in office. He has said on a lot of topics different things, so we will see which Donald Trump he becomes.”– Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg – Politico


“Sweden should always make an effort to have good relations with countries around the world regardless of who is in power. But it is clear to see when you watch the [party] conventions that one is based on fear and division. Hate, I would almost say, or at least antipathy. The other one is based more on faith in the future.””I want Hillary Clinton to become president. There’s no doubt about it.” – Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven – TheLocal


“Now your presidency is coming to an end, and I have something to admit. I’m very fond of the Donald, too. I support him as a president. He’s pretty smart, shows great leadership skills, a true visionary. And I’m, of course, talking about Donald Tusk, who is president of the European Council.”– Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen – The Hill

Czech Republic:

“If I were an American citizen, I would vote for Donald Trump.” – President Milos Zeman – Bloomberg


“I’m not a member of Donald Trump’s campaign, I’d never have thought that it would occur to me the idea that he would be the best choice for Europe and for Hungary.” – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – Bloomberg


Donald Trump as a “colorful” person. Both candidates “engage in provocations”, but are also “smart, very smart people who understand which strings to pull.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin – Telegraph

The All-Russian Center for Public Opinion found 34 percent of respondents found relations would improve between the US and Russia if Trump were elected, compared to 6 percent for Clinton. The same survey found that 53 percent of polled Russians would think relations would deteriorate between the two countries if Clinton was elected, compared to 12 percent with a Trump presidency. – Washington Times


“If a man who shows off by not having a clue ends up in the White House, a critical point will have been reached. Then you will have an obviously irresponsible man sitting in a position that requires the utmost sense of responsibility. Trump is not just a problem for the EU, but for the whole world.” – European Parliament President Martin Schulz – Express


“I don’t think we have a right to lecture…I will not interfere in the US election campaign, but what I can do is say what matters for NATO. Solidarity among allies is a key value for NATO. This is good for European security and good for US security. We defend one another.” – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in response to Trump’s comments about conditional commitment to NATO allies’ defense – CNN




Experts find that China finds Hillary “is predictable, they generally know how she approaches China: There are aspects they don’t like about her, but they generally know what to expect,”

while with Trump “Donald Trump is a puzzlement… They don’t like his proclamations about what he would do in terms of tariffs on Chinese goods, and that he’d go after China on economic and trade issues. But having said that, I don’t think there are many who think he can follow through on what he’s talking about, or even if he knows what he’s talking about.”CNBC


North Korea praised Trump’s suggestion of pulling US troops from South Korea in a commentary from the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, claiming the South Korea “attitude is best shown by the way they got scared by Trump’s comments and groveled”

Although South Korea’s elected officials have not commented on Trump’s suggestions, media commentary has opposed these ideas. Kyunghyang Shinmun wrote an editorial in May stating:

“It is scary just to imagine Trump, who often doesn’t remember what he has said, getting elected president and manipulating Korean Peninsula issues by drastically shifting his positions.”The New York Times


In response to Trump’s suggestion about South Korea and Japan acquiring nuclear weapons of their own: “Whoever becomes president of the United States, the Japan-US alliance, based on a bilateral security agreement, will remain the core of Japan’s diplomacy” – Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary – Stuff




“Regardless of the eventual winner, from one administration to the next, there are changes, and there are shifts, but we will engage … in a positive, thoughtful collaborative way that understands the importance of the North American trilateral relationship,” – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Reuters


“I invited you to come and apologize to all Mexicans. Stop lying! Mexico is not yours to play with, show some respect.”
“He has failed all along. His absolute inconsistency in his positions, this very lousy way of trying to gain votes in speaking one day badly and aggressively against African Americans and then the next day asking them for support, telling the Hispanic community you’re criminals, you’re rapists, I’m going to throw you out of this country, and now he’s trying to get through a message that he’s not that bad, that he wants to do that because he loves that community because he thinks there are great people there. He thinks that everybody is stupid, especially the U.S. voters and the Hispanics and African Americans. Who is going to believe him with these dramatic and profound changes in opinion and public policies? “ –     Vicente Fox – Time

“What is a fact is that in the face of candidate Trump’s postures and positions, which clearly represent a threat to the future of Mexico, it was necessary to talk. It was necessary to make him feel and know why Mexico does not accept his positions.”

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, defending Trump’s visit to Mexico – NY Daily News




“No doubt [that Donald Trump would make a strong leader]” – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – CNN



Many may ask whether the views of leaders abroad or the global media and foreign citizens even matter. My answer is yes, they do if Trump or anyone like him were to ever become president.  Entire decades of good will, acceptance of our leadership on key issues like climate change and support we have obtained by our many act of humanitarian assistance, of security given to many nations and not least our allies, will largely disappear. We will be standing alone, just 4% of the world’s population, with a globe wondering what happened to our democracy and inducing insecurity and fear for global order, economic growth for all, and mutual security.

We welcome your comments which can be posted here.

Visit our regularly up-dated Race to the White House section covering quotes, foreign affairs statements and policies of the presidential campaign candidates and parties.