Are you feeling bummed about missing last night’s vice presidential debate because you were doing something I can almost guarantee was more enjoyable (catching up with a friend, sleeping, making a quilt out of your own skin)? Allow me to alleviate your stress. Gently place your palms on your knees, let your eyes flutter to a close, calmly slow your breathing and conjure the following image in your mind: two old white dudes talking over each other with unsettling commitment for an hour and a half.
Everyone feeling better? Wonderful. Here are the 10 things you need to know about last night’s first (and sole) VP debate.
1. First and foremost: The GOP declared victory for Mike Pence 90 minutes before the debate started.
“Our sincere congratulations to Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, who, according to the Republican Party, has emerged victorious in the sole vice-presidential debate of 2016, despite it not having happened yet,” wrote Philip Bump of The Washington Post earlier last night, after the GOP accidentally hit publish on their pre-written story. #lol
2. There was…how do I put this…A SHIT-TON OF INTERRUPTING.
Fivethirtyeight.com reported that Kaine interrupted Pence around 70 times, and Pence interrupted Kaine around 40 times. What those numbers don’t quite capture, though, is how often both of them would just continue talking at the same time while literally forgetting the debate had a moderator. Which brings me to:
3. The moderator, Elaine Quijano of CBS News, frequently lost control of the debate.
Let me be clear, though, that this poor woman tried her absolute hardest. “THE PEOPLE AT HOME CAN’T UNDERSTAND EITHER ONE OF YOU WHEN YOU SPEAK OVER EACH OTHER,” she pleaded at one point.
The most memorable moment: “Governor, I will give you 30 seconds to respond, because I know you want to, but, again, I would remind you both this was about North Korea…” after they’d spent minutes parsing the faults of the Clinton Foundation versus the Trump Foundation. The audience erupted in laughter, the crazed kind that expresses intense frustration.
Both candidates say they support women. Yet both disrespect and talk over the woman moderator in front of them.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) October 5, 2016
Someone is really going to have to buy @Elaine_Quijano a martini after this.
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) October 5, 2016
4. Kaine was consistently frazzled, exuberant and aggressive. Pence was consistently bewildered, calm and passive aggressive.
Anyone who went into the debate expecting a quite measured and vanilla (so to speak) debate between two men with similar dispositions and experience under their belt was sure to be surprised.
“Mike Pence, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, dominated throughout the night. He was smooth, smiling, and unflappable,” reports The Atlantic. “Tim Kaine, his Democratic counterpart, wasn’t able to break through, trying—often unsuccessfully—to cut in to rebut Pence, and to deliver a series of carefully prepared one-liners. But Pence, the governor of Indiana, seldom took the bait, grinning, raising his eyebrows in mock surprise, and shaking off Kaine’s attacks with a Reagan-style shrug.”
5. They addressed several of Hillary and Trump’s scandals.
Hillary’s emails, Trump’s taxes, the wall, the Clinton Foundation, the Trump Foundation, Miss Universe, birtherism, John McCain: nothing was off-limits. That said, nothing particularly new or shocking came out of this either. “Neither candidate made significant errors through the night, meeting the baseline test of not doing any harm to the top of the ticket,” reported The Times.
6. They arguably covered more ground than Trump and Clinton did during the presidential debate last week, but with less depth.
They covered the economy (Pence says they’ll cut taxes, Kaine says they’ll create more jobs), immigration (Pence says they’ll deport illegal immigrants, Kaine says they’ll focus on those who are criminals), terrorism and national security, foreign relations (Pence says strength is key, Kaine says diplomacy is key), healthcare, police (Pence says the problem isn’t implicit bias, Kaine says the problem is implicit bias), abortion (Pence says life, Kaine says choice), and religion (both Christian). Again, though, nothing super new.
7. Kaine asked Pence to defend Trump several times and Pence didn’t take the bait.
Most of the debate was focused on Clinton and Trump. “For 90 minutes on Tuesday night,” reports The New York Times, “Mr. Pence, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, was asked, over and over, to carry out perhaps the most unenviable, thankless and futile task in American politics: answering for Mr. Trump’s cruel name-calling, factual distortions and radical proposals. Instead, he dodged, deflected and demurred — deciding, it seemed, that all of the fires that Mr. Trump has set in the past year could not be doused in a single night.”
8. Kaine’s most memorable moment: his long Trump takedowns.
Kaine may have been a bit flustered but you have to hand it to him, he covered a lot of (horrifying) ground. This was within the first 30 minutes: “And I just want to talk about the tone that’s set from the top. Donald Trump during his campaign has called Mexicans rapists and criminals. He’s called women slobs, pigs, dogs, disgusting. I don’t like saying that in front of my wife and my mother. He attacked an Indiana-born federal judge and said he was unqualified to hear a federal lawsuit because his parents were Mexican. He went after John McCain, a POW, and said he wasn’t hero because he’d been captured. He said African-Americans are living in Hell. And he perpetrated this outrageous and bigoted lie that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. If you want to have a society where people are respected and respect laws, you can’t have somebody at the top who demeans every group that he talks about.”
9. Pence’s most memorable moment: “that Mexican thing.”
“In yet another attempt by Kaine to box Pence in with Trump’s words, the Democratic vice presidential nominee repeatedly brought up the inflammatory comments Trump made at the beginning of his campaign,” reports The Los Angeles Time.
“‘Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again,’ Pence groaned at one point. And thus a hashtag was born. #ThatMexicanThing quickly took off on Twitter, with users co-opting the phrase to share their own family histories of immigrants building their lives in America.”
10. Some “light” reading/watching for your afternoon:
The New York Times fact-checked the debate here, summed up “what you missed” here, and analyzed the debate via voice-over here.
CNN analysts debate who won here.
Here is The Washington Post’s full-transcript of the debate for the interested and here it is summed up in three minutes:
Feature collage by Emily Zirimis.