Why wasn’t Mike Pence’s history of homophobia mentioned in the debate?

Why wasn’t Mike Pence’s history of homophobia mentioned in the debate?
Photo: AP Photo/David Goldman
Except for a question about avoiding a repeat of the June massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and a reference to Russian oppression of LGBTQ people, the one and only vice presidential debate followed a pattern set at the first presidential debate in avoiding the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer Americans.

One can only hope CNN’s Anderson Cooper will nip that in the bud at the presidential debate he will co-moderate with ABC’s Martha Raddatz on Sunday.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia was the chief interrupter at the debate Tuesday night at Longwood University in his home state. He was like a raging bull in his determination to smash Donald Trump’s qualifications for the presidency, casting him as a “me-first” mogul who won’t level with Americans about his business record. Mike Pence, the antigay governor of Indiana, hit back with criticism of Hillary Clinton but didn’t dispute that running mate Trump hadn’t paid federal taxes for years, and wouldn’t refute Trump’s praise of Russia.

No one, neither the moderator nor Kaine, raised the subject of Pence’s oppressive anti-LGBTQ laws in Indiana and his positions when he served in Congress.

The two men, who have received little attention in a race focused on the top two candidates, faced off for 90 minutes in the only vice presidential debate of the campaign. Analysts credited Pence with being calm, poised, articulate and unrattled in the face of a barrage of attacks by Kaine, who was critiqued for being overly aggressive.

The debate was live Tweeted by LGBTQ Nation, but we weren’t the only ones: the GOP nominee live-tweeted his own view:

The lone reference to LGBTQ people came during a discussion of Russia. Kaine said Clinton would stand up to Russia in a way that Trump would not, noting the GOP nominee has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kaine then attacked Pence directly for what he called “the odd claim” that Putin was a better leader than Obama.

“Vladimir Putin’s run his economy into the ground, he persecutes LGBT folks and journalists. If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you have got to go back to a fifth-grade civics class,” Kaine said.

“That is absolutely inaccurate,” Pence later claimed of his previous comments comparing Obama and Putin. But as Kaine said, you can go to the tape. Speaking on CNN from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last month, Pence backed up his running mate’s claim, although he used the word “stronger” rather than “better.”

“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence said then.

Pence was given multiple opportunities to refute Trump’s support of Putin and Russia and passed each time, avoiding a specific defense but continuing to express his support.

Latinos expressed outrage at a remark Pence made about Mexicans, according to CNN.

Kaine brought up Trump’s outrageous statements on immigration, including his announcement speech when he said that some of the immigrants Mexico was sending were “rapists” and were “bringing crime.” And that was the one moment that Pence lost patience.

“Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again,” said Pence.

USA Today reported Clinton’s campaign had claimed by the night’s end, directing the domain to her site. And Twitter picked up the baton and ran with it.

On taxes, Pence declared that Trump “used the tax code just the way it’s supposed to be used, and he did it brilliantly.”

Tim Kaine said the Clinton Foundation has helped provided lifesaving medical treatment for millions of people across the world, including people with AIDS. Mike Pence said the Trump foundation is a private family foundation that does good as well, while calling the Clinton Foundation a platform that lets the Clintons travel the world and hire people. The Republican governor noted that the foundation accepted millions of dollars from foreign leaders while she was the secretary of state. Kaine hammered back that the Trump Foundation is “an octopus-like organization with tentacles all over the world.” He says it’s impossible to know about all the connections because Trump won’t release its tax returns, or his own, as he pledged.

Moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS frequently asked the candidates to stop interrupting one another, at one point repeatedly urging them, “Gentlemen! Gentlemen!” Most times it worked, but Kaine had something to say even as Pence delivered his final remarks.

It was Quijones who brought up the June massacre at Pulse.

“Governor Pence, Mr. Trump has proposed extreme vetting of immigrants from parts of the world that export terrorism. But that does not address many of the recent terrorist attacks in the United States, such as the Orlando nightclub massacre and the recent bombings in New York and New Jersey. Those were homegrown, committed by U.S. citizens and legal residents. What specific tools would you use to prevent those kinds of attacks?”

Pence responded by addressing the plans of his running mate, “reforming our immigration system and putting the interests, particularly the safety and security of the American people, first. I mean, Donald Trump has called for extreme vetting for people coming into this country so that we don’t bring people into the United States who are hostile to our Bill of Rights freedoms, who are hostile to the American way life.”

Quijano reminded Pence the question was about homegrown terrorism, but he never answered it.

Kaine remarked that Trump idolized dictators, saying, “He has a personal Mount Rushmore of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Saddam Hussein.”

Pence borrowed a line from Ronald Reagan by saying of Clinton and Kaine, “There they go again,” which fell flat. Kaine, however, clearly scored a point when he also invoked Reagan:

“Donald Trump’s idea that more nations should get nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea. Ronald Reagan said something really interesting about nuclear proliferation back in the 1980s. He said the problem with nuclear proliferation is that some fool or maniac could trigger a catastrophic event. And I think that’s who Governor Pence’s running mate is, exactly who Governor Reagan warned us about.”

Pence feigned outrage but did not otherwise respond: “Come on. Senator. Senator, that was even beneath you and Hillary Clinton. And that — that’s pretty low.”

We’ve got your Veep debate right here

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