While I anticipated that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would select a running mate more admired by the progressive wing of the party, I have no grievance with her selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her partner.
Yes, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters because Caine is viewed as the ultimate centrist. Centrism, of course, is not inherently evil, especially as contrasted with right-wing extremism. Even the most progressive of progressives must admit that Kaine, on his worst day, would do a better job as Vice President than Mike Pence.
As Evan Popp notes, Kaine’s record is not nearly as offensive to progressives as is commonly assumed. He is not perfect, but who is? He is certainly well-qualified to be Clinton’s second-in-command, and promises to be as effective of a partner as Al Gore and Joe Biden were for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively.
There is no question that Kaine has the intellect, personality and skill necessary to pound Pence in a Vice Presidential debate; Pence will be as cognitively compromised as Palin was against Biden in their 2008 debate. Kaine versus Pence will be wisdom versus wingnuttery, compassion versus cruelty, decency versus degeneracy; the leader of the Hoosier State simply won’t be able to rate in a debate.
There’s no doubt that Kaine is seen as having a mixed record on climate. However, there’s also no doubt that the Virginia Senator understands the existential threat of carbon pollution, as opposed to Pence, whose views on climate change are Inhofe-esque in their irrationality. Some climate hawks will regard Kaine as half a loaf at best; I would argue in response that half a loaf is better than starving.
Of course, if the Libertarian Gary Johnson-Bill Weld ticket scores high enough in presidential polls to warrant inclusion in the debates, such an outcome would put Pence at an even greater disadvantage. Kaine and Weld would not hesitate to put Pence’s extremism under a powerful microscope, branding the Indiana Governor in the public mind as a figure every bit as extreme and eccentric as Trump himself. Expect howls of outrage from Pence if Weld is included in the vice-presidential debates, as it will be virtually impossible for him to deal with both Kaine and Weld at the same time.
UPDATE: From 2005, Mark Murray on Kaine’s faith and his focus in Virginia. Plus, more from Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell.