Previewing the Debate: A Look at the Vice-Presidential Picks



(Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Aug. 2, 2016.)

In Pence, Trump Picks a Seasoned Insider

Vice-presidential candidates traditionally have been chosen to shore up political alliances, help secure voter groups and improve the election prospects in crucial states.

In 1960, Democratic nominee John Kennedy chose Texas political giant Lyndon Johnson to help with Southern voters and provide muscle on Capitol Hill. In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama chose Sen. Joe Biden from Delaware because the long-serving politician gave assurance that the junior senator from Illinois had a seasoned vice president supporting him. 

Donald Trump had a very large pool of choices for his running mate. He could have gone with someone as unconventional as he is, or with one of his defeated rivals. He went instead with a conventional Midwestern governor, 57-year-old Mike Pence of Indiana.

Politically, Trump brings on to the ticket a genuinely seasoned insider, with experience both in the Capitol and the statehouse. He served from 2001 to 2013 as representative of Indiana’s Second Congressional District and Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While in Congress, he served as chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2011. That means that as a prospective vice president he could serve as a helpful bridge builder between Trump and a Republican caucus that still has considerable doubts about the nominee and the priorities of a possible Trump administration.

As governor of Indiana since 2013, Pence has become popular among other conservative governors who share his many concerns about the economy, taxation, life issues and education. As with Congress, Pence could be a good conduit for a Trump administration to deal with independent-minded governors.

Knowledge and relationships in Washington are essential, and Pence has friendships with the constituencies that are both leery of Trump and also vital for his election in November.

Speaking of the groups that have held Trump in suspicion, Pence is a conservative and has been a long supporter of the Tea Party movement. He also is recognized for his clear pro-life credentials. Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said of Pence:

“Gov. Pence’s pro-life stance is more than a talking point; Gov. Pence has put his pro-life position into action time and time again. ... In Congress, Pence led the effort to defund the nation’s largest abortion business, Planned Parenthood. Since becoming governor, Pence has advanced the pro-life cause through legislation and his administration. Under his administration, there are four fewer abortion facilities. The state abortion rate has been steadily declining every year. The state is enforcing health regulations that protect women’s health, and abortion doctors know they don’t have a free pass.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life group, added, “Gov. Pence lends authenticity to the ticket. He re-ups those pro-life commitments that Trump has made; he makes them concrete and real. He brings experience in fighting for the core issues that we care about, and he is a man of great discernment. … Knowing him as well as I do, it gives me great encouragement, and I am even more motivated than I ever was before.”

The GOP platform did much to ease the worries of pro-life advocates and to promise the conservative movement that Trump is listening to them. Should Trump actually win the White House, the platform will be there for them to put in front of Trump every time major issues emerge. And now they have in Pence a man they trust to be utterly in agreement with the party’s key political statement.


In Kaine, Clinton Picks a Loyal Soldier

Hillary Clinton had a wide set of options in choosing a running mate for the campaign. Some Democrats were quite eager for her to choose Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, while Bernie Sanders supporters wanted their beloved candidate in what for them would have been a logical step toward forging real party unity. Other names were floated as well, from former Iowa governor and current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Julian Castro, the head of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the end, she decided to proceed cautiously with a safe pick in Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia. Kaine, a Catholic, enjoys a long record of public service on the local, state and Senate level. Born in Saint Paul, Minn., he grew up in Kansas City and earned a degree from Harvard Law School. He moved to Virginia to practice law and was first elected to public office in 1994 as a member of the Richmond City Council.

He rose rapidly politically, winning election as mayor of Richmond in 1998, lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2001 and governor of Virginia in 2005. After serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.

He brings to the Clinton candidacy considerable experience in retail politics and national security credentials, having been on the Senate Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Relations, as well as the Committee on the Budget and the Special Committee on Aging.

Kaine is considered likeable, approachable and a solid family man, who is also fluent in Spanish, increasing the outreach potential for the campaign to the massive population of Latino voters. He is also an ardent progressive and a much celebrated “man of faith.”

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Kaine declared, “I went to a Jesuit boys’ high school, Rockhurst High School. … Now we had a motto in my school, ‘Men for others.’ And it was there that my faith became something vital, my north star for orienting my life. And when I left high school, I knew that I wanted to battle for social justice. That is why I took a year off from law school to volunteer with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras.”

For Catholics, the choice of Kaine marked as well the nomination of another self-professed Catholic leader, like Vice President Joe Biden, who is an exemplar of pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

Biden, Kaine and many other politicians from both major parties have long used the familiar formula first coined by the late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo that you can be personally opposed to abortion but be politically pro-choice.

In his speech on July 27, the vice-presidential nominee placed great emphasis on his faith, his Jesuit influences, his mission work in Latin America and the role of God in his life. In the same speech, he assured his audience that Hillary Clinton would protect Roe v. Wade.

In the last few years, there has also been a new title appropriated to provide Catholic politicians with a similar political cover. It was used by The Washington Post in a feature it did on Kaine, calling him a “Pope Francis Catholic.”

The suggestion is that Pope Francis has given latitude to Catholic leaders to hold positions that are diametrically opposed to Church teachings while still calling themselves faithful Catholics. Hence, Kaine, Biden and other Democrats and Republicans are somehow absolved of the need to form their consciences properly as Catholics and then act on their properly formed consciences in a way that truly promotes the common good that they are charged with upholding as public servants.

If, in fact, Kaine and others are called “Pope Francis Catholics,” it might be helpful to consider what exactly Pope Francis has said to Catholic politicians, especially on abortion and gender ideology.

In his apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Pope wrote,

“Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the ‘property’ of another human being.”

On euthanasia he taught, “The family protects human life in all its stages, including its last. Consequently, ‘those who work in health-care facilities are reminded of the moral duty of conscientious objection. Similarly, the Church not only feels the urgency to assert the right to a natural death, without aggressive treatment and euthanasia.’”

And Pope Francis had some very good advice for Catholics in politics, counsel that both Democrats and Republicans should heed.

“What do you want to say,” he asked, “that engaging in politics is a little like martyrdom? Yes. It is a kind of martyrdom. But it is a daily martyrdom: seeking the common good without letting yourself be corrupted. Seek the common good by thinking of the most fitting ways for this, the most fitting means. Seek the common good by working for the little things, the small ones; it gives little return ... but one does it.”

The small ones include the most vulnerable, the most defenseless. The unborn.