Democracy & Government

Last Night: Trump’s ‘Not a Kook’ v. Hillary’s ‘Attack Dog’

Did anybody look up from the Tom Brady headlines long enough to watch?

Last Night: Trump's 'Not a Kook' v. Hillary's 'Attack Dog'

The news that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be getting back in uniform after his "Deflategate" suspension got more attention in Boston at least than the VP debate. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Five quick comments on Tuesday’s vice presidential debate:

1. Here in Boston, the return of Tom Brady to active service as quarterback of the New England Patriots easily overshadowed the debate in terms of newsworthiness. I suspect that something comparable was true in other parts of the country as well. The face-off between the two vice-presidential candidates will have zero effect on the outcome of the election itself.

That said:

2. Both Kaine and Pence turned in creditable performances. Neither committed any huge gaffes, as far as I could tell. I found myself wondering if we’d be better off having a choice between the number twos rather than the number ones.

3. The post-debate commentary seems to see Pence as the “winner.” Certainly, he had the more difficult — and unenviable — task of trying to rebut or soften or dodge the now vast accumulation of absurdities and untruths that Donald Trump has accumulated in recent weeks and months. And I give Pence great credit for (more or less) keeping his cool and displaying a sense of humor. He gave the impression of being a serious and well-informed politician, not a tyro and not a kook.

4. Nonetheless, I give the edge to Kaine. Yes, he came across as a bit of an attack dog. On occasion, he was downright rude. But he had the goods on Trump, speaking with great specificity and in considerable detail. He did what he needed to do, minimizing the effectiveness of Pence’s efforts at damage control.

5. But back to point 1: None of it will matter. This coming Sunday’s debate is more likely to be decisive. If Trump once again performs badly, he’s toast.

Andrew Bacevich

Andrew Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. A graduate of the US Military Academy, he received his Ph.D. in American diplomatic history from Princeton University. Bacevich is also the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East.