Campaign 2016

National Security Highlights from the Vice Presidential Debate

By Zachary Burdette, Quinta Jurecic
Wednesday, October 5, 2016, 12:13 PM

Vice Presidential candidates Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence faced off at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia last night in the only debate between the running mates. The debate was a far cry from the sound and fury of last week’s showdown between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but still produced some sparks of its own, as Kaine repeatedly pushed Pence to defend Trump’s many and varied incendiary comments. Elaine Quijano of CBS moderated the debate. 

Of interest to Lawfare readers will be the running mates’ commentary on a range of national security-related issues, of which relevant sections of the debate transcript are excerpted below. Notably, Mike Pence broke with Donald Trump on the subject of U.S. policy towards both Russia and Syria, arguing that the United States should pursue more aggressive tactics to contain the Kremlin and create a humanitarian “safe zone” within Syria. Trump has previously expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and indicated his view that the United States should hold back from pursuing military action against the Syrian government.

A full transcript of the debate is available here from the New York Times.

 

Russia

QUIJANO: Governor Pence, let me ask you, you have said Donald Trump is, quote, "thoughtful, compassionate, and steady." Yet 67 percent of voters feel he is a risky choice, and 65 percent feel he does not have the right kind of temperament to be president. Why do so many Americans think Mr. Trump is simply too erratic?

PENCE: Well, let me—let me say first and foremost that, Senator, you and Hillary Clinton would know a lot about an insult- driven campaign. It really is remarkable. At a time when literally, in the wake of Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, where she was the architect of the Obama administration's foreign policy, we see entire portions of the world, particularly the wider Middle East, literally spinning out of control. I mean, the situation we're watching hour by hour in Syria today is the result of the failed foreign policy and the weak foreign policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead in this administration and create. The newly emboldened—the aggression of Russia, whether it was in Ukraine or now they're heavy-handed approach...

KAINE: You guys love Russia. You both have said...

PENCE: ... their heavy-handed approach.

KAINE: You both have said—you both have said Vladimir Putin is a better leader than the president.

PENCE: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

QUIJANO: Well, we're going to get to Russia in just a moment. But I do want to get back to the question at...

PENCE: But in the midst—Elaine, thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Senator, I'll...

KAINE: These guys have praised Vladimir Putin as a great leader. How can that...

(CROSSTALK)

QUIJANO: Yes, and we will get to that, Senator. We do have that coming up here. But in the meantime, the questions...

[…]

KAINE: […] And Hillary also has the ability to stand up to Russia in a way that this ticket does not. Donald Trump, again and again, has praised Vladimir Putin. And it's clear that he has business dealings with Russian oligarchs who are very connected to Putin.

The Trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections with pro-Putin forces. Governor Pence made the odd claim, he said inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama. Vladimir Putin has 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 got to go back to a fifth-grade civics class.

I'll tell you what offends me...

PENCE: Well, that offended me.

 

[...]

 

QUIJANO: Gentlemen, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and has provided crucial military support to the Assad regime. What steps, if any, would your administration take to counter these actions? Senator Kaine?

KAINE: You've got to be tough on Russia. So let's start with not praising Vladimir Putin as a great leader. Donald Trump and Mike Pence have said he's a great leader. And Donald Trump has business...

PENCE: No, we haven't.

KAINE: ... has business dealings—has business dealings with Russia that he refuses to disclose. Hillary Clinton has gone toe-to- toe with Russia. She went toe-to-toe with Russia as secretary of state to do the New START Agreement to reduce Russia's nuclear stockpile. She's had the experience doing it.

She went toe-to-toe with Russia and lodged protests when they went into Georgia. And we've done the same thing about Ukraine, but more than launching protests, we've put punishing economic sanctions on Russia that we need to continue.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, didn't know that Russia had invaded the Crimea.

PENCE: Oh, that's nonsense.

KAINE: He was on a TV show a couple months back, and he said, "I'll guarantee you this, Russia's not going into the Ukraine." And he had to be reminded that they had gone into the Crimea two years before.

PENCE: He knew that.

KAINE: Hillary Clinton has gone toe-to-toe with Russia to work out a deal on New START. She got them engaged on a meaningful way to cap Iran's nuclear weapons program. And yet she stood up to them on issues such as Syria and their invasion of Georgia. You've got to have the ability to do that, and Hillary does.

On the other hand, in Donald Trump, you have somebody who praises Vladimir Putin all the time. America should really wonder about a President Trump, who had a campaign manager with ties to Putin, pro- Putin elements in the Ukraine, who had to be fired for that reason. They should wonder—when Donald Trump is sitting down with Vladimir Putin, is it going to be America's bottom line or is it going to be Donald Trump's bottom line that he's going to be worried about with all of his business dealings?

Now, this could be solved if Donald Trump would be willing to release his tax returns, as he told the American public that he would do. And I know he's laughing at this, but every president...

PENCE: But what's it got to do with Russia?

KAINE: Every president since Richard Nixon has done it, and Donald Trump has said I'm doing business with Russia. The only way the American public will see whether he has a conflict of interest...

PENCE: No, he hasn't said that.

KAINE: He has, actually.

QUIJANO: Senator, your time is up. Governor?

PENCE: Well, thanks. I'm just trying to keep up with the insult-driven campaign on the other side of the table.

KAINE: You know, I'm just saying facts about your running mate.

PENCE: Yeah.

KAINE: And I know you can't defend.

QUIJANO: Senator, please. This is the governor's two minutes.

PENCE: I'm happy to defend him, Senator. Don't put words in my mouth that I'm not defending him.

KAINE: You're not.

PENCE: I'm happy to defend him. Most of what you said is completely false, and the American people know that.

KAINE: I'll run through the list of things where you won't defend...

PENCE: This isn't the old days where you can just say stuff and people believe it.

QUIJANO: Senator, please. This is Governor Pence's two minutes.

PENCE: Look, this is the alternative universe of Washington, D.C., versus reality. Hillary Clinton said her number-one priority was a reset with Russia. That reset resulted in the invasion of Ukraine, after they'd infiltrated with what are called little green men, Russian soldiers that were dressing up like Ukrainian dissidents, and then they moved all the way into Crimea, took over the Crimean Peninsula. Donald Trump knew that happened. He basically was saying it's not going to happen again. The truth of the matter is that what you have in the rise of aggressive Russia, which has had—increased its influence in Iran, that's now—now because of this deal is on a pathway in the future to obtain a nuclear—the leading state sponsor of terror in the world in Iran now has a closer working relationship with Russia because of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's foreign policy and $150 billion and sanctions all being lifted.

And then, of course, Syria, I mean, it really is extraordinary that—Syria is imploding. You just asked a very thoughtful question about the disaster in Aleppo. ISIS is headquartered in Raqqa. It is—ISIS from Raqqa has overrun vast areas that at great sacrifice the American soldier won in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and yet Senator Kaine still sits here, loyal soldier—I get all that—in saying that the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama somehow made the world more secure. I mean, it really is astonishing that on the day...

KAINE: We even wiped out the leader of Al Qaida.

PENCE: ... on the day that Iran released four American hostages...

KAINE: We stopped Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

QUIJANO: Governor...

PENCE: ... we delivered $400 million in cash as a ransom payment for Americans held by the radical mullahs in Tehran.

(CROSSTALK)

QUIJANO: Governor, yesterday, Mr. Trump said...

KAINE: And we stopped a nuclear weapons program without a shot.

QUIJANO: ... quote, "Putin has no respect for Hillary Clinton and no respect for Obama." Why do you think he'll respect a Trump- Pence administration?

PENCE: Strength. Plain and simple.

KAINE: Business dealings.

PENCE: Donald Trump—that's nonsense. Donald Trump is a strong leader...

KAINE: Donald Trump's son says that the Trump organization...

PENCE: ... who is going to lead with American strength.

QUIJANO: Please, Senator, I'll give you a chance to respond.

PENCE: We're going to rebuild our military. And let me—let me—this whole Putin thing. Look, America is stronger than Russia. Our economy is 16 times larger than the Russian economy. America's political system is superior to the crony, corrupt capitalist system in Russia in every way.

When Donald Trump and I observe that, as I've said in Syria, in Iran, in Ukraine, that the small and bullying leader of Russia has been stronger on the world stage than this administration, that's stating painful facts. That's not an endorsement of Vladimir Putin. That's an indictment of the weak and feckless leadership...

QUIJANO: Senator Kaine?

PENCE: ... of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

KAINE: Well, this is one where we can just kind of go to the tape on it. But Governor Pence said, inarguably, Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama.

PENCE: That is absolutely inaccurate.

KAINE: And—and—and I just think a guy who praises...

PENCE: He said he's stronger—he's been stronger on the world stage.

KAINE: No, he said leader. And if—and I'll just say this, Governor.

PENCE: You just said better.

KAINE: If you mistake leadership for dictatorship, and you can't tell the difference, a country that's running its economy into the ground...

PENCE: Yeah, here we go. This is the grade school thing again?

KAINE: ... persecuting journalists...

PENCE: Right, this is grade school.

KAINE: ... if you can't tell the difference, you shouldn't be commander-in-chief.

PENCE: Yeah. KAINE: And with Donald Trump—Donald Trump's sons say that they have all these business dealings with Russia. Those could be disclosed with tax returns, but they refuse to do them. Americans need to worry about whether Donald Trump will be watching out for America's bottom line or his own bottom line.

QUIJANO: Senator Kaine, what went wrong with the Russia reset?

KAINE: Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin is a dictator.

QUIJANO: And what would do you differently?

KAINE: Vladimir Putin is a dictator. He's not a leader. Anybody who thinks otherwise doesn't know Russian history and they don't know Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton knows exactly who this guy is. John McCain said, I look in his eyes and I see KGB. And Hillary kind of has that same feeling.

PENCE: Right.

KAINE: So how do deal with him? You've got to—we do have to deal with Russia in a lot of different ways. There are areas where we can cooperate. So it was Hillary Clinton who worked with Russia on the New START Treaty to reduce their nuclear weapons stockpile. It was Hillary Clinton that worked with Russia to get them engaged in a community of nations to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons without firing a shot.

She's not going around praising Vladimir Putin as a great guy. But she knows how to sit down at a table and negotiate tough deals. This is a very challenging part of the world, and we ought to have a commander-in-chief who is prepared and done it, rather than somebody who goes around praising Vladimir Putin as a great leader.

 

The Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Legacy

KAINE: Governor Pence—Governor Pence doesn't think the world's going so well and he, you know, is going to say it's everybody's fault.

PENCE: Do you?

KAINE: Let me tell you this. When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, Governor Pence, did you know that Osama bin Laden was alive?

PENCE: Yes.

KAINE: Do you know that we had 175,000 troops deployed in the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you know that Iran was racing toward a nuclear weapon and Russia was expanding its stockpile?

Under Secretary Clinton's leadership, she was part of the national team, public safety team that went after and revived the dormant hunt against bin Laden and wiped him off the face of the Earth. She worked to deal with the Russians to reduce their chemical weapons stockpile. She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.

PENCE: Eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program?

KAINE: Absolutely, without firing a shot. And instead of 175,000 American troops deployed overseas, we now have 15,000.

PENCE: Right and...

KAINE: These are very, very good things.

PENCE: And Iraq has been overrun by ISIS, because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate...

KAINE: Well, if you want to put more American troops in Iraq, you can propose that.

PENCE: Hillary Clinton—Hillary Clinton—Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a status of forces agreement...

KAINE: No, that is incorrect. That's incorrect.

PENCE: And so we removed—we removed all of our...

QUIJANO: Gentlemen, we'll get to...

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: ... troops from Iraq, and ISIS was able to be conjured up in that vacuum.

KAINE: But I'd like to correct...

PENCE: ... and overrun vast areas of Iraq.

KAINE: Governor, President Bush said we would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. And, Elaine, Iraq didn't want our troops to stay, and they wouldn't give us the protection for our troops. And guess what? If a nation where our troops are serving does not want us to stay, we're not going to stay without their protection.

PENCE: It was a failure of the secretary of state...

QUIJANO: We need to move on to the next topic, gentlemen.

KAINE: If Governor Pence wants to put more troops back in Iraq, that's...

QUIJANO: There are a lot of people wondering in this country about the economy. Let's turn to the issue of the economy.

 

The Islamic State

QUIJANO: Gentleman, I'd like to shift now to the threat of terrorism. Do you think the world today is a safer or more dangerous place than it was eight years ago? Has the terrorist threat increased or decreased? Senator Kaine?

KAINE: The terrorist threat has decreased in some ways, because bin Laden is dead. The terrorist threat has decreased in some ways because an Iranian nuclear weapons program has been stopped. The terrorist threat to United States troops has been decreased in some ways because there's not 175,000 in a dangerous part of the world. There's only 15,000.

But there are other parts of the world that are challenging. Let me tell you this: To beat terrorism, there's only one candidate who can do it, and it's Hillary Clinton. Remember, Hillary Clinton was the senator from New York on 9/11. She was there at the World Trade Center when they were still searching for victims and survivors. That's seared onto her, the need to beat terrorism.

And she's got a plan to do it. She was part of the national security team that wiped out bin Laden. Here's her plan to defeat ISIL. First, we've got to keep taking out their leaders on the battlefield. She was part of the team that got bin Laden, and she'll lead the team that will get Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS.

Second, we've got to disrupt financing networks, third, disrupt their ability to recruit on the Internet, in their safe havens. But, fourth, we also have to work with allies to share and surge intelligence. That's the Hillary Clinton plan; she's got the experience to do it. […]

[…]

PENCE: […] But the truth is, Osama bin Laden led Al Qaida. Our primary threat today is ISIS. And because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a status of forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard fought gains the American soldier had won by 2009, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert, and it's overrun vast areas that the American soldier had won in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

My heart breaks for the likes of Lance Cpl. Scott Zubowski. He fell in Fallujah in 2005. He fought hard through some of the most difficult days in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom and secure that nation. And that nation was secured in 2009.

But because Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama failed to provide a status of forces agreement and leave sufficient troops in there, we are back at war. The president just ordered more troops on the ground. We are back at war in Iraq. And Scott Zubowski, whose mom would always come to Memorial Day events in Newcastle, Indiana, to see me, and I'd give her a hug and tell her we're never going to forget her son and we never will, Scott Zubowski and the sacrifices the American soldier made were squandered in Iraq because this administration created a vacuum in which ISIS was able to grow. […]

 

Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Views

KANE: […] Donald Trump. Donald Trump can't start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot. Donald Trump doesn't have a plan. He said, "I have a secret plan," and then he said, "Um, I know more than all the generals about ISIL." And then he said, "I'm going to call the generals to help me figure out a plan." And finally he said, "I'm going to fire all the generals." He doesn't have a plan.

But he does have dangerous ideas. Here's four. He trash talks the military. The military is a disaster, John McCain's no hero, the generals need all to be fired, and I know more than them. He wants to tear up alliances. NATO is obsolete, and we'll only work together with Israel if they pay "big league."

Third, he loves dictators. He's got kind of a personal Mount Rushmore, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Moammar Gadhafi...

PENCE: Oh, please. Come on.

KAINE: ... and Saddam Hussein. And last and most dangerously, Donald Trump believes—Donald Trump believes that the world will be safer if more nations have nuclear weapons. He's said Saudi Arabia should get them, Japan should get them, Korea should get them. And when he was confronted with this, and told, wait a minute, terrorists could get those, proliferation could lead to nuclear war, here's what Donald Trump said, and I quote: "Go ahead, folks, enjoy yourselves."

I'd love to hear Governor Pence tell me what's so enjoyable or comical about nuclear war.

QUIJANO: Governor Pence?

PENCE: Did you work on that one a long time? Because that had a lot of really creative lines in it.

KAINE: Well, I'm going to see if you can defend any of it.

PENCE: Well, look, I can defend—I—I—I can—I can make very clear to the American people, after traveling millions of miles as our secretary of state, after being the architect of the foreign policy of this administration, America is less safe today than it was the day that Barack Obama became president of the United States. It's absolutely inarguable.

We've weakened America's place in the world. It's been a combination of factors, but mostly it's been a lack of leadership. I mean, I will give you—and I was in Washington, D.C., on 9/11. I saw the clouds of smoke rise from the Pentagon.

KAINE: I was in Virginia where the Pentagon's...

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: I know you were. We all lived through that day as a nation. It was heartbreaking. And I want to give this president credit for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.

But the truth is, Osama bin Laden led Al Qaida. Our primary threat today is ISIS. And because Hillary Clinton failed to renegotiate a status of forces agreement that would have allowed some American combat troops to remain in Iraq and secure the hard fought gains the American soldier had won by 2009, ISIS was able to be literally conjured up out of the desert, and it's overrun vast areas that the American soldier had won in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

My heart breaks for the likes of Lance Cpl. Scott Zubowski. He fell in Fallujah in 2005. He fought hard through some of the most difficult days in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom and secure that nation. And that nation was secured in 2009. […]

 

The Iran Nuclear Deal

And a reference to the Iranian deal, the Iranian deal that Hillary Clinton initiated, $150 billion to the radical mullahs in Iran.

KAINE: Stopping a nuclear weapons program without firing a shot?

PENCE: You didn't stop the nuclear weapons program.

KAINE: Yes, we did.

PENCE: You essentially...

KAINE: Even the Israeli military says it stopped.

PENCE: ... guaranteed that Iran will someday become a nuclear power, because there's no limitations once the period of time of the treaty comes off.

 

Refugees and Homegrown Terrorism

QUIJANO: 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: Well, I think it's—I think it's a great question, Elaine, but it really does begin with us 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.

But also, Donald Trump and I are committed to suspending the Syrian refugee program and programs and immigration from areas of the world that have been compromised by terrorism. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to increase the Syrian refugee program by 500...

(CROSSTALK)

KAINE: Elaine, I want to...

(CROSSTALK)

QUIJANO: Governor, the question was about homegrown.

PENCE: Yeah, and so—but first, you know, let's make sure we're putting the safety and security of the American people first instead of Hillary Clinton expanding the Syrian refugee program...

KAINE: Or instead of you violating the Constitution by blocking people based on their national origin rather than whether they're dangerous.

PENCE: That's not—that's absolutely false.

KAINE: That's what the Seventh Circuit decided just—here's the difference, Elaine.

PENCE: The Seventh Circuit...

KAINE: We have different views on—on refugee issues and on immigration. Hillary and I want to do enforcement based on, are people dangerous? These guys say all Mexicans are bad.

PENCE: That's absolutely false.

KAINE: And with respect to refugees, we want to keep people out if they're dangerous. Donald Trump said keep them out if they're Muslim. Mike Pence...

PENCE: Absolutely...

KAINE: ... put a program in place to keep them out if they're from Syria. And yesterday an appellate court with three Republican judges struck down the Pence plan...

PENCE: Right. Right.

KAINE: ... and said it was discriminatory...

PENCE: And those judges—those judges said...

KAINE: We should focus upon danger, not upon discrimination.

QUIJANO: Governor?

PENCE: Elaine, to your point, those judges said it was because there wasn't any evidence yet that—that ISIS had infiltrated the United States. Well, Germany just arrested three Syrian refugees that were connected to ISIS.

(CROSSTALK)

KAINE: But they told you there's a right way and a wrong way to do it.

PENCE: But, look, if you're going to be critical of me on that, that's fair game. I will tell you, after two Syrian refugees were involved in the attack in Paris that is called Paris' 9/11, as governor of the state of Indiana, I have no higher priority than the safety and security of the people of my state.

KAINE: But, Governor Pence...

PENCE: So you bet I suspended that program.

KAINE: But, Governor Pence, I just...

PENCE: And I stand by that decision. And if I'm vice president of the United States or Donald Trump is president, we're going to put the safety and security of the American people first.

KAINE: Sure. Can we just be clear—Hillary and I will do immigration enforcement and we'll vet refugees based on whether they're dangerous or not. We won't do it based on discriminating against you from the country you come from or the religion that you practice.

PENCE: But the problem with that...

KAINE: That is completely antithetical to the Jeffersonian values of...

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Elaine, the director of the FBI, our homeland security, said we can't know for certain who these people are coming from Syria.

KAINE: Yes, we can, and when we don't let them know, we don't let them in.

PENCE: So—the FBI...

KAINE: When we don't know who they are, we don't let them in.

PENCE: The FBI and homeland security said we can't know for certain. You've got to err on the side of the safety and security of the American people, Senator. I understand the...

KAINE: By trashing all Syrians or trashing all Muslims?

PENCE: ... the U.N. wants us to expand the Syrian refugee program...

QUIJANO: Senator Kaine, let me ask you this. Secretary Clinton...

PENCE: We're going to put the safety and security of the American people first.

QUIJANO: ... has talked about an intelligence surge.

KAINE: Yes.

QUIJANO: What exactly would an intelligence surge look like? And how would that help identify terrorists with no operational connection to a foreign terrorist organization?

KAINE: Intelligence surge is two-thirds, Elaine. It's two things. It's, first, dramatically expanding our intelligence capacities by hiring great professionals, but also we've got some of the best intel and cyber employees in the world right here in the United States working for many of our private sector companies.

So it involves increasing our own workforce, but striking great partnerships with some of our cyber and intel experts in the private sector so that we can, consistent with constitutional principles, gather more intelligence.

But the second piece of this is really, really important. It also means creating stronger alliances, because you gather intelligence and then you share your intelligence back and forth with allies. And that's how you find out who may be trying to recruit, who may be trying to come to one country or the next. Alliances are critical.

That's why Donald Trump's claim that he wants to—that NATO is obsolete and that we need to get rid of NATO is so dangerous.

PENCE: That's not his plan. KAINE: Well, he said NATO is obsolete. And, look, if you put aside—push aside your alliances, who you're going to share intelligence with? Hillary Clinton is the secretary of state who knows how to build alliances. She built the sanctions regime around the word that stopped the Iranian nuclear weapons program. And that's what an intelligence surge means. Better skill and capacity, but also better alliances.

QUIJANO: All right. I'd like to turn now to the tragedy in Syria. Two hundred fifty thousand...

PENCE: Can I speak about the cybersecurity surge at all?

QUIJANO: You can—you can have 30 seconds, Governor, quickly, please.

PENCE: First, Donald Trump just spoke about this issue this week. We have got to bring together the best resources of this country to understand that cyber warfare is the new warfare of the asymmetrical enemies that we face in this country. And I look forward if I'm privileged to be in this role of working with you in the Senate to make sure that we resource that effort.

KAINE: We will work together in whatever roles we inhabit.

 

Syria

QUIJANO: I want to turn now to Syria. Two hundred fifty thousand people, 100,000 of them children, are under siege in Aleppo, Syria. Bunker buster bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons are being dropped on them by Russian and Syrian militaries. Does the U.S. have a responsibility to protect civilians and prevent mass casualties on this scale, Governor Pence?

PENCE: The United States of America needs to begin to exercise strong leadership to protect the vulnerable citizens and over 100,000 children in Aleppo. Hillary Clinton's top priority when she became secretary of state was the Russian reset, the Russians reset. After the Russian reset, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea.

And the small and bullying leader of Russia is now dictating terms to the United States to the point where all the United States of America—the greatest nation on Earth—just withdraws from talks about a cease-fire while Vladimir Putin puts a missile defense system in Syria while he marshals the forces and begins—look, we have got to begin to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership.

It begins by rebuilding our military. And the Russians and the Chinese have been making enormous investments in the military. We have the smallest Navy since 1916. We have the lowest number of troops since the end of the Second World War. We've got to work with Congress, and Donald Trump will, to rebuild our military and project American strength in the world.

But about Aleppo and about Syria, I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones, so that families and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners, real time, right now, to make that happen.

And secondly, I just have to tell you that the provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.

There's a broad range of other things that we ought to do, as well. We ought to deploy a missile defense shield to the Czech Republic and Poland which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled back on out of not wanting to offend the Russians back in 2009.

QUIJANO: Governor, your two minutes are up.

PENCE: We've just got to have American strength on the world stage. When Donald Trump becomes president of the United States, the Russians and other countries in the world will know they're dealing with a strong American president. QUIJANO: Senator Kaine?

KAINE: Hillary and I also agree that the establishment of humanitarian zones in northern Syria with the provision of international human aid, consistent with the U.N. Security Council resolution that was passed in February 2014, would be a very, very good idea.

And Hillary also has the ability to stand up to Russia in a way that this ticket does not. Donald Trump, again and again, has praised Vladimir Putin. And it's clear that he has business dealings with Russian oligarchs who are very connected to Putin.

The Trump campaign management team had to be fired a month or so ago because of those shadowy connections with pro-Putin forces. Governor Pence made the odd claim, he said inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than President Obama. Vladimir Putin has 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 got to go back to a fifth-grade civics class.

I'll tell you what offends me...

PENCE: Well, that offended me.

[…]

KAINE: And I said about Aleppo, we do agree the notion is we have to create a humanitarian zone in northern Syria. It's very important.

QUIJANO: Governor Pence, you had mentioned no-fly zone. Where would you propose setting up a safe zone specifically? How would you keep it safe?

PENCE: Well, first and foremost, Donald Trump supports our troops. Donald Trump supports our veterans.

KAINE: He won't pay taxes.

PENCE: Donald Trump has paid all the taxes that he's—do you not take deductions? How does that work?

QUIJANO: Gentlemen, this is about Syria. I'd like to...

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Honestly, Senator. Honestly, Senator.

KAINE: It is about our troops. It is about our troops.

PENCE: I understand why you want to change—I understand why you want to change the subject.

KAINE: How can you support the troops if you won't pay taxes?

PENCE: I understand why you want to change the subject. And let me be very clear on this Russian thing. The larger question here...

KAINE: Do you think Donald Trump is smart to not pay taxes?

QUIJANO: Gentlemen, we're going to have time to get to Russia here.

PENCE: What we're dealing with is the—you know, there's an old proverb that says the Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates. And the truth of the matter is, the weak and feckless foreign policy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has awakened an aggression in Russia that first appeared a few years ago with their move in Georgia, now their move into Crimea, now their move into the wider Middle East.

And all the while, all we do is fold our arms and say we're not having talks anymore. To answer your question, we just need American strength. We need to—we need to marshal the resources of our allies in the region, and in the immediate, we need to act and act now to get people out of harm's way.

QUIJANO: And exactly how would those safe zones work? How would they remain safe?

PENCE: The—the safe zones would have to be—as the senator said, there's already a framework for this that's been recognized by the international community. The United States of America needs to be prepared to work with our allies in the region to create a route for safe passage and then to protect people in those areas, including with a no-fly zone.

But, look, this is very tough stuff. I served on the Foreign Affairs Committee for a decade. I traveled in and out of that region for 10 years. I saw what the American soldier won in Operation Iraqi Freedom. And to see the weak and feckless leadership that Hillary Clinton was the architect of and the foreign policy of the Obama administration...

KAINE: Well, let me—let me come back...

PENCE: ... is deeply troubling to me. That will all change the day Donald Trump becomes president of the United States.

KAINE: ... and talk about—let me talk about the things that Governor Pence doesn't want to acknowledge, Elaine. He doesn't want to acknowledge that we stopped the Iranian nuclear weapons program. He doesn't want to acknowledge...

PENCE: We didn't.

KAINE: ... that Hillary was part of a team that got bin Laden. He doesn't want to acknowledge...

PENCE: I just did. KAINE: ... that it's a good thing, not a bad thing, that it's a good thing—not a bad thing—that we're down from 175,000 troops deployed overseas to 15,000. […]

 

Nuclear Proliferation

KAINE: […] But let me tell you what will really make the Middle East dangerous. 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: And come on. Senator. Senator, that was even beneath you and Hillary Clinton. And that—that's pretty low.

KAINE: But do you—do you think—do you think we should have—more nuclear weapons in the world will make us safer?

PENCE: Senator, the...

KAINE: That's what Donald Trump thinks.

PENCE: Ronald Reagan also said nuclear war should never be fought because it can never be won. And the United States of America needs to make investments in modernizing our nuclear force for both deterrence...

KAINE: But can you defend Donald Trump's claim that more nations should get nuclear weapons?

PENCE: ... and assurance to our allies. But let me go back to this Iran thing. I mean, he keeps saying that they prevented—that Hillary Clinton started the deal with the Iranians prevented Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

(CROSSTALK)

KAINE: That's what the Israeli joint chiefs of staff is saying right now.

PENCE: Well, that's not what—that's not what Israel thinks.

KAINE: Gadi Eizenkot, you can go check it.

PENCE: You wouldn't necessarily know that.

KAINE: Go to the tape.

PENCE: I know you boycotted Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech when he came before the Congress.

KAINE: No, I visited him in his office. I visited him in his office.

PENCE: You boycotted the speech. The point is, what this Iran—so-called Iran deal did was essentially guarantee—I mean, when I was in Congress, I fought hard on a bipartisan basis with Republican and Democrat members to move forward the toughest sanctions, it—literally in the history of the United States, against Iran.

KAINE: And then Hillary used them to get a deal.

PENCE: We were bringing them to heel, but the goal was always that we would only lift the sanctions if Iran permanently renounced their nuclear ambitions.

KAINE: Elaine, let me just mention one thing.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: They have not—Elaine, let me finish a sentence. They have not renounced their nuclear ambitions. And when the deal's period runs out, there's no limitation on them obtaining weapons. That...

(CROSSTALK)

QUIJANO: And very quickly, Senator.

KAINE: Elaine...

PENCE: ... and the fact that they got $1.7 billion in a ransom payment...

QUIJANO: We need to talk about Russia. Very quickly, though, Senator, please.

 

North Korea

QUIJANO: All right, I'd like to ask now about North Korea, Iran and the threat of nuclear weapons. North Korea recently conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test.

PENCE: Right.

QUIJANO: What specific steps would you take to prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States? Governor Pence?

PENCE: Well, first, we need to—we need to make a commitment to rebuild our military, including modernizing our nuclear forces. And we also need—we also need an effective American diplomacy that will marshal the resources of nations in the Asian Pacific Rim to put pressure on North Korea, on Kim Jong-un, to abandon his nuclear ambitions. It has to remain the policy of the United States of America the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, plain and simple.

And when Donald Trump is president of the United States, we're—we're not going to have the—the kind of posture in the world that has Russia invading Crimea and Ukraine, that has the Chinese building new islands in the South China Sea, that has literally the world, including North Korea, flouting American power. We're going to—we're going to go back to the days of peace through strength.

[…]

QUIJANO: Senator Kaine, if you had intelligence that North Korea was about to launch a missile, a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States, would you take preemptive action?

KAINE: If we—look, a president should take action to defend the United States against imminent threat. You have to. A president has to do that. Now exactly what action, you would have to determine what your intelligence was, how certain you were of that intelligence, but you would have to take action.

You asked the question about how do we deal with a North Korea. I'm on the Foreign Relations Committee. We just did an extensive sanctions package against North Korea. And interestingly enough, Elaine, the U.N. followed and did this—virtually the same package. Often China will use their veto in the Security Council to veto a package like that. They're starting to get worried about North Korea, too. So they actually supported the sanctions package, even though many of the sanctions are against Chinese firms, Chinese financial institutions.

So we're working together with China, and we need to. China's another one of those relationships where it's competitive, it's also challenging, and in times like North Korea, we have to be able to cooperate. Hillary understands that very well. She went once famously to China and stood up at a human rights meeting and looked them in the eye and said, "Women's rights are human rights." They didn't want her to say that, but she did.

But she's also worked on a lot of diplomatic and important diplomatic deals with China. And that's what it's going to take.

The thing I would worry a little bit about is that Donald Trump owes about $650 million to banks, including the Bank of China. I'm not sure he could stand up so tough to the people who have loaned him money.

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