The war of words between the two presidential tickets over Russian President Vladimir Putin continued unabated Friday, with Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine teeing off on his Republican counterpart.
Kaine said he found it “shocking,” “horrible” and highly disrespectful that GOP vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence had on Thursday characterized Putin as a stronger leader than President Obama, an assessment that echoed that of the man of the top of the ticket, Donald Trump, a day before.
“When Mike Pence said that, I just had to reflect that if you don’t know the difference between leadership and dictatorship, then where do I start with you?” said Kaine, a senator from Virginia. “That was shocking.”
He spoke to reporters outside the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, which was the target of a racially motivated bombing in 1963. Kaine stopped by the predominantly African American church en route to a fundraiser here.
“After Labor Day, as people are really looking at this race, a ticket that is praising a dictator who is hurting his country, hurting his people, as some example of leadership, is horrible,” Kaine, the running mate of Hillary Clinton, said after being asked about the controversy over Putin.
“What is it about running your economy into the ground, as Putin has in Russia, that’s leadership?” Kaine asked. “What is it about invading other nations that’s leadership? What is it about persecuting LGBT Russians or persecuting journalists that’s leadership? What is it about a state-run doping program that gets your Olympians, even your para-Olympians, banned from the Olympics that’s leadership?”
Pence, the governor of Indiana, made his comments Thursday during an interview with CNN in which he said “it’s unarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.”
Pence vowed that would change “the day that Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America.”
Kaine said he appreciates that dissent is an important part of the U.S. political system but that Pence’s comments showed a “shocking level of disrespect for the president.”
“Anybody who would question that leadership, to me, it’s just an irrational hostility to President Obama that they are revealing, that has been part of their thinking from the very first day since he’s been in office,” Kaine said.
Kaine said the history of the 16th Street Baptist Church offers an important lesson. “It reminds us that the powers of division and the powers of hatred don’t do anything good, they only do things bad,” Kaine said. “This is a strain of American political life that . . . we’ve seen all over the country. We’re not free from it today.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · John Wagner