What is there to say about a vice presidential candidate like Tim Kaine? The man is so dull.
To be fair, he meets the basic requirements of appearing on a presidential ticket. He hails from the swing state of Virginia, which after voting consistently Republican for more than forty years turned to Barack Obama in the last two elections. His political views are almost suspiciously moderate – no one, it would seem, could possibly be that centrist, that middle-of-the-road, without it being a calculated decision.
Then again, my research on the subject (as well as one personal connection close to Kaine) all tell me that his blandness, though politically convenient, is not in fact a ploy. Kaine truly is as generic and inoffensive as they come, the political equivalent of a rice cake with unsalted butter.
Does that mean he was a good choice? Politically a Clinton-Kaine ticket makes sense – a running mate’s foremost responsibility, after all, is to do no harm to the main candidate – but does that mean he would be a good president? Should Clinton die in office or (more likely) resign in disgrace, could we trust a President Kaine to lead the ship of state?
The answer, I suspect, depends on how you define the word “lead.” If you use the term to refer to competence, stability, and a reasonable amount of honesty, then I would trust a President Kaine. His tenure as Governor of Virginia was solid if unremarkable, and the same can be said of his time as a United States Senator. More so than any other candidate appearing on either party’s ticket, Kaine is the antithesis of Donald Trump – uninteresting but safe.
On the other hand, if you define the word “lead” in the heroic sense, I’m not sure Kaine is up to snuff. Take his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the most onerous free trade deals ever cooked up, and how he insists that it actually protects labor and the environment… or, at the very least, that he won’t vote against it without more information. While his detractors point to this as evidence that he is a pro-business stooge, I find it more likely that he’s just being characteristically cautious. There is a reason why Obama nearly chose Kaine for his own ticket in 2008, and why Clinton’s biggest praise for Kaine was his “vanilla” personality. Nowhere in his career does he appear as a man willing to stand up against the establishment in the name of a deeper conviction. This makes him a great right-hand man and, in times that don’t require strong moral courage, a decent leader.
Of course, if Clinton is impeached and convicted before the end of her first term, America will need a great leader. The same is true if, God forbid, she doesn’t live through the first four years of her presidency. These are terrible things to contemplate, but it would be irresponsible to ignore these questions. While Kaine doesn’t give me any particularly strong reason for fear, he doesn’t inspire much hope either.