It felt like ’80s night in Farmville: Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate focused, to an unexpectedly large extent, on Russia. Bizarrely, Gov. Mike Pence rattled off uber-hawkish old-school GOP talking points as if he were under the impression that Lindsey Graham or John McCain, not Donald Trump, was his running mate. Pence is a serious Russia hawk!
Asked about the ongoing siege in Aleppo, where Russia has unleashed a brutal bombing campaign, Pence called the bombings “barbaric” and argued that “provocations by Russia need to be met with American” strength. Pence advocated for the establishment of a safe zone with the help of our “Arab partners” to protect civilians. (Establishing a safe zone would seriously increase the risk of the U.S. deterring or even firing on Russian aircraft.) He threw in a pledge to deploy a missile defense shield in the Czech Republic, a Mitt Romney–era anti-Obama talking point that has barely come up in this campaign. He even threw in “an old proverb that says that the Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates,” one of the night’s many allusions to the Reagan era.
Again, none of this would be that surprising if a typical Republican candidate, such as Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, were at the top of the ticket. But Pence is running with a man who has advocated partnering with Putin to fight ISIS, believes America’s “Arab partners” on the ground in Syria are in fact members of ISIS, and has said Vladimir Putin “has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been.”
If the Russian government really is trying to get Trump elected, they can’t be happy with his choice of running mate Tuesday night.