Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine, the Affable Idealogue

Not a centrist as described by some

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Amid all the speculation over Hillary Clinton's possible selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate, jaundiced observers might detect a subtle pattern.

Politico has run a piece on "The Left's Beef With Tim Kaine" full of quotes from progressives who feel Kaine is too "establishment" and lacks "progressive backbone." In the view of The New Republic, Kaine is "Too Boring to Be Clinton's Running-Mate." Aside from that, though, TNR makes clear he is "supremely qualified to be vice president," what with his Harvard Law degree, abundant experience in office, and his status as a "cautious centrist."

Then there is the Washington Post, which recently asked "What's a Nice Guy Like Tim Kaine Doing in a Campaign Like This?" It notes that Kaine is "lauded by Republicans and Democrats, alike," and terms Kaine a "pragmatist with political savvy," "contemplative," possessed of "humility," and—in the words of one former Republican congressman—"a thoroughly honest and decent man."

If vice presidential picks are supposed to balance the ticket, then you can see how this version of Kaine makes him the perfect tonic for voters averse to Clinton, whose name does not evoke terms like humility, honesty, niceness and decency. And while Kaine's supposed image as a pragmatic centrist might not endear him to the Bernie Sanders crowd, for political moderates it could take some of the sting out of the increasingly leftist tone Clinton has taken by proposing a "public option" in health care and making college "free" for most families.

Much about these characterizations of Kaine is accurate. He is, indeed, honest and decent. And nice—he can disagree pleasantly, and he rarely stoops to partisan smashmouth. He is a devout Catholic who still drops by his old church, St. Elizabeth's, where he used to sing in the choir. He is genial and extremely bright: At a Public Square hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch two years ago, Kaine gave a 40-minute lecture on the history of presidential and congressional war powers without notes or hesitation.

But is he the centrist recent coverage has made him out to be? Hardly.

True, he doesn't wave a pitchfork like Elizabeth Warren. And his most notable effort in the Senate has been his lonely campaign to get Congress to vote on the use of military force against ISIS and other terrorist organizations. That insistence upon constitutional exactitude puts him crosswise with President Obama, who maintains that he has all the authority he needs to order military operations against terrorists—but it also puts him crosswise with conservatives who support wide executive latitude in foreign policy. In essence, he is making the same argument that Dennis Kucinich and other liberals made about the need to check the unilateral executive exertions of the Bush administration.

And despite Kaine's difference with Obama over that issue, it's worth remembering that Kaine endorsed Obama, not Clinton, for the 2008 nomination. In fact, Kaine endorsed Obama back in early 2007, making him the first Democratic governor (and one of the first prominent Democrats, period) to do so. Obama reportedly considered Kaine for the vice presidency, but ended up tapping him to head the Democratic National Committee instead.

At the time, Kaine was governor of Virginia—and it's also worth reviewing his record in that office.

It didn't get off to an auspicious start. For his secretary of the commonwealth—a position that hands out many plum patronage appointments—Kaine chose Danny LeBlanc, the head of the Virginia AFL-CIO and an opponent of the state's right-to-work law. Republicans voted LeBlanc down, and Kaine blew a gasket. He fumed at the " McCarthy-style politics" and warned that Republicans "are going to regret it."

Within a week of taking office, Kaine also proposed a major tax hike for transportation—despite repeated representations earlier that he would not.

As lieutenant governor, Kaine "strongly rejected an increase in the gas tax" to pay for transportation improvements and "vowed never to seek an increase in the gas tax unless Virginia approves a constitutional amendment to prevent the legislature from raiding the state's transportation fund in tight budget times," The Washington Post reported in 2004. During a debate with his Republican gubernatorial opponent, Jerry Kilgore, Kaine vowed he would "veto any tax increase… unless the transportation trust fund is locked up. There's no way to tax and pave our way out of the transportation problem."

Although Kaine eventually suggested other mechanisms besides a constitutional amendment to protect transportation funds, he did not back away from his central idea. "I'm very clear on this," he said at another point. "I'm not going to ask people for any more revenue when there's no guarantee that the revenue will go to transportation." And when Kilgore predicted during their final debate that Kaine would raise taxes, Kaine shot back: "There you go again, Jerry, making stuff up."

Kaine won. On his seventh day in office, he proposed a $1-billion-per-year tax hike to pay for transportation projects.

Virginia's General Assembly balked. Two years later Kaine tried again, calling a special legislative session and proposing another billion-dollar tax hike. It went nowhere. The next year, he pulled the old Washington Monument ploy by closing 18 of the state's rest stops. And at the end of his term, in 2009, Kaine proposed a $1.9 billion tax hike—and the first increase in the state's income tax in decades.

 To be fair, during much of Kaine's term he faced strong economic headwinds from the Great Recession, and was forced to cut more than $3 billion from the state budget. Those were real cuts, not the fake "cuts" talked about when politicians propose a spending hike of 20 percent and then increase spending by only 10 percent. Nevertheless, it's clear that Kaine would much rather have preferred to balance the state budget by raising taxes.

On social issues, too, Kaine hews close to liberal orthodoxy. He personally opposes capital punishment, but although he commuted certain death sentences he allowed others—including that of Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad—to go forward.

Kaine has never been shy about his antipathy to abortion. "I don't like it personally. I'm opposed to abortion," he recently told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, and he supports a few minor restrictions, such as parental-notification laws. As governor, he irked pro-choice groups by approving a "Choose Life" license plate, although he did so less out of sympathy for the cause than in observance of the principle that government should not discriminate among viewpoints. At the time, Virginia already had more than 200 specialty license plates.

At the same time, Kaine insists that "matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They're moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions." He has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. It's hard to go much higher than that.

He also has a 100 percent rating from the pro-gun-control Brady Campaign, and recently joined the House sit-in for gun control organized by Democrats. He gets high marks from Environment America, and is liked by the teachers' unions. (Kaine has supported expanded pre-K since his gubernatorial days.) He has sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage, favors higher spending on social-welfare programs, opposes privatizing Social Security, and so on. In fact, it's hard to think of a single position by which Kaine deviates from liberal Democratic orthodoxy.

And when it comes to a Democratic vice-presidential nominee, there's nothing wrong with that. "Politics is a team sport," as Kaine once put it himself. Indeed, it's likely that a fair number of Democrats (and Republicans, for that matter) would rather see the Democratic ticket headed by Kaine, an orthodox liberal who is likable and squeaky-clean, rather than Clinton, an orthodox liberal who is neither.

But the public should not be seduced by efforts to put Kaine in the center of the political spectrum when he is so far from it. Think of it this way: Suppose Kaine had a mirror image in the GOP—a Republican former head of the RNC who repeatedly tried to cut taxes, who sought to restrict abortion, who got high marks from the NRA and low marks from environmentalists, who wanted to cut social programs, who supported privatizing Social Security, and who was, in all visible respects, a down-the-line soldier for the political right.

Would the press term such a politician—no matter how genial and friendly—a "cautious centrist" and a "pragmatist"? Or would he be labeled an "arch-conservative" and an "ideologue"?

Exactly.

This column originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. I see 2016 as being very important as far as VP picks go. Either Trump or Hillary could easily be one-termers, or perhaps not even that long.

    1. I’ve always felt we were in a fictional world, where occasionally people are named very deliberately. Bernie Madoff, Max Boot, Rand Paul, Linda Stasi, Sandra Fluke, etc.

      An incredibly controversial (ie, lots of enemies, both among the sane and the crazy) president like Hillary choosing as VP a guy named after the first person to murder (out of envy, no less) — well, it’s not looking too good for her even if she wins.

    2. Kaine would fit the Gerald Ford role quite well.

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    4. So if I get this right supporting Prohibition is now a centrist value. With 58% now supporting cannabis legalization. I’m going to have to relearn math.

      1. 58% support it, but not as enough of a priority to decide many candidate preferences.

  2. No one “squeaky-clean” can enter the Clinton world.

    1. Not if SugarFree has his say.

      1. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
        and othing gold can stay…
        Not if SugarFree has his say.

    1. Former governor of Virginia, notable for how his right eyebrow rises higher and higher the longer he speaks, until it pass his hairline and merges with what’s left of his hair.

      1. My impressions of Kaine are that he’s an old school Catholic social justice style socialist.

        1. Has he Feasted on the Antipopes?

          1. I don’t know what that means but I think I’d pay to watch.

    1. The assailants apparently cut off both of Ditta’s arms, lips and nose and took the parts with them, leaving the man in a pool of blood, Muhammad said.

      That sounds like a reasonable reaction.

  3. Does he suckle at the blackened teats of Herself?

    1. Has he known the exquisite sorrow of Her love?

      1. Is he smooth between the legs and between the ears?

        1. As he heard the song that rends worlds?

          1. Has he been Shriven at The Gate?

            1. Has his Tongue been bled, his Eyes scoured, his Ears torn?

              1. Reason asks none of these Questions. I brand them coward.

    2. I thought those were venomous

      1. Dosage and Faith are Everything.

        1. There are crazy religious sects out in rural Texas of Clinton teat-handlers.

      2. I notice you correctly used “venomous” instead of “poisonous.” The distinction is important when confronted with the ineluctable yet nearly incomprehensible fact of Herself.

    3. +1 outer churches. -1 invisible colleges.

  4. Kaine won. On his seventh day in office, he proposed a $1-billion-per-year tax hike to pay for transportation projects.

    It’s comforting I’m not the only one with these problems.

  5. So a nice guy who isn’t very bright. Not much would change in the VP office.

    1. The Pence-Kaine debates would cure insomnia.

  6. He is, indeed, honest and decent. And nice?he can disagree pleasantly, and he rarely stoops to partisan smashmouth.

    Once again, the gestalt collective consciousness which generates all Reason content has shown itself to only use sympathetic words when describing liberal progressives. Bunch of goddamn fucking fake libertarians.

    1. He very nicely and honestly uses state violence to extract vast amounts of wealth from his victims constituents.

    2. That is the first thing that hit me.

      Get ready for a hundred articles just like this….except from Suderman. He still has an equal number of spittle flecked anti-Trump rants to go.

  7. At the time, Virginia already had more than 200 specialty license plates.

    This is the most explosive revelation of the entire campaign.

  8. He is a devout Catholic

    He has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood.

    Interestingly, when some Muslim goes on a killing spree, we’re told he “wasn’t really Muslim” because he drank alcohol or something.

    Yet a politician with a 100% PP rating can be described as a “devout Catholic.” What would it take to label a politician a “half-assed, phony Catholic”?

    1. I’m sure Eddie will be along shortly to answer you, via a series of 10-15 comments replying to each other.

    2. An R next to his name.

    3. Does he drink only of Her Blood, sup only upon Her Flesh?

    4. I wouldn’t even go with ‘phony Catholic’ just ‘bad Catholic’.

  9. Two years later Kaine tried again, calling a special legislative session and proposing another billion-dollar tax hike

    This is the main attribute of any Democrat. No matter how else they may vary, they are all the same when it comes to always being in favor of tax increases, any tax increase, all tax increases, and it can never be enough.

  10. You might think Tim Kaine is the ‘Safe’, bland choice – but that’s because you’re not prepared for his surprise announcement, where he’s going to come out as the First Gay Vice President*

    (*since Billy King. That we know of.)

    1. “It’s all meat in the dark.”

      -Joe Biden

    2. He’s married with 3 children, so I doubt it. More likely, Hillary comes out as gay and makes Huma first lady.

      1. Ugh. You limiting notions of human sexuality are so 2005

  11. It looks to me like Democrats are the party of white people. All I see is crackers on that ticket. Why comes the Democrats hate people of color?

    1. Her loves comes in all colors. Even colors that drive men to madness.

    2. We don’t hear much about that anymore, do we? It used to be a constant critique of the R’s and MSM couldn’t shut up about it.

    3. Democrats are like Jesus and allow the little black children to come to them. Whereas Republicans are the mean disciples who want to keep them away. So you’re supposed to be amazed and in awe of their humility in allowing their greatness to be in the presence of such insignificant creatures.

      1. (should’ve put a sarcasm tag there, since I’m not a Democrat I wouldn’t be able to get away with that attitude if I was serious)

  12. Looked at his website. Typical leftist Democrat:

    gun control

    environmental bullshit

    government ran healthcare

    government ran everything

    1. And the “libertarians” writing articles here will lap it up.

  13. what with his Harvard Law degree, abundant experience in office, and his status as a “cautious centrist.”

    If you’re gonna do that, you have to end the sentence with, “and what not.”

    *Stretches back in rocker after scoldin’ the youngin’*

  14. Senator Tim Kaine Verified account
    ?@timkaine

    Trump has a very long history of enriching himself at the expense of others #BetterThanThis

    Says the “nice” guy who has been in elected office since 1998, who continually proposes how he will do great things with your money.

    Fuck these people.

    1. Says the nice guy paid a fat salary collected at gunpoint from the peasants.

  15. Kaine has never been shy about his antipathy to abortion. “I don’t like it personally. I’m opposed to abortion,” he recently told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, and he supports a few minor restrictions, such as parental-notification laws.

    Honestly, I’ve never understood this position. Why would someone be opposed to abortion if they don’t think it’s the taking of a human life? But, if it is that, why would you oppose the government restricting it?

    It’s roughly akin to saying “I really think slavery is an unmitigated evil. But, I really don’t think the government should do anything about it.”

    1. Has he whispered to his Mother’s secret abortions? Has he cradled them while he waited for The Many-Angled Ones to take them away?

    2. “I am unwilling to take any kind of meaningful stance of the subject because I’m a Democrat. Despite wanting to be constantly involved in many other aspects of your life, I avoid abortion because I’d like to actually be elected.”

    3. What about narcotics, tobacco, liquor; can’t someone think those are evil w/o wanting to prohibit them? Isn’t what it’s roughly akin to saying the same thing we’re always saying? Couldn’t it be the same w abortions or slaves, if someone had those ideas? Or does it apply only to those thing you want illegal, not to those things others want illegal (or legal)?

  16. uptil I saw the check which had said $6115 , I didn’t believe that…my… cousin woz actually erning money parttime on their apple laptop. . there uncle had bean doing this for less than nine months and a short time ago cleared the loans on there apartment and got a top of the range Mini Cooper
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.factoryofincome.com

  17. uptil I saw the check which had said $6115 , I didn’t believe that…my… cousin woz actually erning money parttime on their apple laptop. . there uncle had bean doing this for less than nine months and a short time ago cleared the loans on there apartment and got a top of the range Mini Cooper
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.factoryofincome.com

  18. uptil I saw the check which had said $6115 , I didn’t believe that…my… cousin woz actually erning money parttime on their apple laptop. . there uncle had bean doing this for less than nine months and a short time ago cleared the loans on there apartment and got a top of the range Mini Cooper
    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.factoryofincome.com

  19. Who cares what any politician says about limiting the power of the executive branch? They always, ALWAYS abandon that principle as soon as they are *in* the executive branch. How fucking stupid will we be in 2 years pointing out how, ooh, hypocritical VP Kaine no longer believes in Congress making decisions about going to war! Just like Obama. Just like GWB.

  20. I thought Madame President-to-be would pick Kaine as veep too, until the RNC began. Now it should be obvious that she doesn’t need to make a “safe” choice, and would have more to gain by picking Lizzie Warren to win over Bernie supporters.

  21. Being the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia has got to be one of the biggest jokes in politics. They only serve one term and have very little power compared to the Assembly, especially if they are a democrat, which is a usually a good thing in my opinion.

    Can’t really think of anything good or bad that Kaine did- Oh yeah- at the end of his term he was able to get a watered-down smoking ban passed in bars and restaurants. He wanted a complete one like NYC, but the assembly would have none of it, so now smoking is still allowed but only in separate rooms where no food can be served. When he first took office, he said he was against any bans on smoking in bars, just like he was against raising taxes…

    1. He is a Drug Warrior. For the greater good. And to keep Black people down.

      I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” – Dan Baum http://harpers.org/archive/201…..ze-it-all/

  22. Ideologue, not idealogue

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