Finley: Kaine, Pence put on a good, clean fight

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

So this is what serious politics played out within the bounds of appropriate discourse looks like.

No insults. No gotcha moments. No smirking. And no crazy.

Tim Kaine and Mike Pence weren’t exactly cordial in Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, but compared to what we’ve seen so far in this outrageously rude election season, they seemed the very picture of civility.

I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who came away from this face-off wishing that the two running mates were topping their respective tickets.

Forget about the positions struck by the two candidates. As expected, they stuck to the party line, and did so very professionally. There were no surprises, no stumbles, no knock-out blows.

Give Indiana Gov. Pence some credit for holding his own in defending a very hard to defend presidential candidate in Republican Donald Trump.

He delivered all of the comebacks that Trump couldn’t quite articulate in his debate with Hillary Clinton last week. He salvaged for a moment a campaign that Trump has been busy sabotaging for the past 10 days.

Pence made “conservative” look rational and compassionate, compared to Trump’s harsh and divisive version of the ideology.

He turned back all of Kaine’s parries to Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings, and did so without sounding harsh or doctrinaire. He came across as likeable, and that’s a rare quality in this election year.

But Virginia Sen. Kaine also displayed a trustworthiness that his running mate so sorely lacks. He, too, came across as someone you could easily see sitting in the Oval Office.

The policy differences on issues from abortion to national security were distinct. But their divisions were never hopelessly entrenched.

In fact, you got the feeling that if you locked these two guys in a room for a day or two, they would come out with most of their differences resolved.

In this ferociously contentious election year, Tuesday night was something of an oasis of mature political discourse.

Don’t get used to it. The next two debates will be a return to the Trump/Clinton cage match that was so painful to watch in the first go-round.

But for a welcome 90 minutes Tuesday night, the American electorate enjoyed a respite from a hateful political season.

So who won? We all did, if only because for at least one night we saw politics played out the way it should be.