Holy crap. He killed it.
I’m not trying to spin you. I’m sitting here in shock. Shock. Tim Kaine was unbelievable.
He was natural. He was smart. He was relaxed and funny, and he was serious. He was proud of himself and his wife and family but never arrogant. He was humble without ever being cloying in that way the politically humble can often be. He was genuine. He was unbelievable.
And part of the way through, this thought struck me: He is the perfect choice for her because he comes across as so at ease and so real. These are two things, as we know, that Hillary Clinton has a lot of trouble with. She’s too scripted, she’s a phony, all that stuff. Kaine was just so easy-breezy, so comfortable with himself and in this role, that he has the potential to wash away a decent chunk of that negativity about her.
How can I sum up the speech? Oh, he attacked Donald Trump here and there, including a funny hit on him about his tax returns (“raise your hand if you think those returns are going to show that he paid his fair share”). He made sure to cover his progressive bona fides and was great in the way he relayed his biography—his civil-rights law work, his time in Honduras, his dedication to education and integration.
He did a wonderful job of communicating his values—my creed, he said, was “do all the good you can.” He had a couple powerful serious moments, notably when he talked about the Virginia Tech massacre, which happened while he was governor, telling the story of one professor who’d come to the United States from central Europe many years ago. Can you imagine, he asked; a man “who could survive the Holocaust? Who could survive the Soviet takeover of his country? But who fell victim to the horror of American gun violence because he blocked the door and told his students to go out the window?”
He spoke just enough Spanish (and yes, he’s fluent all right), saying that he and Clinton will be “compañeros del alma”—companions of the soul. And the way he talked about Clinton was fantastic and really smart. Most Americans aren’t really associating Clinton with the word “character” right about now, but Kaine went at that—character, he said, is commitment to a set of issues and goals over the course of one’s life, even as one faces constant attack.
But the most important thing about the speech wasn’t any of these things. It was the vision for the country embedded within it. If Kaine made a convincing case Saturday afternoon that he’s a perfect companion to Clinton, he made an even stronger case that he represents the antidote to savage Trumpism and Uriah Heep-grim Pence-ism. Yes, there are problems in the country and world, obviously. But we don’t confront them by insulting people and pumping fear into people and calling our military a disaster and trying to pass severe discrimination laws. We confront them by heeding the words of Harry Truman: “America was not built on fear. It was built on courage, imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
And he did it all without an ounce of ego. That maybe was what was most refreshing of all.
I was following my Twitter feed, and about 10 minutes into the 40-odd minute speech, I noticed people started tweeting: Hey, uh, this is pretty good. Wow, that was nice! Man, that was good too! Holy crap, this guy is killing it! How did we not know this?
Tommy Vietor, former Obama foreign-policy aide:
Blake Hounshell, an editor at Politico:
David Axelrod, whose Hillary-related tweets haven’t always been very friendly:
And finally, the one among those I saw that might have been the most revealing, from somebody not famous, by someone whose handle is TC:
Lots of people are going to like this guy. He’s a happy warrior who is clearly genuine about being of service to others and to community and country. He embodies what we all think is best about this country and what we hope still exists. It exists in Tim Kaine.
I know the political science says vice presidents don’t matter. But politics is as much art as science. We just met an artist today