It was the bitterest moment of the vice presidential debate yet.
Sen. Tim Kaine went on the attack against Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, forcing Trump VP pick Gov. Mike Pence into a corner. It was a taste of the disagreeable squabbling that would dominate the debate.
Kaine pointed out that in 2014, Trump had promised that he would “absolutely” release his tax returns if he mounted a bid for the White House.
The result was a bunch of bickering between Kaine and Pence: “He’s broken his first promise,” the senator said. Shot back the governor, without explanation: “He hasn’t broken his promise.”
“Governor Pence had to give Donald Trump his tax returns to show that he was qualified to be vice president. Donald Trump must give the American public his tax returns to show that he’s qualified to be president,” Kaine said.
Pence argued that the financial disclosures Trump has filed, mandated by law, were sufficient.
“Donald Trump has offered 1,000 pages of financial disclosures,” Pence said. “The American people can review that.”
“But he said he would release his tax returns!” shot back Kaine.
The bickering was a snapshot of the first half-hour of the debate, with interruptions on both sides, focused mostly on attacking the other side’s presidential nominee. The back-and-forth on tax releases went on and on.
Pence countered that the Republican nominee’s taxes were under audit.
“Richard Nixon released his tax returns while he was under audit,” Kaine said. “If you can’t make the Nixon standard…”
After a long exchange, moderator Elaine Quijano had had enough and stepped in.
“Gentlemen, the people at home cannot understand either one of you when you speak over each other,” she said.
“All right,” Kaine said, adding—without evidence—“we’re having fun up here.”