7 Irrelevant Issues That Came Up Before Reproductive Rights At The Vice Presidential Debate

The vice presidential debate is over, and there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the forum did, in fact, address the candidates’ positions on reproductive rights, an area of policy that — despite being highly controversial and consequential — hasn’t been a focal point in this election. The bad news is that the topic didn’t come up until the night was almost over — and the candidates discussed plenty of borderline-irrelevant topics before getting to reproductive policy.

The GOP’s regressive stances on abortion and birth control were front and center during the 2012 election. By and large, however, the issue hasn’t been addressed with any sustained focus in this race. During a Democratic debate in October, abortion wasn’t even addressed.

During the vice presidential debate, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence discussed their views on abortion, and frankly, they covered little in the way of new ground. Pence made clear that he opposes abortion rights, especially late-term abortion, and criticized Hillary Clinton for supporting repeal of the Hyde Amendment. Kaine, in turn, reiterated his and Clinton’s support for Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose, and criticized Trump for suggesting that women who seek abortions should face “some form of punishment.”

It’s a super important issue, so why did it take so long to address? Here are just a few of the irrelevant and cursory issues the vice presidential candidates touched on before getting around to talking about reproductive rights:

When Osama Bin Laden Died

At one point, Kaine asked Pence if he was aware that Osama Bin Laden was alive when Clinton became Secretary of State. Pence replied that yes, he was aware of that. The vice presidential debate, folks!

Richard Nixon’s Tax Disclosures

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During a predictable and uninformative exchange about Trump’s taxes, Pence insisted that Trump would release his tax returns after he was no longer under audit. Kaine replied that Richard Nixon released his tax returns while he was under audit, and that Trump “can’t meet Nixon’s standard.” All right.

Whether Trump Is Good At Twitter Insults

At one point, Kaine said that Trump “can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot.” That’s certainly true, but then again, everyone already knew that.

Pence’s Uncle

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In response to a question about police violence — a worthy topic, without question — Pence responded by talking wistfully about his uncle, a cop. “My three brothers and I would marvel at my uncle when he would come out in his uniform, sidearm at his side,” Pence said fondly.

The Immigration Reforms Of 1986


During a conversation about immigration, Kaine noted that “our plan is like Ronald Reagan’s plan from 1986.” Whether or not any voters in swing states are familiar with the details of mid-1980s immigration policy remains to be seen.

Clinton’s Email Server

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Pence, not surprisingly, criticized Clinton for using a private email server, and asserted without evidence that “if your son or my son handled classified information the way Hillary Clinton did, they'd be court-martialed.” Presumably, Pence did this because the non-scandal surrounding Clinton’s emails hasn’t received enough attention yet this cycle.


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The vice presidential candidates devoted a good chunk of this debate to talking over each other. Even after moderator Elaine Quijano asked them not to, they kept doing it, resulting in a debate that was largely unintelligible. Somehow, that feels pretty in sync with the rest of this campaign.

Although I would've liked to see more talk on reproductive rights, the Oct. 4 vice presidential debate still highlighted a few important issues to be considered when voting in November.