Look, on first glance Virginia senator Tim Kaine looks like the dude who wavers and falls after taking an Irish Car Bomb at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh. He was DNC chair during a dark time. His eyebrows frighten me. But I’m willing to be educated. His abortion convictions, of which I’ve been dimly aware for a couple years, have never, to my knowledge (correct me), conflicted with what he views as his obligations as the chief magistrate of the Commonwealth of Virginia — the most estimable kind of conservatism, in my judgment. Besides, I laugh at anyone who thinks any vice president other than Richard Cheney would cast spells on the president — and a president like Hillary Goddamn Clinton, married to a former president. Late this afternoon I watched an hour of Advise and Consent, one of the most prescient and far-seeing of political films. The affable vice president, a favorite of housewives, hasn’t spoken to the president in six weeks; as played by Lew Ayres, it’s a minor masterpiece of embarrassment. He has to ask the majority leader (Walter Pidgeon, made for the part) for the skinny. Dan Quayle looked like the last person who fit this description; Tim Kaine may be another.
A week ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published a story that looks at his tergiversations as governor and comes away mildly impressed, especially after an election year campaign not to raise taxes that he promptly rescinded seven days after taking office. The conclusion?
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.
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”?
A hack, I’d say, but a good hack.
And, no, fellow liberals/progressives, Elizabeth Warren should stay in the Senate.