Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate between Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine was crazy-making. Early on in the debate, Hillary Clinton’s running mate struggled to land obvious blows against the least popular and just plain worst candidate in modern history. Kaine also interrupted his opponent, steered the conversation away from some of the moderator’s more damning questions about Donald Trump, and came off as kinda whiny. Pence, meanwhile, seemed to be collected and in control for much of the debate. As CNN’s David Gergen said of Pence after it was over: Pence “may have stopped the bleeding” from Trump’s latest round of self inflicted wounds. In CNN’s instant poll after the debate, 48 percent of viewers said they thought that Pence won the debate to just 42 percent for Kaine.
How did this happen when all Kaine had to do was beat up on a guy who spent the past few days trying to explain a $1 billion business loss/tax avoidance scheme and the week before feuding with a Miss Universe pageant winner over her weight?
That gets to the crazy-making part of the night: Mike Pence. Throughout the debate, Pence kept furrowing his brow, shaking his head, scoffing, laughing out loud, saying things like “that’s absolutely false” and “oh, that’s nuts” whenever Tim Kaine brought up true things that Donald Trump had either said or done. Pence’s skepticism of the world that Kaine was describing—a world many of us thought we inhabited—was so adamant that it was hard not to question our own sanity. Was Pence right? Had we all simply imagined that Trump had called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” called women too many horrible insults to list (though Kaine tried), said he wants to get rid of the minimum wage, refused to release his taxes, insulted a former Miss Universe on Twitter, said John McCain wasn’t a war hero, led the birther movement, promised to deport all undocumented immigrants, refused to reveal his plan to fight ISIS, said that NATO is obsolete, said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, promised to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, praised Vladimir Putin as a strong leader, commented that veterans who committed suicide “couldn’t handle it,” said that Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine when it had, to name a few? Pence’s words and body language continuously denied that any of this stuff had happened. “Most of what you said is completely false,” Pence argued at one point after Kaine had said a bunch of true things. “And the American people know that. This isn’t the old days where you can just say stuff and be believed.” Wait a second. What?
Mike Pence just gaslit the American people, and it looks like he’s going to get away with it. Still, we at Slate tried to pull together all the head shakes, scoffs, “absolutely nots,” and outright rejections of reality that we could find during the debate into one video. That video ran at a length of more than 15 minutes, or about one-sixth of the entire program. Since that is way too long to force anybody to watch Mike Pence’s smirking, lying face, we cut it down to a more manageable if less comprehensive three minutes and 51 seconds. So, above are many of (if not all) the times Pence tried to make us think we were crazy for believing Donald Trump did and said things that we saw him do and heard him say. It’s a lot of times.