International desk – Donald Trump was likened to a “fool or maniac” while Hillary Clinton was dismissed as “weak and feckless” in the vice-presidential debate in Virginia.
Democratic Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence clashed on a series of topics ranging from abortion to Russia.
But they focused their sharp exchanges on both Clinton and Trump, according to BBC.
Pence painted Clinton as a “weak and feckless” leader who failed on foreign policy as secretary of state.
Meanwhile, Kaine invoked Republican President Ronald Reagan when talking about the dangers of nuclear weapons under a Trump presidency.
He said Reagan had once warned that nuclear proliferation could lead to “some fool or maniac” triggering a “catastrophic event”, adding that he was referring to someone like Trump.
The 57-year-old senator also criticised Trump’s temperament, saying the Republican nominee “can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot”.
In one of the more heated moments, Kaine sharply criticised Trump’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and questioned his business ties with Russian oligarchs.
Trump praised dictators, said Kaine, and had a “personal Mount Rushmore” made up of Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
“If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you’ve got to go back to a fifth-grade civics class,” Kaine said.
But Pence contended Putin would respect Trump because of his strength. “Plain and simple.”
He added that “the small and bullying leader of Russia has been stronger on the world stage than this administration – that’s stating painful facts”.
That’s not an endorsement of Putin, he said. “That’s an indictment of the weak and feckless leadership of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”
It was a scattershot debate, and at times the subjects changed so jarringly it felt like the speed round of a game show. In the end, however, Mike Pence did what he had to do.
The Republican vice-presidential nominee’s goal was to reassure Republicans panicked by Donald Trump’s debate performance last week and his bungling in the days that followed that cooler heads will prevail. He did that.
His calm, steady style – honed over years as a talk show host – stood in marked contrast to Democrat Tim Kaine’s over-caffeinated demeanour and rapid-fire attacks.
At times, of course, it seemed like Pence was talking about a Donald Trump who doesn’t exist – one who doesn’t have a year-long history of inflammatory statements and controversial stands. And Kaine was quick to call him on it.
Pence’s accomplishment, however, was to defend his traditional conservatism and make the case to wandering Republicans – particularly educated suburban voters – that they still have a home in the party. On Tuesday night, Pence stopped the bleeding.
At best, however, he has turned the page on a disastrous week and given Trump an opportunity to get back in the race. It is up to him to make the most of it.
The two candidates also clashed on Trump’s tax arrangements, which have come under scrutiny in recent days.
He has refused to release his tax returns, but the New York Times revealed he may have avoided paying taxes for the last 18 years.
This was possible because Trump, a hotel developer, suffered huge business losses of more than $900 million in 1995. He has not denied the truth of the story.
Pence defended his running mate’s practices, adding that he was “smart” to avoid paying tax.
Kaine shot back: “I guess all of us who do [pay taxes] are stupid?”
The two pro-life candidates also clashed over Trump suggesting women should be punished for having abortions.
Though Trump later corrected himself, Pence chalked it up to his inexperience: “Look, he’s not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton.”
The debate was hosted by CBS News’ Elaine Quijano and followed last week’s presidential debate, which drew a record 84 million viewers, according to Nielsen.