Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Tim Kaine, spoke by phone with WJCT’s First Coast Connect Host Melissa Ross Friday morning. Kaine was forced to cancel his scheduled Jacksonville campaign appearance due to Hurricane Hermine.
Ross: This week you’ve been making the media rounds and criticizing Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico to meet with the Mexican president, and talking about building a wall on the southern border. You called him a diplomatic embarrassment. Why is that?
Kaine: Well Melissa, it was really kind of two things: On the day that Hillary Clinton was talking to the American Legion in Cincinnati — an important veterans group — Donald Trump went to Mexico, set down to eyeball the Mexican president, President Pena Nieto, and then after spending months and months talking about "We’re going to build a wall and Mexico’s going to pay for it," he either forgot to bring that up or kind of had a crisis of confidence and choked about it. And so he said he — they — didn’t talk about the wall and who was going to pay for it. You can’t in diplomacy, you know, go into a meeting like that, especially if you tell everybody what a great negotiator you are and then fail to mention the thing that you’ve been talking about every day — that the other side clearly knows about it, showed that he caved.
MORE: Watch the interview below
He then goes back across the border and now that he’s not looking the Mexican president in the eye, he gives this harsh, divisive speech about building the wall and about a deportation force that would have responsibility for removing 60 million from the country. It is the same kind of language — he used the same kind of language about Mexican-Americans and Latinos that people used against the Irish — that people used against Italians, that people used against Jews coming from central and eastern Europe, basically saying that they were criminals and that you know they were all committing crimes and we need to round them up. And that’s not who we are as a nation.
So I think both parts of that day, the caving when he had the chance to bring up his central issue eyeball to eyeball with the Mexican president and then the divisive, over-the-top rhetoric back home when he was before an audience that he wanted to whip up demonstrated his — you know diplomacy and keeping Americans safe is not for amateurs, it’s for pros and he’s definitely an amateur.
Ross: Let me ask you as a follow-up, here in Florida of course the (Hillary) Clinton-Kaine Campaign is eyeing our 29 electoral votes just as the Trump campaign is. The polling shows Hillary Clinton up on Trump in Florida by only two or three points right now. As you move ahead to the general election and you reach out to swing voters in Florida who haven’t made up their minds and are perhaps attracted to Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration and how to combat terrorism, what would you say to those swing voters in Florida that you’ll be speaking to in the coming months? How do your policies contrast with Trump's?
Kaine: Sure, let’s talk about immigration and then security and keeping America safe on immigration. We want to do a bipartisan immigration reform. The Senate did one and I voted for it in June of 2013 that included border security, that included a path to citizenship for folks who were willing to have their criminal status checked and work hard and pay taxes. It included help for employers to verify immigration status of people who apply for jobs, support for dreamers. This was the comprehensive immigration reform that passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate three years ago. Republicans in the House never took it up. But this kind of reform that’s truly comprehensive is frankly what we need.
And also look, we want to focus deportation efforts on deporting violent criminals, not trying to deport 16 million people. If you have a deportation task force and as Donald Trump said you know "when I get in, they’re all gone," if you’re spending time on 16 million people, including law-abiding people who are working and paying taxes, not creating public safety challenges, then you’re going to not focus on the people who are doing the most harm. So from an immigration standpoint, we believe in a comprehensive reform. Donald Trump wants to make America deportation nation. That’s the difference.
On safety, this is an important one to me. I’ve got a child in the Marine Corps. When I heard Donald Trump say the American military is a disaster, which he said repeatedly, make fun of John McCain because he was a POW, ridicule the Gold Star family from Virginia who lost their son as he was trying to save others when deployed overseas — I don’t want this guy as Commander in Chief.
Instead I’d like Hillary Clinton, who not only was a great Armed Services Committee member — and I serve on that committee too — but was our chief diplomat and understands to be strong we have to have a strong military but we also have to have strong alliances, not tearing up alliances or behaving in amateurish ways when it comes to dealing with global leaders.
First Coast Connect host Melissa Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6382 or on Twitter @melissainjax