Last night at the Democratic National Convention, Tim Kaine attempted to make the case that Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy, a sentiment with which the overwhelming majority of Americans disagree. Amid a number of attacks on Donald Trump, Kaine laid out his argument:
First, she’s consistent. … When you want to know something about the character of somebody in public life, look to see if they have a passion that began long before they were in office, and that they have consistently held it throughout their career.
Kaine’s attempt to paint Hillary Clinton as a consistent, principled politician is certainly difficult one, running contrary to even the most cursory examination of her entire political career. But it is all the less convincing coming from Kaine, who is in the midst of a political realignment of his own, changing a number of long-held beliefs in order to become a more palatable running-mate for the increasingly radical Clinton campaign.
Kaine has followed Clinton’s lead on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with an impressively quick about-face on his previous support of the deal. One week ago, Kaine was praising the trade deal, which Clinton helped negotiate as Secretary of State. The very next day, Hillary Clinton chose him as her running mate, and he privately agreed to echo her newfound opposition to the deal. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, friend to both Kaine and Clinton, said on Tuesday that he expects that a Clinton administration would ultimately flip-flop again and support the deal.
When he ran for governor of Virginia in 2005, Kaine, a practicing Catholic, ran a number of ads describing himself as “conservative on personal responsibility, character, family and the sanctity of life.” One ad described his opposition to same-sex marriage and support for abortion restrictions: “I oppose gay marriage, I support restrictions on abortion — no public funding, and parental consent — and I’ve worked to pass a state law banning partial birth abortion.” As with Clinton, Kaine’s opposition to same-sex marriage disappeared once it became unpopular. But Kaine has recently shifted away from his support of even the most modest of abortion restrictions, coming fully in line with the Democratic Party’s wholesale submission to the abortion lobby. Though pro-choice, Kaine has long described himself as having a personal, faith-based opposition to abortion. He apparently ascribes to the teaching of the Catholic Church that abortion is murder; he just doesn’t see why it should therefore be illegal.
Nevertheless, he pledged to support laws restriction abortion while it was useful in earning him the governorship. He supported a 24-hour waiting period, parental notification, barring taxpayer funding of abortion, and vowed to pass a partial-birth abortion ban. (Clinton, meanwhile, opposed in the Senate and continues to oppose a ban on partial-birth abortion.) In reality, he has acted almost completely in line with liberal dogma on abortion, and supported bills as senator which would have invalidated all the restrictions he once campaigned on.
He continued, however, to support the Hyde Amendment, as the majority of Americans (including nearly half of pro-choice Americans) do. Earlier this month, informed by The Weekly Standard of his party platform’s call for its repeal, Kaine stated: “I haven’t been informed of that change, but I’m going to check it out. I have traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment, but I’ll check it out.” According to the Clinton campaign, Kaine now opposes the Hyde Amendment, a fact which he has apparently told Clinton privately but has yet to express any rationale for.
Kaine vowed in 2005 to “put principle over politics,” promising that “you’ll always know where I stand.” Apparently this doesn’t apply now that he has a chance at the vice presidency. He’s right: when you want to know something about the character of a public official, see if they have stuck to their stated principles and values. Tim Kaine, unfortunately, has not.
Danny Cannon works for the American Principles Project.