In one of the more spirited portions of the debate, Tim Kaine listed a series of controversial statements that he said Donald Trump made about the national security issues. But did he describe Trump’s comments accurately?
First, Kaine raised questions about Trump’s evolving statements about how he’ll handle the Islamic State threat.
“Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan. He said ‘I have a secret plan,’ and then he said, ‘I know more than all the generals about ISIL,’ and then he said ‘I’m going to call the generals to help me figure out a plan,’ and finally he said, ‘I’m going to fire all the generals.’ He doesn’t have a plan.”
That largely tracks with what has occurred. As The Fix’s Aaron Blake has previously laid out, Trump has evolved on how he’ll handle the Islamic State numerous times, including claiming to know more about the group than the military’s senior officers and stating that he would convene them his first day in office to formulate a new plan to handle it.
At NBC’s Commander-in-Chief’s Forum early last month, he added that “they’d probably be different generals, to be honest with you,” a remark that many observers interpreted to mean he would fire those he did not agree with. That would be unprecedented, as Politico laid out in a story afterward.
Kaine used that as a pivot point to describe ideas he attributed to Trump and said were dangerous, including “Cozying up to dictators” like Russian President Vladimir Putin, walking away from longtime military alliances, and believing more nations have nuclear weapons would make the world safer.
“He said Saudi Arabia should get them, Japan should get them, [South] Korea should get them,” Kaine said, adding that when Trump was questioned about it, he cracked “Go ahead, folks. Enjoy yourselves.”
“I’d love to hear Governor Pence tell me what’s so enjoyable or comical about nuclear war,” Kaine said.
“Did you work on that one a long time, because that had a lot of really creative lines in it,” Pence responded.
Pence denied later in the debate that Trump said Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea should obtain nuclear weapons. But that’s an issue on which Trump has previously flip-flopped. In March, Trump’s remarks about nuclear weapons prompted bewilderment in the Far East, in particular.