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Pence goes far, far beyond Trump on Syria

Gov. Mike Pence appears to have gone far, far beyond anything Donald Trump has ever said about what Trump has called his “secret” plan for Syria.

Asked how a Trump-Pence administration would stop the civil war carnage in Aleppo, Pence said that he, at least, “truly believe(s) that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones, so that families and children can work out of those areas,” and “work with our partners…[to] make that happen. Provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength.” If Russia “continues to be involved” in airstrikes along with the Syrian government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said, “the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military forces of the Assad regime” and “prevent this crisis in Aleppo.”

Trump has said very little about Syria’s civil war–and advocated none of the measures Pence outlined. Instead, he has concentrated on the separate fight against the Islamic State in Syria, saying he would “knock the hell out of” the militants, and advocated cooperation with Russia.

Unlike Trump, Pence took a hard line against Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he called a “small and bullying leader” who is “dictating terms” to the United States

In his response, Kaine used the opportunity to point out that Putin has been praised “again and again” by Trump as a “better leader” than President Obama, and that it is “clear that [Trump] has business dealings” with corrupt oligarchs connected to Putin.

“If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership,” Kaine said, “you’ve got to go back to a fifth grade civics class.” When Pence said the way the United States would take on Russia and other adversaries was through rebuilding America’s military, Kaine pounced, saying “No he won’t.” Trump, he said, “has avoided paying taxes” to pay for the military.

What Kaine didn’t do is spell out Clinton’s plan for stopping the civil bloodshed in Syria. Although she hasn’t mentioned them recently, in the past the former secretary of state has called for many of the same things Pence now says he (although he carefully spoke in the first person) advocates: a no-fly zone, possible use of the American military to stop Syrian government bombing, working with allies.

Real-time fact-checking and analysis of the vice-presidential debate