Politics

Possible Clinton Veep Admits: 'I'm Boring'

Virginia's Kaine shares views on abortion, Syrian crisis

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine really would never win the award for most charismatic senator.  

And he knows that.  

“I am boring. But boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country,” Kaine said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press .  

Kaine’s sit-down with Chuck Todd became something of a veepstakes interview for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ticket— a race in which the current senator and former governor of a swing state is clearly on the short list.  

He was asked specifically about his ability to execute an agenda on which he may not entirely agree, a key responsibility in the role of vice president.  

“I have been a leader in some things and I’ve been a follower in some things. So I was a lieutenant governor to Mark Warner, I was a Democratic National Committee Chair to President Obama. So when I’ve (been) mayor, governor, or senator, I’ve been the main guy,” Kaine said. “But, you know, whether it’s in my, you know, in my church with the parish council or in other areas, I know how to work on a team.”  

[ Clinton Campaign Touts 'Ambitious, Progressive Agenda' in Party Platform ] And Kaine, a practicing Catholic, sought to quell what might be any unease about his personal views opposing abortion coming into conflict with the abortion rights stances that most Democrats share.  

“I’m kind of a, look, traditional Catholic. I don’t like it personally. I’m opposed to abortion. And personally I’m opposed to the death penalty,” Kaine said. “I deeply believe, and not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm.”  

“So I’ve taken a position which is quite common among Catholics. I’ve got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right role for government is to let women make their own decisions,” Kaine said.  

The draft Democratic platform for 2016 makes an explicit call for the elimination of the Hyde amendment, which bars the use of federal dollars to provide abortion services. On the flip side, it also calls for elimination of the death penalty.  

While the abortion question might get the most attention, another factor in the Clinton campaign’s decision making about a role for Kaine might be his strident calls for Congress to act to authorize the use of force against the terror group ISIS and in Syria.  

Kaine has had both a substantive and procedural disagreement with the Obama administration about Syria, but he’s put significant blame on Congress for failing to act. And his efforts to secure votes on use of force measures have failed.  

[ Kaine: Inaction on ISIS AUMF 'Cowardly and Shameful' ] “I don’t think we should be at war without a vote of Congress. And beginning in February 2014, I started to call for the notion that we should do a humanitarian safe zone in northern Syria, where Syrian refugees who don’t want to leave their country, could go there,” Kaine said. “And that’s something that I think had we done that, I think that you wouldn’t have seen the outflow of refugees we’ve seen.”  

Kaine worked with Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in drafting the force measure, and has made repeated pleas on the Senate floor and to other audiences inside and outside Washington for congressional action.  

[ Kaine: Obama 'Must' Come to Congress Before Striking ISIL in Iraq ] Despite any charisma deficit, there’s good reason beyond his status as a statewide elected official in a swing state for Clinton to ponder picking Kaine as her running mate.  

After one year in law school, Kaine spent nine moths in the missionary world, teaching at a Jesuit school in El Progreso, Honduras.  

He has long stressed the importance of expanding U.S. relationships with countries in Central and South America, and given the importance of Latino voters in the 2016 election, his fluency in Spanish would be an asset.  

It was during his time as a student at Harvard Law School that Kaine met his future wife, fellow student Anne Holton. Her father, Linwood Holton Jr., was Virginia's first GOP governor in nearly a century when he was elected in 1969. He made high-profile stances against racial segregation.  

In addition to serving as governor and senator, Kaine spent the start of the Obama administration as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He won election to the Senate in 2012 with almost 53-percent of the vote.  

[ Clinton Hits Trump Over Brexit ] While Kaine said his focus is on working to elect Clinton, not on any future role for himself, when asked on NBC if he was qualified to be commander-in-chief, Kaine said no one should say they are ready for that responsibility.  

“Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t have said yes to that question, Harry Truman wouldn’t have said yes to that question. Those are my two favorite presidents,” Kaine said. “I am doing my best to be a good senator.”  

Information from CQ's member profiles contributed to this report. Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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