Senator Tim Kaine stopped by my campus today for a brief Q&A with students. Two takeaways:
- Kaine mentioned his recent attempt to introduce legislation authorizing the President to use force against the Islamic State in the Middle East. On Kaine's telling, he's essentially been dragging the entire Congress into conducting a vote to allow military action. Kaine even cited Madison and the founder's original plans to have Congress declare war, and how these plans have been undermined by members' reluctance to cast controversial votes. I couldn't agree more. As I tell my students, the constitution was written to have ambition counter ambition; this can't work if Presidential ambition is countered by Congressional ambivalence. (I always love it when political figures echo what I tell my students; it lets the latter know that I'm not making this stuff up as I go along.) Kaine's story may be self-serving, but it's admirable to see someone in Congress step up, at least a little, against ever-expanding Presidential authority and Congress' near-total abdication of responsibility.
- Kaine is a formidable politician; he comes across as warm, knowledgeable and, above all else, reasonable. (Mark Warner is also a skilled speaker, but he can't hold a candle to Kaine in terms of likeability.) He's clearly staking out a centrist ground in a state with a polarized electorate. With former Governor Bob McDonnell off the playing field, and Bob Bolling having burned all of his bridges to the GOP, who could the Republicans come up with to challenge Kaine in 2018? Wittman? Forbes? The Cooch? I know the election is years away, but it's hard to see anyone taking out Kaine; the Senate job is his until he wants to retire. (Or until he starts hanging around with Jonnie Williams.)