Tim Kaine: Putin praise shows Trump's "irrational hostility" to Obama

VP nominee Tim Kaine
VP nominee Tim Kaine 10:44

Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, sharpened his attacks on the Republican ticket early Friday, telling “CBS This Morning” in an interview that Donald Trump and Mike Pence have shown an “irrational hostility” to President Obama in their praise for Vladimir Putin.

“My heart sunk when I heard this,” Kaine said. “What about invading other countries is leadership? What about running your economy into the ground is leadership? What about persecuting LGBT Russians is leadership?”

“There’s a difference between dictatorship and leadership,” Kaine continued. “And if you don’t understand that, I mean, you wouldn’t get out of a 5th grade civics exam.”

The GOP ticket’s applauding of Putin’s leadership as “stronger” than President Obama’s, Kaine added, “betrays an irrationality and an -- a hostility to the president that’s unpatriotic.”

Asked by “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose whether he believed Russian hackers were trying to influence the U.S. election and championing the Republican nominee, Kaine responded in the affirmative.

“It’s very clear that the Russians were behind the DNC attack,” he said, adding that “at a minimum, it’s to delegitimize the election.”

Reiterating a line he’s used on the campaign trail, Kaine compared Trump’s encouraging of Russian hackers to the 1970s’ Watergate scandal, pointing out that former President Richard Nixon was impeached for “encouraging crooks to commit espionage against the DNC in a presidential year to get an edge.” (Nixon, in the face of all but certain impeachment, resigned before Congress could vote to oust him.)

“When Donald Trump said publicly to the Russians, ‘hey go ahead and hack away -- and if you find something that helps me out, let me have it,’” Kaine said, “we impeached a president for that, what he has encouraged Russia to do.”   

Weighing in on the recent North Korean nuclear test, Kaine outlined Clinton’s plan for ensuring the country would not use its nuclear arsenal against the U.S., saying the Democratic nominee would use “vigorous” sanctions and the aid of other nations to prevent any such calamity.

“I know Hillary Clinton is going to use that sanctions power to the utmost to really squeeze those who are supplying North Korea,” Kaine said. He pointed out that “we have to get other nations engaged,” including China, and added that “we have to demand they use their influence.”

Kaine also cautioned against being “cavalier about nations getting nuclear weapons.”

“Donald Trump has said maybe well more nations - Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea - maybe more nations should get nuclear weapons,” Kaine said. “That would be a disaster for the world. We’re going to control nukes, not allow them to proliferate.”   

Kaine, a longtime civil rights lawyer, also weighed in on recent racial tensions in the U.S. between police forces and the communities they serve.

“We have to push communities to embrace what I call a ‘community policing’ model where they try to deal with crime by building stronger ties,” Kaine said. He coupled that with proposals to increase mental health access in communities, noting that in many instances, “we’ve made police and sheriffs… sadly, the front line for mental health in the country.”

And just as the Smithsonian’s African American History museum readies for its grand opening, Kaine -- a former mayor of Richmond, Virginia, a center of slave trading in the 19th century -- also discussed whether he would support a policy of reparations for slavery in the U.S.

“I’ve tended to focus on - how can we address the weight of it?” Kaine said, pointing to his experiences as Virginia governor and saying “I’ve tended to focus on things like education strategy and investments.”

When pressed to clarify specifically on reparations, Kaine responded: “I think you acknowledge the consequences, but then you try to solve them with investments in communities that have been left behind.”