Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who will be back on the ballot in 2018, came to one of Loudoun’s largest retirement communities for a town hall meeting Monday.
Ashby Ponds residents challenged Kaine with questions on a range of national issues, many revolving around diplomacy and the military.
When one resident questioned a $90 billion increase in military spending, Kaine said he supported that increase.
“I think the world is about as dangerous now, sadly, as it’s been for a very long time, because we’re not only dealing with all these non-state terrorist organizations that continue to pose threats, but sadly we’re coming back into a moment that I think many of us hoped was over,” Kaine said. “When great power competition is real, when you have Russia that invaded the sanctity of an American election, or a North Korea that’s developing a nuclear program, we have to make sure first that we can protect ourselves.”
But in response to other questions, he expressed concern about the direction of American diplomacy—particularly President Donald J. Trump’s apparent undercutting of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Twitter, tweeting insults at foreign leaders, and the great number of empty staff positions in the State Department—including the ambassador to South Korea.
“The single most nervous U.S. ally in the world is South Korea,” Kaine said. “It took 11 months for the president to even float a name, but within a month that individual had withdrawn saying I’m so worried about what the White House is doing in Korea that I can’t take the job.’”
He also said Congress needs to reclaim its authority over prolonged military engagements. While the U.S. has been in constant conflict since 2001, the last military action explicitly approved by Congress was in Iraq in 2003, and the last formal declaration of war was World War II.
“We owe it to the men and women who risk their lives that we have a vote to establish that it’s in fact a national priority before we order them to go risk their lives,” Kaine said.
And while he said the U.S. has some of the best cyber professionals in world, he said the U.S. may need to reorganize its cyber warfare operation. He mentioned the idea of a separate branch of the military dedicated to cyber warfare. American intelligence agencies have concluded Kaine’s own run for vice president alongside Hillary Clinton was victim to attempted tampering by a Russian cyber effort.
“I’m going to be on the ballot in 2018, I’ve already been tinkered with in 2016, I don’t want it to happen again,” Kaine quipped.
But he dismissed any talk of a presidential run of his own. In particular, he pointed out the extraordinary security measures with presidents and presidential candidates live.
“I like taking my wife out for a surprise birthday and not having to clear the whole restaurant and have a food taster,” Kaine said.