PHILADELPHIA—There were a lot of iterations of "Tim Kaine is the dad who…" jokes on Twitter on Wednesday night while the Virginia senator accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination. Probably because Tim Kaine is totally that dad who tears up when he tells you he's proud you turned your math grades around.
But as he made clear in his remarks, he is also the dad who will quietly show you the receipts on that shitty boyfriend you've been wasting your time with. And right now, Donald Trump is America's shitty boyfriend.
"You know who I don't trust? Donald Trump," he said in a tone that suggested he was about to share his thoughts on a new brand of high-fiber cereal. "The guy promises a lot. But you might have noticed, he has a habit of saying the same two words right after he makes his biggest promises. You guys know the words I mean? 'Believe me.'"
That last bit was delivered as an impression. A bad one. But he stuck with it, continuing the riff with more gentle mocking:
It's gonna be great—believe me! We're gonna build a wall and make Mexico pay for it—believe me! We're gonna destroy ISIS so fast—believe me! There's nothing suspicious in my tax returns—believe me! By the way, does anyone here believe that Donald Trump's been paying his fair share of taxes? Do you believe he ought to release those tax returns like every other presidential candidate in modern history? Of course he should. Donald, what are you hiding?
This is precisely the approach that certain critics of the Democratic National Committee's "Dangerous Donald" narrative have called for: mockery, derision. But unlike Elizabeth Warren, who was considered a strong option for the vice presidency in part because of her gleeful serving up of Trump, Tim Kaine's delivery couldn't have been more gracious.
It was the gentlest of eviscerations.
"He says 'believe me.' Well, his creditors, his contractors, his laid-off employees, his ripped-off students did just that," he continued. "Folks, you cannot believe one word that comes out of Donald Trump's mouth. Our nation is too great to put it in the hands of a slick-talking, empty-promising, self-promoting, one man wrecking crew."
This will be an interesting dynamic to watch play out on the campaign trail in the coming months.
In his own speech accepting the Republican vice presidential nomination, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence tried to position himself as a necessary counterbalance to Trump's chaotic bluster. And like Kaine, Pence even remarked that he was a bit surprised to have been tapped for the job.
But while Pence spent part of Wednesday trying, without much success, to rein in his running mate's call for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's email, Kaine spent it quietly turning the knife on Trump.
It may turn out that the quiet Republican did not do much to help build Trump up, but the quiet Democrat could go a long way toward taking him down.