Did Mike Pence Say Putin Is a “Stronger” or “Better” Leader Than Barack Obama?

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Mike Pence speaks to Republicans at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. (Getty)

During the vice presidential debate this evening, one point of contention was in regards to Governor Mike Pence’s comments about Russian president Vladimir Putin. Tim Kaine slammed Pence for having said that Putin is a “better” leader than Barack Obama. But Pence claimed this is a misrepresentation of the quote, and he did not use the word “better.”

So who’s right? Did Pence say Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than Barack Obama? Or a better one?

In this case, Tim Kaine is technically incorrect in regards to the Mike Pence quote. Pence actually used the word “stronger,” not “better.” Here’s what Pence said in an interview with CNN in September:

“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence told CNN. “And that’s going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America.”

Pence was doubling down on something Donald Trump had said, stating that Vladimir Putin is stronger than Obama. This drew criticism in light of the fact that Trump has previously made positive comments about Putin.

Trump and Pence’s argument is that Putin has elevated Russia on the world state more effectively than Obama has elevated the Untied States, not that Pence is actually a better leader overall.

But Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton believe that this comment is disrespectful of the president and offensive considering that Putin is a dictator who has invaded neighboring countries, jailed journalists, and supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They also consider it strange that Trump seems envious of a non-democratic system in which one man can do whatever he wants.

“If you don’t know the difference between dictatorship and leadership, then you’ve got to go back to a fifth grade civics class,” Kaine said at the vice presidential debate.