Great moments in the vice presidential debate
This was a significant vice presidential debate because both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris are significantly younger than their presidential running mates. Moreover, it's unlikely that even Joe Biden's staunchest supporters can imagine him fulfilling his entire first term. This means that Harris was auditioning for president. And despite Trump's robust energy, his getting the virus was a reminder that he too is mortal. Fortunately, Pence was superb.
For leftists, the debate established that Kamala is a fiery black woman and that Pence is a perfect example of toxic white masculinity. In the real world, the debate showed that Kamala can recite prepared lines but lacks subject matter mastery, while Pence never lost control of himself and showed tremendous factual mastery.
Pence had a more uphill battle because of Susan Page, the moderator. Her questions for Harris essentially asked what wonderful things she and Biden planned to do to fix the Trump disasters, while her questions for Pence were aimed at forcing him to defend all the allegedly terrible disasters he and Trump caused.
Although both candidates consistently ran over their time, each did allow the other to speak, so it was easy to hear what they were saying. Stylistically, I preferred Pence's peaceful, measured tones to Kamala's nasal snark. For many men, Kamala must have come across as the awful ex-wife. For many women, Kamala was the bitchy mean girl at high school. Either way — ick.
On the Wuhan virus, Pence said something important, which is that the American people, not the government, are essential to the solution:
The difference here is President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris consistently talk about mandates, and not just mandates with the Coronavirus, but a government takeover of healthcare, the Green New Deal, all government control. We're about freedom and respecting the freedom of the American people.
When Harris talked about Biden's vaguely outlined Wuhan virus plan, Pence used that to remind Americans that Biden has a history of plagiarism:
The reality is, when you look at the Biden plan, it reads an awful lot like what President Trump, and I, and our task force has been doing every step of the way. And quite frankly, when I look at their plan that talks about advancing testing, creating new PPE, developing a vaccine, it looks a little bit like plagiarism, which is something Joe Biden knows a little bit about.
Pence nailed Harris to the wall when she snarked about refusing a vaccination if Trump recommended it (emphasis mine):
The reality is that we're going to have a vaccine, Senator, in record time. In unheard of time, in less than a year. We have five companies in phase three clinical trials. And we're right now producing tens of millions of doses. So the fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if the vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think is unconscionable. And Senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people's lives. The reality is that we will have a vaccine, we believe, before the end of this year. And it will have the capacity to save countless American lives. And your continuous undermining of confidence in a vaccine is just, it's unacceptable.
But look, Senator Harris, you're entitled to your own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts. You yourself said on multiple occasions when you were running for president, that you would ban fracking. Joe Biden looked at a supporter in the eye and pointed and said, "I guarantee, I guarantee that we will abolish fossil fuels."
When Harris made the risible claim that Trump lost the trade war with China, Pence pounced:
Look, lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it. Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades. And again, Senator Harris, you're entitled to your opinion. You're not entitled to your own facts. When Joe Biden was vice-president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs.
Pence used his family to push back against Harris's slander about Trump and the troops:
My son is in captain in the United States Marine Corps. My son-in-law's deployed in the United States Navy. I can assure all of you with sons and daughters serving in our military, President Donald Trump not only respects but reveres all of those who serve in our armed forces, and any suggestion otherwise is ridiculous.
Pence also challenged both Harris and Page for repeatedly returning to the "fine people hoax":
I think this is one of the things that makes people dislike the media so much in this country, Susan, is that you selectively edit just like Senator Harris did, comments that President Trump and I and others on our side made. I mean, Senator Harris conveniently admitted after the President made comments about people on either side of the debate over monuments, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and has done so repeatedly. You're concerned that he doesn't condemn neo-Nazis. President Trump has Jewish grandchildren. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. This is a President who respects and cherishes all of the American people.
Harris also got nastily riled when Pence challenged her record as a prosecutor:
When you were DA in San Francisco, when you left office, African-Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses than whites and Hispanics. When you were Attorney General of California, you increased the disproportionate incarceration of blacks in California. You did nothing on criminal justice reform in California. You didn't lift a finger to pass the first step back on Capitol Hill.
Overall, Pence's performance was masterful. He may not have converted Democrats, but he more than satisfied Trump-supporters and probably managed to appeal to the few undecided voters left in America.
Image: Vice presidential debate. YouTube screen grab.