At the VP Debate, Kamala Harris Stood Her Ground and Prosecuted the Case
I watched the debate Wednesday night and reviewed the news media analyses from the left and the right. These are my thoughts on the Vice Presidential debate. Compared to the Presidential debate from the week before, this one was more civil with fewer interruptions. According to CBS News, Pence interrupted Harris twice as many times, ten times compared to five. Both candidates dodged specific questions or did not answer some.
I checked the list of eight items I created and published on Medium on the day of the debate. I was pleased that the moderator, Susan Page, asked questions on five of the eight topics. In an interview, she said that there was a question on immigration, which she could not ask because time ran out. The quotes not attributed are taken from the debate transcript published by USA TODAY.
These are the major topics I listed (read the story below) on the day of the debate and those that got airtime.
The Vice Presidential Debate Takes On Added Significance
Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence will face off at the only Vice Presidential debate tonight in Salt…
- Coronavirus pandemic The first question asked was on COVID-19. Page asked Kamala Harris to explain what a Biden-Harris administration would do differently in January. She took the Trump-Pence administration to task for still not having a plan and for minimizing the risk posed by the pandemic. Pence touted the often-repeated claim that Trump suspended the travel from China. The travel ban still allowed American citizens and permanent residents to return. The airports had no mechanism to check whether the returnees are carriers of the virus, and the states did not enforce quarantine rules. Most of the Coronavirus cases reported from the East Coast originated from those who arrived from Europe. The CDC announced a travel ban from Europe only on March 12, 2020. Neither Harris nor Page pressed the Vice President on this.
- Affordable Care Act. Pence responded to a question on the topic this way. “Obamacare was a disaster…President Trump and I have plans to improve health care and to protect, pre-existing conditions for every American.” An executive order on White House stationery is not a plan that has an enforcement mechanism. Kamala Harris talked directly to the audience, “If you have a pre-existing condition, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, they’re coming for you. If you love someone who has a pre-existing condition — they’re coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parent’s coverage, they’re coming for you.”
- Judge Amy Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court and Abortion. The Rose Garden event has turned out to be a superspreader for the Coronavirus. Vice President Pence’s response was, “People were tested for coronavirus. And it was an outdoor event”, which it was not. There were several indoor receptions both before and after the Rose Garden event. Kamala Harris’s response to the abortion issue was, “I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision over her own body. That is her right, not Donald Trump’s,”
- Racial unrest and systemic racism I believe this issue did not receive the attention it deserved. Susan Page asked a question towards the end of the debate about the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. While Harris said that the family of Breonna Taylor deserves justice, Pence said he trusted the justice system. Then he went on to condemn the “rioting and looting.”
- Immigration. Kamala Harris inserted the following in one of her responses. “I thought about my mother, who came to the United States at the age of 19, gave birth to me at the age of 25 at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California. And the thought that I’d be sitting here right now I know would make her proud, and she must be looking down on this.” That was music to my ears. Like her mother, I came from India to the U.S. thirty-five years ago to attend graduate school.
- Student loan. Susan Page did not ask a direct question on student loan debt. Yet, when answering another question, Sen. Harris stated,”…across the board; we will make sure that if you have student loan debt, it’s cut by $10,000.” She also noted that “a two-year Community College education would be free.” The campaign must publicize this plan through ads targeted to the collegebound and college-going young voters.
- Environment and Climate change Susan Page lumped environmental concerns together with climate change to ask just one question. Here is how Pence responded, “According to all of the best estimates, our air and land are cleaner than any time ever recorded. And our water is among the cleanest in the world. President Trump has made a commitment to conservation and the environment. Now with regard to climate change, the climate is changing. But the issue is, what’s the cause and what do we do about it. President Trump has made it clear that we’re going to continue to listen to the science”. Climate change to them was a hoax, and President Trump was contemptuous towards science and scientists. While in California visiting damages due to wildfires, he said, “I don’t think science knows, actually,” Trump was quick to blame the state government. Pence retorted, “President Trump and I believe that forest management has to be front and center.” Of course, it has to be part of the solution. However, of the total forest land in California and Oregon, approximately 50% is managed by federal agencies. They do not do a good job taking care of the forest under their control.
Here is my take
Pence refused to answer whether they will leave the office voluntarily if voted out. He responded that they are going to win the election. Harris avoided answering a question about packing the Supreme Court if the Democratic Party wins the White House and the Congress. Answering one way or the other would alienate both the liberals and the moderates, and I believe choosing not to answer was the prudent move.
My prediction that the Vice Presidential debate may turn out to be the only one before the election in November appears to be more likely now. The Commission on Presidential Debates has canceled the second debate because Trump refused to participate in a virtual format. The moderator could “cut you off whenever they want” was the excuse he gave in an interview with Fox News. In other words, he could not do the things he did to interrupt and distract Biden from talking during the first debate. Donald Trump attacked the debate moderator, Chris Wallace of the pro-Trump Fox News, saying that he harbored left-wing bias and was trying to damage Trump’s reelection prospects. On Thursday, during an interview with Fox Business News, Trump called Sen. Harris, a Black woman and the first person of Indian descent, a monster. I wonder what Trump would refer to another Black woman, Kristin Walker, the last debate’s moderator. Trump has shown difficulty dealing with strong women like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. That debate scheduled for October 22, 2020, in Nashville, TN, is still on. Trump can always find an excuse not to participate. I am skeptical.