After the uncomfortable spectacle of Trump spitting toxic bile into Biden and the American public, yesterday’s Vice-Presidential debate was almost calm – almost, but not entirely.
Because Mike Pence was trying to get away with a less off the wall, less highly decible version of Trump’s performance.
With the most sober expressions (despite the intended viral fly that sat on his head for an ungodly time), Pence brought forth one falsehood after the other: He claimed that Trump only had the public good in the sense of every step of the Covid fiasco -Way; that Trump was an environmentalist who always listened to science; that America was stronger and more respected because it had given up important international agreements like the Iranian nuclear deal and the Paris climate accords. But more telling than what he said was how he said it: he kept trying to talk about Harris, to shut her up.
It did not work. Pence is not Donald Trump when it comes to the ability to loot anyone and everyone in a period of debate. I don’t like his politics, but to be fair, he’s not remotely in the same league as Trump when it comes to vengeful, loud narcissism.
Harris knew exactly how to deal with the Vice President’s half-hearted efforts to talk about her. She just refused to play along and go on the defensive and would not shrink back. The California senator looked at him, smiled intentionally icily, and told him to shut up so she could speak. Again and again he tried to persuade her; Harris repeatedly refused to give up soil. “Mr. Vice President, I speak,” she said at one point. “If you don’t mind beating me up, we can talk.” Another time she just looked at him as if he were a rude child and said softly but emphatically, “Mr. Vice President, I am Speak. I am Speak ”and then shook her head in a mixture of pity and sadness, as if admonished for his lack of manners.
There are advantages to being a prosecutor. Harris knows how to stay in the spotlight, how to dictate the terms of a debate, and how to articulate an argument so that it is easily accessible to an audience. When Pence accused her and Biden of not being transparent on political issues, she laughed dismissively, then quickly turned to Trump’s taxes and the fact that he only paid $ 750 in federal income taxes (in both 2016 and 2017).
When Pence said Trump was a great environmentalist and “will keep listening to science” but then secured himself whether human activity is responsible for climate change, Harris’ face conveyed all of the disbelief that must have been felt by millions of viewers heard absurd statement. She didn’t have to remind viewers that Pence was actually speaking of a science skeptic, a highly contagious Covid patient who deliberately violated public health recommendations by demonstratively removing his mask as soon as he returned from the hospital to the White House. Instead, in her response to prosecutors, she only described Trump’s inactivity – and worse, his malevolence – in the face of Covid and climate change, which she described as an “existential threat” to humanity.
All in all, Harris’ performance was not perfect. I would have liked her to bring charges against the entire Trump team for their sadistic actions against immigrants. I would have liked to see her use her legal prowess to analyze Trump’s lawless executive orders, denounce the irrationality of Trump’s tweetstorms, and explain the criminality of the acts that led to Trump’s impeachment.
But it was clear that Harris’ job on Wednesday night was to do no harm to ensure that Biden’s candidacy remained in as strong a position after the debate as it was in the debate. And by this measure she succeeded admirably in her caution.
In contrast, Pence had to do more than just rise above the amazingly low bar Trump set last week. He had to do more than just appear mad. It is true that in the 90-minute debate he managed to establish guidelines without accusing his opponent of being stupid, praising his own cunning towards the rafters or insulting Senator Harris’ relatives. But he hasn’t done much to counter the popular belief that these guidelines, even if more soberly worded, still fail the odor test.
In addition, Pence shamefully responded to two key questions: First, he refused to say whether he had discussed with a sick Trump the circumstances under which the Vice President would temporarily take over the president’s powers even though a medical Trump had spent the past 36 hours Send dozens of manic, sometimes incoherent, tweets. And then he evaded the question of whether he disagreed with Trump to give guarantees for a peaceful transfer of power if the Trump pence ticket were to lose.
For a nation already on the brink, this was the wrong way to answer softball questions.