Mike Pence, Kamala Harris Clash During Only VP Debate


Photo By Hannah Ashtari

Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris faced off in the first and only Vice Presidential debate on Oct. 7.

By Hannah Ashtari, Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence (R) and California Senator Kamala Harris (D) faced off in the first and only Vice Presidential debate of the 2020 election on Wednesday, Oct. 7. The candidates were seated twelve feet apart, and plexiglass shields were installed between Mr. Pence, Ms. Harris, and the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, to protect the attendees after President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis

Candidates discussed topics such as foreign policy, healthcare, and the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19. Their responses were a reflection of the main themes of the opposing campaigns. While Mr. Pence characterized the Biden campaign as too radical, Ms. Harris focused on the Trump Administration’s “failure” of managing the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things.

“We have to get a hold of what has been going on and we need to save our country,” Ms. Harris said. “And Joe Biden is the best leader to do that and frankly, this administration has forfeited their right to reelection, based on [their mistakes].”

Mr. Pence counterattacked by saying that President Trump’s decision to suspend travel from China “saved hundreds of thousands of American lives,” while Biden opposed that decision and called it xenophobic and hysterical. Mr. Pence went on to say that the Biden-Harris plan for eliminating COVID-19 is the exact same as what the Trump Administration already has in place. While some aspects are similar, the Trump administration took action to downplay the virus, such as blocking additional funding for contact tracing and sidestepping the CDC, while the Biden campaign plans to hire 100,000 contact tracers and hire more disease detectives at the CDC.   

“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 have been doing every step of the way,” Mr. Pence said. “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.”

Another topic was the campaign’s plans for energy and the environment, as well as the Biden campaign’s plan for fracking, a process for extracting oil from the Earth that has negative environmental impacts. 

When Mr. Pence claimed that under a Biden Administration, fracking would be “abolished,” Ms. Harris responded by saying that Biden was very clear about not planning to end fracking. The official Biden-Harris clean energy policy does not outright ban fracking, but instead proposes “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters,” a stance that some view as not aggressive enough against a dangerous threat to the environment.

“I still can’t get over how bad the climate change section of the debate was last night. This is the consequence of no climate questions in debates for years. there was almost no talk of solutions,” Congresswoman and co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said in a tweet. 

The candidates ended the debate by speaking about their plans for racial justice in America. The discussion came on the same night former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with manslaughter and second-degree and third-degree murder for his role in George Floyd’s death, was released from custody on bail. 

“We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system, which is why Joe and I will immediately ban chokeholds and carotid holds. George Ford would be alive today if we did that,” Ms. Harris said.

Mr. Pence responded by stating that “Justice will be served” for Floyd’s death, before turning the conversation towards the administration’s support for law enforcement and the aftermath of rioting and looting. He took a stance similar to that of the President, who had called the Black Lives Matter mural on 5th avenue in New York a “symbol of hate,” in a tweet on July 1. 

“I mean, it really is astonishing. Flora Westbrook is with us here tonight in Salt Lake City. Just a few weeks ago, I stood at what used to be her salon, [which] was burned to the ground by rioters and looters,” Mr. Pence said. “And I want everyone to know, who puts on the uniform of law enforcement every day, that President Trump and I stand with you.” 

While the debate was hailed as much more civil than the presidential debate, the candidates still clashed while debating. In one moment, Ms. Harris interjected with “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” as Mr. Pence tried to interrupt her. In another, Mr. Pence criticized Harris for her response on whether she supported expanding the Supreme Court by saying, “I just want the record to reflect [that] she never answered the question.”

While two more presidential debates were scheduled to take place in October, the second presidential debate was officially canceled due to President Trump’s refusal to participate in a virtual debate. A final presidential debate is still scheduled to take place on Oct. 22.

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