US vice-presidential nominees clashed over coronavirus, taxes, race, ‘court-packing’. Although it didn’t have the tension of last week’s debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, there were different approaches as Mike Pence and Kamala Harris made attempts to pitch their policy. There was also a party crasher on Wednesday night during the vice-presidential debate, a fly.
The 90-minute live debate saw the contenders argue over President Trump administration’s response to coronavirus, with Ms. Harris accusing Mr. Pence and the president of deliberately misleading Americans about the lethality of coronavirus.
Harris and Pence also sparred over the Supreme Court, criminal justice issues, and climate change. Here are the major takeaways from the debate:
Many Americans believe the coronavirus was the most important issue and an essential topic at a debate that ensured Democratic candidate Harris and Republican Vice President Pence seated 12 feet apart and were separated by plexiglass as a socially distanced precaution.
Harris accused Pence and the president of deliberately misleading Americans about the lethality of the coronavirus and faulted the administration’s response in tackling it saying that is “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
According to Harris “they knew, and they covered it up,” adding that Trump and Pence had “forfeited their right to re-election.” The latest figure shows that more than 210,000 Americans have died so far and at least 7.5 million have caught the virus, including President Trump.
But Pence, who runs the administration’s coronavirus task force, stoutly defended its work in dealing with the pandemic and argued, as his boss did last week, that they have actually been very successful.
Pence defended the Rose Garden event filled with maskless attendees for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that is being blamed for causing an outbreak of the virus at the White House
“President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health. And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris consistently talk about mandates, not just mandates with the coronavirus, but a government takeover of healthcare, the Green New Deal… all government control. We are about freedom and respecting freedom of the American people,” Pence said.
Harris didn’t relent and shot back: “Let’s talk about respect of the American people. You respect the American people when you tell them the truth. You respect the American people when you have the courage to be a leader speaking of those things that you may not want people to hear but they need to hear, so they can protect themselves.”
Criminal Justice System
Another issue at the debate most Americans had a keen interest in was the US criminal justice system. Harris spoke about the justice system in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor cases. She contended that justice was not done in the Taylor case, in which a Kentucky grand jury did not indict any of the officers on charges directly related to her death.
But Pence struck and said: “I trust our justice system, a grand jury that reviews the evidence. And it really is remarkable that as a former prosecutor, you would assume that an empanelled grand jury looking at all the evidence got it wrong”.
Harris spoke on the protests that emerged in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died while being arrested by Minneapolis police officers, and said she was a part of those “peaceful protests.” …”And I believe strongly, that first of all, we are never going to condone violence, but we always must fight for the values we hold dear,” she said.
For Pence, “there’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd and justice will be served. But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed.”
Harris later turned the tables on Pence by referencing Trump’s controversial refusal last week to condemn white supremacists.
“The reality of this is that we are talking about an election in 27 days where last week the president of the United States took a debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn white supremacists, and it wasn’t like he didn’t have a chance, he didn’t do it and then he doubled down. And then he said when pressed, ‘Stand back. Stand by’,” Harris said.
Soon after Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, some progressives have urged Democrats to expand the court from nine members to 11 or 13 seats to balance out what is likely to wind up a 6-3 conservative majority.
Biden and Harris have been repeatedly asked whether they support the “court-packing” idea, and neither has directly addressed the question.
Pence criticised Harris for dodging the issue, saying: “The straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.”
The size of the court has not changed since 1869, although President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to expand the court in 1937 failed amid public opposition to the idea.
Fly – The Debate crasher
Impromptu moments never escape the attention of social media users, so it was unsurprising that Twitter was on fire when an unexpected guest landed majestically on Pence’s white hair about 60 minutes into the debate.
A fly parked on Pence’s hair while he was in the midst of a serious response during the criminal justice reform discussion, and proceeded to sit there for two minutes, much to the delight of the audience weighing in on social media.
By Abel Ejikeme