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  • Ashok Dhillon

VP Debate 2020 – Harris vs. Pence (#123)


The much-anticipated sole debate between the two candidates for Vice President in the impending presidential election took place last night. It was only anticipated because of the fiasco of the last debate (curtesy of Trump) between the two presidential candidates, Trump and Joe Biden, and because if elected, Kamala Harris would become the first woman, of color, as Vice President of the United States.


As debates go it was civil enough, especially after the undisciplined, chaotic verbal food-fight that Trump created in the last debate, though Vice President Mike Pence did interrupt occasionally, and ran over his allotted time determinedly and frequently, ignoring the moderator’s attempts to try and make him stop. But all-in-all, Pence and Kamala Harris were cordial to each other and the moderator, Susan Page.


Whereas in the last debate Trump was determined to keep the debate from addressing any substantive issues of record and policy, in which he knew he was very vulnerable and weak, in this debate, it was up to Pence to defend the record of the first four years, the first term, of Trump’s and his administration.

In that task he was adequate enough, considering what a precarious position he found himself to be in, what with the entire country, his administration, the White House, and his boss, Trump, being struck and laid-low with the COVID-19 virus (the pandemic). And try as he did, there was little he could do to deflect from the fact that under him (as head of the pandemic task force) and Trump, the US has not only been the leader in the World in COVID-19 infections, but has also led in the number of American lives lost to the uncontrolled pandemic (7 Million Americans infected, and over 210,000 dead). When asked by the moderator as to why the American death rate was more than double that of the other advanced countries, like its neighbor Canada, Pence ignored the question entirely, and kept repeating that Trump had saved lives.


Pence tried to minimize the infection numbers and the number of dead in America by stating that according to their experts Dr. Fauci, Dr. Brix and others, the numbers were projected to be much higher. He of course, did not address the fact that he and Trump have ignored and actively undermined the advice and assessment of all their experts, particularly Dr. Fauci, the foremost infectious disease expert. And Kamala Harris did not capitalize on the fact that Dr. Rick Bright, an internationally recognized expert on vaccine and diagnostic development, turned whistleblower, had resigned on Tuesday, because of being sidelined by the Trump and Pence administration in the middle of a global pandemic, for complaining about the administration’s response to the COVID-19, and nepotism in the Department of Health and Human Services.


Pence stuck to the defense-line that while everything was terrible, it could have been much worse. A line of defense weakened considerably by the fact that from the start America has consistently led all other countries in the World in the number of infections and deaths by the COVID-19 virus.

While Kamala Harris hammered Pence on those facts, he in turn resorted to spinning it in a positive light by self-congratulations and effusive praise for the early actions of Trump; who unfortunately had already confessed in the taped interviews with Bob Woodward that he ‘downplayed’ the facts of the deadliness of the Corona Virus, so as to ‘not panic’ the American people. Kamala Harris did not let that pertinent fact slide and reminded Pence and the audience of that troublesome interview.


The debate moved on to the other major area of concern, the state of the economy.


Again, Harris hammered Pence on the current abysmal state of the economy due to ‘historic failure’ of Trump and his administration to address the ‘Greatest Crisis’ that America has faced in recent times, the pandemic. Pence as was expected, touted the great ‘Trump Economy’ and the ‘V-Shaped Recovery' taking place even now. Both of those assertions being wrong, Harris was quick to rebut them.

Kamala Harris pointed out the obvious (except to some Republicans) that it was Barack Obama and Joe Biden who successfully revived and restored America’s destroyed economy from the last crisis, and that Trump ‘inherited’ a healthy and growing economy that he and Pence had now destroyed by their sheer ineptness in managing the pandemic.


She then stated the other obvious fact, that it was Joe Biden who had the experience in reviving shattered economies, and certainly not Trump - who had done the opposite. She also recounted the pain of ordinary Americans that were facing mass joblessness, difficulties in paying rent etc. because of the disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic by the Trump and Pence administration.


Pence countered with the recounting of all the supposed Trump wins, healthy economy, jobs growth, China subjugation, and other foreign policy wins, such as the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem. He stated that even now, the American economy was in a ‘V-Shaped Recovery' that had created over 11 million jobs since the onset of the pandemic.


It was similar thrust and parry when it came to healthcare, where Kamala Harris pointed out that in the midst of the worst pandemic, the Trump administration was fighting in the courts to abolish ‘Obamacare’, which would take away critically needed health insurance from over 20 Million plus Americans, even as more and more of them desperately needed it - and it would additionally take away vitally important coverage of pre-existing conditions.


The battle of words covered the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, the stacking of the courts, the tug-of-war of Democrats and Republicans over Roe v. Wade, the inherent racism of the Justice System, and the Police, and the reforms that were required to make them all more equitable.


Mike Pence’s most stunning statement of the evening, in its sheer audacity of denial of historic and current reality, was that there was no systemic racism in America. If one was anything but 'Pure White' in America, that statement would be the greatest confirmation that to a certain segment of ‘White America’ the current rampant and at times (all to frequent) violent and lethal discrimination against Black Americans, and Native Americans, and to a lesser degree to all people of color, and the 400 hundred years of genocidal and inhumane racism was ‘just not a thing’.

To Pence and his boss Trump, it sure was not, because their ready defense of their support of killer cops, American shooters, American Neo-Nazis, White-Supremist armed militias, like the ‘Proud Boys’, and internal ‘White-Supremist Extremists’, which the American intelligence agencies consider and inform as America’s greatest threat, were collectively not as bad as ‘protesters and looters’.


The well know differences of Republicans versus the Democrats, regarding taxes, energy - fossil fuel and fracking, versus green and renewable, climate change, and environmental protection versus stripping of regulations, were also fought over. Pence’s most memorable line was his jaw-dropping statement, ‘the climate is changing, and we believe in Science’. The first part had of course the ‘uh-duh’ element – and the next part of his statement was glaringly contrary to all of his and Trump’s actions so far, and elicited the ‘you gotta be kidding’ response.


Kamala Harris of course reminded Pence that recently, Trump in regard to the climate change driven devastating fires on the West Coast had famously said, ‘Science doesn’t know’.


The debates on these issues of energy, climate change and the environment are repeated often enough in the public arena between the Republicans and the Democrats that they don’t bear repeating here, suffice to say, that Kamala Harris generally confirmed the Democrat platforms on them, while Pence claimed that under Trump, America was at its cleanest in air, water, environment etc. than it had ever been, and was doing better than all other countries. Those statements by Pence are easy enough to disprove, but there is no need to here, as the coming election will most probably make them immaterial.


While Pence’s measured tones made him as effective as possible in defense of Trump’s and his indefensible first term, yet in spite of his best efforts, the administration’s monumental failures in domestic and foreign policies are too high profile, and too well recorded, for him to successfully defend.


Most damagingly, Trump’s almost four years of out-and-out-lying made it almost impossible for Pence to overcome the distrust in his, Trump’s, and their administration’s statements on just about all the important issues facing America today, and which were being debated between them.


Kamala Harris did not squander that single critical overriding fact known to most American people, and the World, that Joe Biden was, by far, inherently more trustworthy than Trump, every day, and on just about every issue. In the end that single fact may prove to be the winning debating point she needed to make, and she made it last night, forcefully.


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