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Friday, October 23, 2020

Boring, but in a good way: Experts on the Harris-Pence Vice Presidential debate

The first and only Vice Presidential debate has received mixed reviews, but most agreed that the event was a welcome change after the raucous Trump-Biden face-off. 

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 8, 2020 8:45:48 pm
Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, vice presidential debate, US elections, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Trump covid, presidential debate, indian expressDemocratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence at the vice presidential debate on October 7 in Salt Lake City. (Photo: AP)

More than a week after US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden squared off in a chaotic presidential debate marked by constant interruptions and name-calling, experts have largely agreed that Thursday’s Vice Presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was a significantly more cordial and less theatrical affair.

The two sparred on a whole range of pressing issues — like the coronavirus pandemic, the US’ relationship with China, climate change, taxes and racial tensions.

The first and only Vice Presidential debate has received mixed reviews from political commentators and experts, but most of them have agreed that the event was a welcome change after the raucous Trump-Biden face-off.

Washington Post columnist Alyssa Rosenberg called the debate “boring”, but in a good way. “…the vice-presidential debate was the political equivalent of a dose of Ambien,” she wrote. According to Rosenberg, even the less enjoyable parts of the debate — like when the candidates spoke over one another and the moderator — had an “oddly soothing quality”.

The Atlantic’s Russell Berman shared the sentiment. He wrote that the debate felt almost like a throwback to another time in American politics, before Trump ascended to presidency.

“In other words, tonight’s debate was like every other general-election matchup before Trump came on the scene,” he wrote. “Pence and Harris interrupted each other plenty, and they talked over moderator Susan Page, but they did so in the normal way of a smooth, long-winded politician that viewers surely found familiar.”

Senator Kamala Harris was praised widely for holding her ground every time Pence interrupted her while she was speaking. “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” she resolutely repeated over and over again through the evening. She politely asked moderator Susan Page for extra time whenever the Vice President interjected.

“Pence repeatedly interrupted Harris, something she rarely did to him; he repeatedly talked over moderator Susan Page of USA Today when she told him his time was up; he repeatedly flouted the rules he had previously agreed to,” lawyer and author Jill Filipovic wrote in The Guardian. “The disrespect of women was tangible, and it happened over and over.” For Filipovic, Harris was the clear winner of the debate.

With President Trump recently testing positive for Covid-19, it is not surprising that the ongoing pandemic took centerstage during the 90-minute debate. Harris opened the debate by launching an attack on the Trump administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. But according to the New York Times’ Matt Flegenheimer and Annie Karni, Pence’s response was misdirected.

“Mr. Pence — stripped of most politically palatable explanations for the White House pandemic response — set off on a curious charge when Senator Kamala Harris said that the Trump team’s leadership “clearly” has not worked: He chose to hear it as a direct affront to the American people,” they wrote.

Harris, too, deflected several times, when asked for her take on a ban on natural gas “fracking,” and instead chose to repeat that Biden doesn’t support a ban on fracking. However, in an article in the Politico, founding editor John F Harris pointed out that unlike “the incoherence of the debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, this debate arguably did illuminate a contrast of ideology and priorities.”

On Thursday, The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the next presidential election between Trump and Biden will be held virtually due to health concerns about the coronavirus, The New York Times reported. However, President Trump, who is currently Covid-positive, has said that he will not “waste” his time on a virtual debate.

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