The Vice Presidential Debate offers little improvement from last week


Time Magazine

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris participated in the first and only Vice Presidential Debate of 2020 on October 7th.

Still reeling from the travesty that was the first Presidential Debate, Americans sat astute in front of their TV screens on the night of October 7, hoping to hear the messages and points that both President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden failed to convey the preceding week. With everyone watching and the fate of the United States of America resting on their shoulders, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris were tasked with debating their policies and defending their candidates.

However, to no one’s surprise yet everyone’s chagrin, the Vice Presidential Debate left its audience perplexed and confused. 

This, in simplest terms, was not a debate. 

Moderated by Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief, the Vice Presidential Debate centered around nine topics: COVID-19, the role of the Vice President, the economy, climate change, international relations, the Supreme Court, racial injustice, the election process, and party tensions. 

Although this debate was far more civil than its predecessor, its integrity was compromised by a litany of falsehoods and accusations of dishonesty; furthermore, the debaters themselves didn’t meet the lowest expectation of them which was to answer the questions they were asked.


With President Trump only recently returning to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19, the global pandemic continues to be a topic of conversation. For the most part, this section of the debate was executed somewhat successfully.

Senator Harris began the debate by detailing the Biden plan for overcoming the pandemic which emphasizes a free and available vaccine as well as thoroughly conducted contact tracing. Harris also doesn’t shy away from heavily criticizing Trump’s response to the pandemic, stating that “this administration has forfeited their right to reelection based on [their COVID-19 response].”

Vice President Pence offers a rebuttal by stating that Trump’s decision to ban travel from China saved countless lives and then goes on to critique Joe Biden’s opposition toward the travel ban. However, Pence failed to answer why the nation’s death toll is the highest out of all developed countries, which was the question he was asked by the moderator.

In her next point, Senator Harris claims that what Vice President Pence did as Head of the Coronavirus Relief Task Force was a failure, and this attack opened the door for the first uncivil argument of the night in which Pence starts to speak out of turn. When the debate shifts to him, Pence recovers by delivering his best moment of the topic when he criticizes Harris’ attack on the COVID-19 response as an “insult to nurses and doctors.” 

Role of The Vice President

Shifting from COVID-19 to the next topic, Moderator Susan Page asks Vice President Pence if he and President Trump have had the conversation about what would happen if the president should become unable to lead. Pence fails to answer the question and instead continues to build off of his last point from the previous topic stating that Harris needs to “stop playing politics with people’s lives.” As a response, Harris also fails to answer the question regarding presidential disability when it is asked of her.

Senator, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

— Mike Pence

As the topic progresses, Pence critiques the Obama-Biden presidency’s response to the 2009 Swine Flu, while Harris uses her time as an opportunity to read her political resume and describe her and Biden’s shared values. Neither speaks on the topic at hand.

When the question is raised about whether the medical history of the presidents should be made available to the public, both debaters surprisingly answer the question and agree that it’s important for the population to know about the physical fitness of their Commander in Chief. On top of this, Harris commends Biden’s transparency and delivers the strong point that “Joe puts it all out there.” Harris also uses this time to bring attention to Trump’s recent income tax scandal before the topic changes. 

The Economy

When prompted to answer how Biden will remedy the current economic state if he wins the election, Harris speaks on Biden’s plan to raise taxes as well as points out Trump and Biden’s differing views on what it means for an economy to be healthy. Harris states that Biden determines the health of the economy based on the health of the worker while Trump determines the health of the economy based on the wealth of the worker. 

Pence goes on to claim that after winning in 2016, Trump inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression, and he also claims that he went on to fix it by cutting taxes and loosening regulations on business. Pence then criticizes Biden by stating that “on Biden’s first day in office, he’ll raise your taxes.”

Later on in the topic, Harris argues that Biden will not raise taxes of every individual American but rather raise taxes on the wealthy; she also claims that he plans to repeal Trump’s new tax plan. Harris then goes on to say that, if re-elected, Trump will repeal the Affordable Care Act and delivers her most powerful point on the topic by saying, “If you have preexisting conditions, they’re coming for you. If you love someone who has preexisting conditions, they’re coming for you.”

Pence later responds with the first iteration of his soon-to-be catchphrase, “Senator Harris, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Climate Change

Regarding the topic of climate change, the debate unravels into a confusing moment of he-said-she-said.

Pence commends what President Trump has done to ward off climate change and states “President Trump has made a commitment to conservation.” He also goes on to criticize the Green New Deal—a bill which Harris had a large input in—and claims that Biden plans to abolish fossil fuels. 

Harris offers a rebuttal by insisting that Biden will not ban fracking or the use of other fossil fuels and goes on to say that Biden will invest in clean, renewable energy and create millions of more jobs while doing so. She finishes her statement by criticizing Trump’s handling of climate change by bringing attention to the fact that the Trump campaign removed the words “science” and “climate change” from the White House website. Harris then states that “this administration doesn’t believe in science.”

International Relations

In the International Relations topic, the conversation centers around the trade war with China and conflicts in the Middle East. 

Of all the topics in the debate, this one was most definitely the most confusing to follow, for it almost solely consisted of the Vice President and the Senator speaking negatively of their opponents.

Pence focuses his attention on Biden supposedly being a “cheerleader for Communist China.” After being accused of losing the trade war, Pence states that Biden never even attempted to fight with China about trade and did America a disservice by doing so. 

Harris covers a broader spectrum of accusations by stating that “[The United States’] allies respect China’s leader more than they respect Trump,” and harming our global standing by doing so. Harris also goes on to mention Russian meddling in the 2016 election and warns that it may happen again in the 2020 election. Harris’ last point centers around Trump’s insensitive comments about soldiers in the Middle East; she also claims that “Trump sees soldiers as suckers and losers,” and cites his insensitive comments about John McCain. 

Pence then speaks on this topic despite being out of time. He goes on to say that Trump has great respect for the women and men who fight for our country before being cut off by the moderator for speaking out of turn. 

The Supreme Court

After discussing Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination for Supreme Court Justice, Pence fails to answer the question of what he would want his home state of Indiana to do if Roe V. Wade were to be overturned. Surprisingly though, Pence goes on to say that he is “pro-life and won’t apologize for it.”

This administration has forfeited their right to reelection based on [their COVID-19 response].

— Kamala Harris

Harris similarly dodges a question about abortion by vaguely replying “I’ll always fight for a woman’s right to choose.” Later, however, after being accused of planning to expand the Supreme Court if elected, Harris delivers a “history lesson,” citing Abraham Lincoln’s refusal to nominate a Supreme Court Justice 27 days before the election because it should be up to the choice of the American people. 

Despite Harris’ response, Pence reiterates that “they’re going to pack the Supreme Court if they win this election.” 

Racial Injustice

The topic of racial injustice starts off with Harris’ statement on the case of Breonna Taylor; she states that justice was not served and goes on to say that black people are still fighting for equal justice under law. 

Pence opposes Harris by simply saying “I trust our justice system” and implying that justice was served for Breonna Taylor despite the fact that only one of the police officers involved in her shooting was indicted. 

Harris then goes on to cite her experiences as Former District Attorney General for the state of California and twice states “I will not sit here and be lectured by the Vice President on what it means to enforce the laws of our country.”  

One of the more attention-grabbing moments of this topic is when Pence claimed that President Trump did condemn white supremacy in his first debate. Although, what Trump actually said was, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” 

This moment prompted Harris to respond by claiming that Donald Trump has proved that he is a racist through behavioral patterns and states “America, you deserve so much better… we have so much more in common than what divides us.”

Fox News

The Election Process

In the penultimate topic, one main question is asked: what will happen if President Trump refuses to peacefully transfer power if he loses the election?

Both parties fail to answer this question. Harris goes on to talk about the many high-ranking political officials who support the Biden campaign as well as speaks on President Trump’s attempts to suppress voters.

Pence on the other hand, focuses his time on the fact that Democrats have been trying to get Trump out of the presidency since he was inaugurated; he also wastes no time restating what President Trump has said multiple time and says that mail-in voting will lead to mass amounts of voter fraud.

Party Tensions

The last topic of the debate centers around a passage from an essay written by eighth-grader Brecklynn Brown: ‘When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans. When I watch the news, all I see is citizen fighting against citizen. When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?’ 

In his response to Brown’s essay, Pence advises that you can’t believe everything that you hear from the media. He goes on to mention how Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Scalia maintained a strong friendship despite having extremely different political views. Pence closes his argument by saying “when the debate is over, we come together as Americans.”

Harris responds by citing Biden’s extensive history of working across the aisle and being able to unite Republicans and Democrats on controversial topics—something Trump does the opposite of. Harris ends her argument with the quote, “When you think about the future, I do believe the future is bright, and it will be because of your leadership and it will be because we fight for each person’s voice through their vote and we get engaged in this election.” 

In all, the first and only Vice President Debate was underwhelming and disappointing from both sides. Despite more information being covered in this debate compared to the last one, the lack of answers prevented this debate from actually doing any good for the American people. 

So, while Harris and Pence retire from the stage, Biden and Trump will take center stage again for this year’s second Presidential Debate. Although, Biden claims that the debate shouldn’t happen if Trump still tests positive for COVID-19. Furthermore, the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, expressed his opposition toward President Trump coming to Miami to debate while still being sick.

All things considered, the American people can be glad that at least for a few days, there is no debate on the immediate horizon.