Vice presidential debate: Mike Pence, Kamala Harris square off in Utah

The two candidates for vice president — Mike Pence and Kamala Harris — met Wednesday in Salt Lake City for a debate, divided not only on issues but by two thick slabs of acrylic as a presidential election amid a pandemic moves toward the finish line.

The debate came almost a week after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, and the first question centered on the pandemic.

Similar to the first presidential debate, the evening was divided into topics that covered COVID-19, racial unrest, climate change and the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the topic of the court, Pence directed a question about a plan being floated by Democrats to pack the Supreme Court in retaliation for Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Harris would not answer the question leading Pence to say the answer “was clear” as to what Joe Biden and Harris would do should they win the election.

“You gave a non-answer. Joe Biden gave a non-answer. The American people deserve a straight answer, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is, they are going to pack the Supreme Court.”

The debate stood in stark contrast to the first presidential debate that devolved into name-calling and interruptions that ran into the hundreds. Pence and Harris, for the most part, were civil toward each other, though Harris at least twice reminded Pence not to interrupt her saying, “I’m speaking.”

Pence, at times, had sharp retorts for some of Harris' comments. One of the sharpest was over the issue of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“The fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine if the vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think, is unconscionable,” Pence said. “And senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people’s lives. The reality is that we will have a vaccine we believe before the end of this year. And it will have the capacity to save countless American lives, and your continuous undermining of confidence in a vaccine is just — it’s just unacceptable.”

The moment that perhaps drew the most response from social media had nothing to do with weighty political issues but came instead when a fly landed on Pence’s head and sat there for some time.

The next presidential debate is scheduled for next week in Miami. President Trump has said he expects to be well enough to participate. Joe Biden said he is not comfortable debating Trump unless he is free of the COVID-19 virus.


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