During debate with Pence, Harris berates Trump's handling of coronavirus
US Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris, sitting 12 feet apart, participated in the only Vice Presidential debate of the 2020 elections, and unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic dominated the interaction. The competitors traded charges, through plexiglass barriers, as USA Today's Susan Page moderated the debate in Utah. Here are the highlights from the face-off.
US witnessed greatest failure: Harris on coronavirus response
Harris called the handling of the pandemic, which has affected the US the worst, as the "greatest failure" by any administration. "The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," Harris said. To note, Harris is the running mate to ex-VP Joe Biden, who had a chaotic debate with President Trump last month.
Harris said Trump administration misled Americans, Pence reminded of measures
Harris charged at Pence and Trump for downplaying the virus' threat. "They knew, and they covered it up," she said. And Pence, who faced pointed questions amid a worsening outbreak in the West Wing complete with Trump and First Lady Melania also testing positive, reminded of the steps the incumbent administration took, emphasizing repeatedly on the travel ban imposed on China.
Pence slammed Biden and his plans
"When you look at the Biden plan, it reads an awful lot like what President Trump and I and our task force have been doing every step of the way," Pence said, only to get a "it's not working" response from Harris.
Harris announced she won't take coronavirus vaccine on Trump's suggestions
As the Trump administration relies on vaccines to give a reprieve from the pandemic, Harris hinted she has little confidence in them. "If Dr. (Anthony) Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it absolutely, but if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I'm not taking it," she announced.
"Mr. Vice President, I am speaking"
Multiple times during the debate, Pence, much like his senior Trump, attempted to bulldoze Harris's statements by interrupting her. This behavior prompted Harris to say, "Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking," repeatedly. As compared to the first Presidential debate, Pence and Harris's face-off was more coherent, civil, with the former also saying, "Senator Harris, it's a privilege to be on the stage with you."
Here is a clip from the interaction
Biden won't betray allies of the US, claimed Harris
Further, endorsing Biden, Harris said if he comes to power, he will respect US' friends and keep adversaries in check. On his part, denying allegations that Trump betrayed allies, Pence claimed that the US grew "more demanding" under Trump. He listed moving the US embassy in Jerusalem, the death of ISIS Chief, and the killing of Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani as Trump's achievements.
On query about political divisiveness, Pence gave a reassuring reply
An eighth-grader from Utah posed the final question in the debate and expressed sorrow at the divisiveness in politics. He asked how are Americans supposed to "get along," when seemingly the country's leaders can't. In response, Pence suggested that not everything seen on TV is equivalent to American people. We debate vigorously, he said, but after that "we come together as Americans."
The VP debate outsized its importance
In 2008, when Biden was ex-President Barack Obama's running mate, he famously commented that voters don't decide their pick by looking at VP candidates. Yet, the latest debate was billed as the most significant one by observers. Pence was forced to defend Trump's coronavirus response, despite the President testing positive, and Harris was tasked with telling voters that Biden, even at 77, is the best choice.