US VP Debate 2020

I suppose since I wrote up a review of the first presidential debate I should continue with what happened at the vice-presidential debate as well.

The current vice president, Mike Pence, squared off against the Democrat challenger, Senator Kamala Harris of California. Unlike the presidential debate, this one was mostly civil. More often than not, Pence continued talking long after his time was up, but at least there was no shouting at each other. In fact, they might have gone too far the other direction; there was so little energy that it was fairly boring.

The biggest thing that stuck out to me was that both candidates, but especially Harris, did not always answer the questions asked. There were a couple times where it seemed like Harris hadn't prepped for a certain question, so she just went ahead and answered a different question that she wished they had asked.

The topics covered were very similar to those covered in the presidential debate, so much of this one felt like a rehashing of the same talking points, just from a weaker point of view ("my guy is going to do ..." instead of "I am going to do ..."). The topic of whether the Democrats would try adding extra supreme court justices was again asked, and again the Democrat refused to address the question. Isn't that why we have the debates, so people know where you stand on issues? Why would they refuse to answer the question, unless they don't think voters would like the answer they give? What a non-answer should tell you is that voting for this guy would give you the opposite result of what you want - left-wingers should proceed as if she said "Our supreme court has had nine members for hundreds of years, we are not going to change it", and right-wingers should proceed as if she answered "We are going to nominate five of the most liberal judges we can find on our first day in office".

So instead of answering the question asked about the supreme court, Harris said something like "You want to talk about court packing, of the 30 federal judges appointed to life-time positions by this administration not a single one of them was Black!". Now, Pence did not really get a chance to answer, but it only takes a second to remember that on the current Supreme Court there is only one Black guy, and he was nominated by a Republican. Would Harris have been satisfied if a clone of Clarence Thomas had been nominated to the Appeals court? Furthermore, unlike Biden, Trump has published a list of people he would consider nominating to the supreme court, and it does include a couple Black guys.

The way the debate was formatted did not allow a lot of conversation between the candidates, but over the course of a couple questions this general back-and-forth happened:

Pence: The Trump administration passed a tax cut that saved the Average American Family1 $2000 per year on income taxes.
...
Harris: On day one of the Biden administration we are going to repeal the Trump tax cuts2.
Pence: There you have it, she said they are going to raise taxes.
Harris: I never said that!
Pence: You just said you are going to repeal a tax cut, which is the same as passing a tax increase.
Harris: Under a Biden administration taxes will not go up for anybody making under $400,000 a year.

Wait, where did we suddenly pull the number $400,000 from? Is that supposed to be the top of the middle class or something? I seem to remember Barak Obama promising not to raise taxes on anybody making below $250,000, and even then I thought the number was a bit on the high side. I guess that is inflation for you.

One interesting thing I noticed was the way the VP candidates referred to their presidential candidates. Pence always called him "President Trump", as if trying to emphasize his current position, perhaps to build up the image of a respectable person that voters could more easily support than the boorish name-caller that we saw on display during the last debate. Harris, on the other hand, was constantly calling her running mate "Joe", as if the playbook from their campaign is to emphasize his down-to-earth persona, somebody you could have a beer with, as they say. Marketing, it's all just marketing.

Overall, I would say that both candidates came across as sleazy politicians who play loose with the facts, but I disliked Harris more. For as much as she was touted as a former DA who could handle herself in a debate, she was underwhelming and fell far below my expectations. Pence came across as the kind of guy who has convictions and will go ahead and quietly do whatever it is that he wants to do (a stark contrast to the president, who picks random directions of travel but does it as loudly and crassly as possible).

  1. This mythical family of four makes something like $100,000 a year. []
  2. Nevermind that the president can't actually do that, it would take an act of Congress to change the tax code, but people running for president usually ignore that fact. []

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