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The 10 moments we need to talk about from Mike Pence and Kamala Harris' VP debate.

It's been a little over a week since the last American political debate, and my ears are only just beginning to recover.

There was a lot of... yelling, and it was mostly just one gigantic waste of time. So, I have been feeling... trepidatious about today's VP debate between current Vice President Mike Pence, and Joe Biden's running mate Kamala Harris.

Thankfully, there was less shouting on account of there being no Donald Trump involved. There were plenty of fake 'I respect you' platitudes, but mostly it was what a debate should be: Civil, mostly about policy, with a few zingers.

Here are the key moments from the 90-minute debate which... definitely could've been done remotely.

A reserved seat for... Tupac.

In September, Harris was asked in an interview to name "the best rapper alive". Why? That remains... unclear.

She replied with "Tupac" who is... not alive. 

The interviewer prompted Harris multiple times to name another living rapper and Harris... couldn't.

"I mean, who would I say... I mean, there's so many," Harris said, still struggling to come up with a living rapper.

"There are some that I would not mention right now, because they should stay in their lane," she said, before asking the host to move on.

The Trump campaign apparently found this hilarious, because senior campaign adviser Jason Miller told reporters on a conference call ahead of the debate they had left a ticket for Tupac Shakur, in case he wanted to attend the event.

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"I don't know if he shows up. I'm personally more of a Biggie fan if he's still alive, but we will have a ticket waiting for Mr Shakur," he said.

The rest of us can only dream of being this level of petty.

Plexiglass dramas.

At the start of the week, The Commission on Presidential Debates announced it would use plexiglass dividers at the event in Salt Lake City, Utah, where Pence and Harris would debate in person.

The Biden/Harris camp welcomed this, while Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said on Tuesday that he did not want the vice president to appear on national television behind plastic barriers. 

"We don't think it's needed," Short said. "There's no science to support it. The tables are 12 feet apart, and each participant is tested. It's important for the American people that the debate go forward."

Pence has also tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times in recent days, after Trump's infection, though he has frequently interacted with White House advisors who have tested positive (more than 30 White House staff are currently infected).

Image: Getty.

Despite all this pre-debate back-and-forth, images from the debate show there are plexiglass barriers, and honestly, they're smaller than expected.

Most of the time, the camera focused on each individual candidate and given the pandemic, they didn't shake hands or anything. This definitely could've been done via Zoom.

America deserves a civil debate.

Moderator Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today, threw a little bit of shade at Trump and Biden - and the clusterf*** that was last week's debate, before asking her first questions of Harris and Pence.

She said each candidate would be allowed two minutes to answer her questions, "without interruption".

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"We want a debate that is lively, but Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil. These are tumultuous times, but we can and will have a respectful exchange," she said.

It... mostly worked. Both candidates spoke for their time without too much interruption and offered civil "hello" exchanges to each other.

And I'm pretty sure Harris at no point told Pence to just shut up, man. 

The COVID-19 pandemic.

The debate got off to an obvious beginning... the coronavirus pandemic.

Harris began by laying into the Trump administration's handling of it, calling it "the greatest failure of any presidential administration".

Watch: Mike Pence talks about the COVID-19 vaccine during the vice-presidential debate. Post continues below.


Video via Guardian News.
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She pointed to the United States' death toll, Trump's previous downplaying of the virus and tapes from Bob Woodward that showed the president knew of its danger.

Pence acknowledged America had gone through a very challenging 2020, and said "I want the American people to know, from the very first day, President Trump has put the health of America first".

He, like Trump, said he was very confident a vaccine would be available before the end of the year.

When Harris said she would not take a vaccine unless endorsed by medical professionals, Pence accused her of playing politics with American lives.

What happens if Trump/Biden are... unable to be President.

Moderator Page used the word "incapacitated", but she was basically asking if either candidate had discussed with their bosses what would happen if they... died.

It's a dark yet fair question. Trump, 74, and Biden, 78, are two of the oldest presidential candidates in history. If they die or are otherwise unable to fulfil their duties, the VP is first in line to take over.

Pence totally avoided the question, pivoting to claim Harris was "undermining confidence" in a COVID-19 vaccine and slamming the Obama/Biden campaign's response to swine flu.


Pence avoided the question when asked what would happen should President Trump become 'incapacitated'. Image: Getty. 

 Harris also avoided the question, instead using this question as an opportunity to share her bio.


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So, it appears neither of these people have asked their elderly bosses the obvious, or they're really not keen to share how those conversations went.

Do voters deserve to know about Trump and Biden's health?

Page asked both the same question here: Do voters deserve to know about the health and wellbeing of their president?

This was in the context of misleading or confusing information coming from Trump's doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center during the President's stay.

Pence said yes, and praised the healthcare Trump had received.

Harris said "absolutely" - and extended that need for transparency to taxes. This was one hell of a segway: She then spent her two minutes talking about Trump's $750 tax bills.

America's standing in the world.

A major talking point was American foreign policy, its standing as a world power and... Russia.

Harris spoke a lot about Russia's interference in the 2016 election - and the 2020 campaign, too. She used her time to state America's standing in the world had lessened during Trump's four-year term, putting the US and its allies in danger.

She mentioned the Paris Agreement and the Iran Nuclear Deal, both of which Trump withdrew the US from, and Trump's unwillingness to call out Russia for placing bounties on the heads of American soldiers.

"You know what a bounty is? Somebody puts a price on your head and they will pay it if you are killed. And Donald Trump had talked at least six times to Vladimir Putin and never brought up the subject," she said.

"Joe Biden would never do that. Joe Biden would hold Russia to account for any threat to our nation's security or to our troops who are sacrificing their lives for the sake of our democracy and our safety."


Harris compared how Trump and Biden would deal with Russia. Image: Getty. 

 Pence said Trump's leadership had strengthened the US' alliances across the Asia-Pacific and "stood strong against those who would do us harm".

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"When President Trump came into office, ISIS had captured an area of the Middle East the size of Pennsylvania. But President Trump unleashed the American military, and our armed forces destroyed the ISIS caliphate and took down their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, without any American casualty."

Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court.

Of course, Republicans are hoping to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat with conservative nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett before the election.

This would give conservatives a 5-3 majority on the court bench.

Pence was asked what he would want his home state of Indiana to do if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling giving American women the right to legal and safe abortions.

Pence used most of his time to respond to past comments about foreign policy and Iran, and did not answer the question in time.

"She's a brilliant woman. She will bring a lifetime of experience and a sizable American family to the Supreme Court of the United States... We hope we don't see the kind of attacks on her Christian faith that we saw before," he said.

Asked the same question about what she would want her home state - California - to do if Roe v. Wade was overturned, Harris said she did not think appointing a Supreme Court Justice so close to an election was right.

"To your point, Susan, the issues before us couldn't be more serious. There is the issue of choice and I will always fight for a woman's right to make a decision about her own body. 

"It should be her decision and not that of Donald Trump and the Vice President, Michael Pence."

Pence said he was pro-life (we... know), and would continue "to stand strong for the right to life".

Breonna Taylor.

Page asked both Harris and Pence if they believed justice had been served in the case of Breonna Taylor. Taylor was killed in March when police officers executing a search warrant entered her apartment at night, leading her boyfriend to fire shots believing their home was being broken into.

Of the three officers who fired shots in return, killing Taylor, only one - Brett Hankison - has faced charges: For wanton endangerment, for shots he fired into her neighbours house.

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Harris said she did not believe justice had been served. A former state and district attorney, she called on her experience.


Mike Pence said he believed the family of Breonna Taylor had received justice. Image: Getty. 

 "I'm a former career prosecutor. I know what I'm talking about. Bad cops are bad for good cops. We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system, which is why Joe and I will immediately ban chokeholds and carotid holds. George Floyd would be alive today if we did that. We will require a national registry for police officers who break the law. We will, on the issue of criminal justice reform, get rid of private prisons and cash bail and we will decriminalise marijuana and we will expunge the records of those convict offend marijuana."


Pence said he did believe justice had been served for Taylor's family.

"Well, our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life and the family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies. But I trust our justice system. A grand jury that refused the evidence," he said.

"It is remarkable that as a former prosecutor you would assume that an empanelled grand jury looking at all the evidence got it wrong. But you're entitled to your opinion, Senator."

Pence said Biden and Harris' claims that there was systematic racism in American law enforcement was "a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement".

Harris really wanted to talk about Trump's... uh... faux pas?

This two minute, uninterrupted spiel ran through a number of Trump's biggest controversies:

"The reality of this is that we are talking about an election in 27 days where last week the President of the United States took a debate stage in front of 70 million Americans and refused to condemn white supremacists. It wasn't like he didn't have a chance. He didn't do it. And then he doubled down. And then he said - when pressed - "stand back. Stand by." 

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"And this is part of a pattern of Donald Trump's. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals. He instituted as his first act a Muslim ban. He, on the issue of Charlottesville, where people were peacefully protesting the need for racial justice where a young woman was killed, and on the other side there were Neo-Nazi carrying torches shouting racial epithets, anti-Semitic slurs, and Donald Trump when asked said, 'There were fine people on both sides.'

"This is who we have as the President of the United States and America, you deserve better. Joe Biden will be a president who brings our country together."

Responding, Pence said Harris had 'selectively edited' comments Trump had made.

"Your concern that he doesn't condemn Neo-Nazis; President Trump has Jewish grandchildren. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish."

Right.

Okay so... What if Trump doesn't go peacefully?

The United States, which lauds itself as the world's most foremost democracy, is having very serious conversations about what will happen if a sitting leader decides he won't accept the election result.

Oh, boy.

Harris said she and Biden will fight for the integrity of American democracy, and believed in the American people.

She implored Americans to vote.

"It is within our power and if we use our vote and we use our voice, we will win. And we will not let anyone subvert our democracy with what Donald Trump has been doing, as he did on the debate stage last week, when again in front of 70 million people he openly attempted to suppress the vote."

Pence responded to say he believed he and Trump would win a second term, and repeated discredited claims that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud.

"We have a fair and free election. We will have confidence in it. I believe in all my heart that President Donald Trump is going to be re-elected for four more years."

Again, neither really... answered the question.

This is the first and only time the VPs will debate. At this stage, Trump and Biden are scheduled to meet again on October 15... but Trump's COVID infection may yet change things.

Based on last time, we can only hope.

Feature image: Getty.

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