Election 2020

VP Debate Recap: Mike Pence Eviscerates the Biden-Harris Campaign

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Vice President Mike Pence dissected each of the arguments for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, during the vice-presidential debate. Pence schooled Harris on issues ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to packing the Supreme Court to the Green New Deal and from China to the riots to the false “white supremacy” attacks on Trump.

Pence treated both Harris and USA Today‘s Susan Page (the moderator) with grace, although he did speak beyond the time he was allotted. Harris also did so, and it appeared that Page cut Pence off more frequently than she cut off Harris. Harris, frequently a prickly debater, came off as very condescending.

Some legacy media outlets may claim that Pence hogged the stage, but according to CNN, the two vice-presidential candidates spoke for almost exactly the same amount of time, 36 minutes.


First, Pence hit Biden and Harris on the coronavirus pandemic. The vice president noted that Trump did “what no other American president had ever done, he suspended all travel from China.”

“Joe Biden opposed that decision, he said it was xenophobic and hysterical,” the vice president continued. Indeed, Biden did oppose the ban. Yet the China travel ban “saved hundreds of thousands of American lives.”

Next, Pence hit Biden on plagiarizing Trump’s policy response to the pandemic, joking about Biden’s history with plagiarism (he withdrew from the presidential race in 1988 after confessing to it).

Pence also called out Kamala Harris for saying she would refuse to take a vaccine that President Trump recommended, suggesting that the Trump administration’s approval process is unreliable. “The fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if a vaccine emerges during the Trump Administration, I think is unconscionable. Senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with people’s lives,” Pence declared.

The vice president also slammed the Obama-Biden administration’s response to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. “Before the end of the year, when Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, not 7.5 million people contracted the swine flu, 60 million Americans contracted the swine flu,” he noted. “If the swine flu had been as lethal as the coronavirus in 2009 when Joe Biden was vice president, we would have lost 2 million American lives.” Indeed, as PJ Media’s Matt Margolis reported, COVID-19 is nearly 4 times more infectious and 13-20 times more deadly than H1N1.

Packing the Court

In a particularly powerful moment, Pence pressed Harris on the idea of packing the Supreme Court. “Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the Supreme Court, which has had nine seats for 150 years, if you don’t get your way. This is a classic case of if you can’t win by the rules, you’re going to change the rules,” he said.

“Now you have refused to answer the question, Joe Biden has refused to answer the question, so I think the American people would really like to know. If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, are you and Joe Biden — if somehow you win this election — going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?” Pence asked.

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Harris dodged. She returned to the issue of Barrett. She cited Abraham Lincoln, who she said refused to nominate a Supreme Court nominee in 1864, 27 days before the election. Harris went on to claim that Trump was already packing courts by not nominating black judges to federal appeals courts.

What Is He Hiding? Biden Says ‘I’m Not Going to Answer’ Whether He’d Pack the Supreme Court

Green New Deal

Pence also called Biden and Harris out for their radical green energy proposals. He noted Biden’s promise to “abolish fossil fuels, ban fracking,” and argued that Biden’s policies represent a “surrender to China.”

Harris falsely claimed that “Joe Biden will not ban fracking, he has been very clear about that.” Yet in the Democratic debates, Biden pledged to stop all drilling, period. He repeatedly promised to ban fracking. Then he flip-flopped, claiming that he wouldn’t put 1.7 million workers out of a job. Biden has not been clear on the issue, but he has sidled up next to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her Green New Deal.

To her credit, USA Today‘s Susan Page, who moderated the debate, noted that Biden falsely claimed he did not support the Green New Deal during the first presidential debate, even though his website clearly states that Biden does support it as a framework for his radical green energy plan. Pence thanked Page for noting this.

The vice president also noted that America has cut carbon emissions better than countries that remained in the Paris climate accords “because we have a strong free-market economy. … We’ve done it through innovation, through natural gas and fracking.”

Pence also smartly responded to Biden’s false suggestions that natural disasters like the fires in California are a result of manmade climate change due to carbon emissions.

Joe Biden Promises Fewer Fires, Floods, and Hurricanes if He Wins in November


Kamala Harris claimed that Trump lost his trade war with China. “Look, ‘lost the trade war with China?’ Joe Biden never fought it,” Pence responded. “Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for Communist China over the last several decades.”

“When Joe Biden was president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs, and President Obama said they were never coming back,” the vice president added. Yet “in our first three years, after we cut taxes, rolled back regulation, unleashed American energy, this administration saw 500,000 manufacturing jobs created.”

Pence also condemned China’s malfeasance on the coronavirus pandemic.

It Makes Sense That China Prefers Joe Biden. Here’s Why.
The riots

Pence drew attention to Flora Westbrooks, whose salon was burned to the ground by left-wing rioters.

“With regard to George Floyd, there’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd. Justice will be served. But there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed,” the vice president declared.

White supremacy smears

Kamala Harris falsely claimed that Trump refused to condemn white supremacy at the first presidential debate, and she again referenced Biden’s claim that the president praised white nationalists when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

“I think this is one of the things that makes people dislike the media so much in this country,” Pence said. He noted that Harris “selectively edited” Trump’s remarks.

“Senator Harris conveniently omitted that after the president made comments about people on either side of the debate over monuments, he condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, and has done so repeatedly,” the vice president said. “You’re concerned that he doesn’t condemn neo-Nazis. President Trump has Jewish grandchildren. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish.”

Pence is correct. In the very same press conference where Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides,” the president clarified, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay?”

Last year, Trump further clarified that he was referring to people who support keeping up Confederate monuments like the statue of Robert E. Lee that began the whole fiasco in Charlottesville. During the first presidential debate, Trump said, “sure,” when asked if he would condemn white supremacists and right-wing militias. He later clarified that he has “always denounced any form” of white supremacy — and he has done so at least five times.

While Mike Pence spoke beyond his time and did interrupt Kamala Harris occasionally, he defeated her on issue after issue, and he was classy about it.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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