A fly-by over the US vice-presidential election debate

By Harriet Piercy

Published Oct 8, 2020 at 01:37 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

In case you couldn’t sit through the US vice-presidential debate between current vice president Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris on 7 October, we took the painful task of summarising it for you upon ourselves, although—it really wasn’t as uncomfortable to watch as the first presidential debate between Biden and Trump.

What happened during the US vice-presidential debate?

The face-off between Pence and Harris that took place on Wednesday 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah, was far more civil than the somewhat chaotic presidential event prior. But even so, some sharp exchanges were still featured over COVID-19, the China policy, health care and the creation of new jobs.

To summarise the debate on COVID-19

With President Trump currently ill with COVID-19, the vice-presidential role seems to have received more attention than usual. Voters told the BBC that they were pleased with the civility between the two candidates during the 90 minute long debate.

There were undoubtedly some heated remarks on a range of policy issues, with the strongest disagreements being about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. Pence defended the presidential administration’s actions, but Harris called it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration.”

Talking of the virus, the pair were separated by glass barriers as a precaution against the spreading of COVID-19, and unsurprisingly, the global pandemic was the opening topic of the debate. Harris’ most pungent line was when she cited the coronavirus death statistics. With 210,000 Americans dead, she charged the Trump administration with “ineptitude” and “incompetence.”

Pence seemed to expect this, and his response was ready. He stated that the Biden-Harris plan was largely a copy of what the administration was already doing, and he boasted the speedy progress of a vaccine while linking Harris’s criticism of the administration as an attack on first-responders and US healthcare workers.

Surprisingly, both candidates didn’t spend much time on the fact that the White House has now become the latest coronavirus hotspot.

The memories of the presidential debate from the week prior lingered for all watchers, and both vice candidates seemed to have this in mind, as Pence’s typically calm and methodical style served as a counterpoint to Trump’s aggressive stance. That being said, he did attempt interruptions but Harris turned up ready. “Mr Vice-President, I’m speaking,” she said. “If you don’t mind letting me finish, then we can have a conversation.”

To summarise the debate on climate change

Both parties seemed pretty uncomfortable on this topic to say the least. Presidential candidate Biden has recently expanded his plan to address climate change, and Harris was an original sponsor of the Green New Deal climate proposal which has set ambitious, yet necessary, targets in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Pence advertised America’s clean air and clean water while refusing to address the fact that climate change is one of the driving factors behind events like wildfires and hurricanes. He also refused to say that climate change is an existential threat and repeated Donald Trump’s claim that forest management was “front and center” of the historic wildfires in the American west.

The vice president claimed that Biden would ban fracking (a technique that fractures the underground rock as a means of increasing the flow of trapped gases), which Harris denied with the statement “I will repeat, and the American people know, that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact.”

Pence gave an array of misleading answers on the problem of hurricanes, saying that the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that there are no more hurricanes today than in the past. However, analysis this month has shown that hurricanes have become much stronger and more damaging around the world since the late 70s. Pence was criticised for his climate responses not only by climate scientists and activists but by former allies.

The fly

As tensions rose to what feels like a constant boiling point around the world, a tired fly uninterested in social distancing and seeking a rest, parked itself onto Pence’s perfectly white and coiffed hair for a full two minutes and three seconds. With no comment, it happily buzzed off leaving us to judge on whether it was a sign on what to do next from nature.

Biden tweeted a photo of himself gripping a fly swatter—talk about taking advantage of an evidently smelly situation.

Shortly after people noticed the fly, memes flooded the internet. While Pence is likely to notice some of them, then again, there is no such thing as bad publicity, right?

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