‘You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts…’
The grand theme of Wednesday’s only vice presidential debate seemed to be contrasts.
But the contrast that was undoubtedly in the minds of many was the difference between the two running-mates’ conduct and their respective leaders’ bickering during last week’s presidential debate.
The night’s final question, from Utah eighth-grader Brecklin Brown, capped off everyone’s prime concern: “If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?”
Fortunately, last week’s war of words got something of a do-over in the hands of two strong, outspoken party representatives.
On several occasions, in fact, the two vice presidential candidates were called upon to directly respond to or clarify the positions that President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden took last week.
Although Pence’s and Harris’s demeanors and philosophical differences “couldn’t be more clear” as they emphatically repeated, the demand for civility to supplant the chaos remained at the forefront as the unspoken metric upon which debate success or failure was riding.
Moderator Susan Page of USA Today stuck largely with the same topics as Fox News’s Chris Wallace outlined last week—some of which had unfairly framed the issues against Trump.
“One of the things that makes the American people dislike the media so much is that you selectively edit,” Pence said, while fielding a falsely premised question about Trump’s response to a 2017 clash in Charlottesville, Va.
Pence noted that Harris, like many in the media, had “conveniently omitted” the context in a ubiquitous attack that Biden and many others on the left has used to misleadingly accuse Trump of racism and anti-Semitism.
“You’re concerned that he doesn’t condemn neo-Nazis—President Trump has Jewish grandchildren,” Pence noted after Harris mischaracterized Trump’s sarcastic response to Wallace and Biden last week.
Although Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups seen as supporting him—a demand which he tentatively and circumspectly obliged—Biden got a free pass on the equivalent—if not far more egregious—violence from radical left-wing extremists associated with groups like Antifa.
Page, however, seemed determined to avoid the moderating pitfalls that Wallace faced by ruthlessly managing the clock and haranguing the two candidates (mostly Pence) when their time had expired.
Pence was visibly frustrated at times with being cut off, but he avoided escalating his grievances over the format.
While Page’s questioning generally favored Harris, Pence was not shy about creating his own opportunities to challenge her within the parameters of polite and respectful dialogue.
One particularly notable moment came as Pence pressed Harris over the issue of packing the Supreme Court with additional justices should Judge Amy Coney Barrett be confirmed later this month.
“This is a classic case [of] if you can’t win by the rules you’re gonna change the rules,” Pence said. “… If you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is yes they are gonna pack” the court.
“… If you cherish the separation of powers, you need to reject the Biden–Harris ticket,” he warned.
Harris, for her part, ducked a direct answer, but she did, at least, offer a more coherent response than Biden.
She scored rhetorical points by bringing up an equivalent situation in which Abraham Lincoln, during his re-election campaign, was faced with filling the seat vacated by the October 1864 death of Chief Justice Roger Taney.
Despite holding both the Senate and the White House, “Honest Abe said it’s not the right thing to do,” Harris recounted.
Alas, Harris’s “history lesson” did not align entirely with the facts.
The historical information provided by President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC, reveals that there was little moral calculus in his decision.
Rather, Lincoln feared deepening the rift between moderate and radical branches of the Republican Party, who were divided in their views of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery.
“As ever, Lincoln was the shrewd politician and in October of 1864 he saw no profit in alienating any of the factions of his political support by making a selection before the election. There is no evidence that he seriously considered announcing his choice before he was re-elected… Lincoln was not, however above using the enticement of the office to encourage campaigning on his behalf…”
Pence had the final word before moving on, saying to “let the record show” that Harris had failed to directly state whether Democrats would pack the court.
On another occasion, the vice president nearly began to laugh as Harris stepped into a quagmire over Biden’s flip–flops about fracking.
Having prefaced her remarks by saying “I think this is supposed to be a debate based on facts and truth,” Harris went on to deliver two easy-to-refute whoppers herself.
“Joe Biden will not raise taxes on anyone who makes less that $400 thousand a year; he has been very clear about that,” she first claimed.
And “Joe Biden will not end fracking; he has been very clear about that,” she added.
Pence chuckled audibly at the assertion.
He noted that Biden had repeatedly insisted he would repeal Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would involve raising taxes on most Americans who saw cuts across the board under the plan.
As for fracking, Pence noted that Biden was on tape saying the opposite of what Harris had claimed.
“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts,” he told Harris. “… Joe Biden looked a supporter in the eye and said, ‘I guarantee that we will abolish fossil fuels.’”
Harris also tried to duck her past co-sponsorship of the Green New Deal following Biden’s insistence last week that his multi-trillion-dollar environmental infrastructure plan was “different” from the one proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, D-NY, which has been the source of considerable derision.
During another portion of the debate, Page aggravatingly allowed a deceptive media narrative to stand while asking both candidates what they would do if Trump refused to accept the outcome of the election.
Trump—who was stricken but undiagnosed with the coronavirus at the time of last week’s debate—was unable to do justice to the trick question during the final minutes of the free-for-all.
Pence, on the other hand, availed himself of the opportunity to land all the right points and reiterate Trump’s criticism of a hypocritical double-standard.
“When you talk about accepting the outcome of the election, I must tell you, senator, your party has spent the last three and a half years trying to overturn the results of the last election,” he hammered Harris.
“We’ve all seen the avalanche [of] what you put the country through,” he said, recounting the long saga of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Increasingly, declassified evidence has confirmed that there was conspiracy by the Obama administration’s intelligence community to undermine Trump’s campaign and early presidency.
Pence went on to note that after finding no evidence of obstruction in the Mueller report, Democrats then tried to impeach Trump “over a phone call.”
Moreover, he said, failed 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton has continued to push for Biden to refuse to concede under any circumstances, with nobody on the Left or its media allies appearing to repudiate her.
Despite the litany of endorsements Biden had received from longtime members of the DC swamp, “I think we’re gonna win this elect because … President Donald Trump has launched a movement of everyday Americans from every walk of life,” Pence said. “… If we have a free and fair election, we’re gonna have confidence in it.”
Pence also succeeded in nailing the better response to the final student question, asking leaders about the need to get along and set the right tone for civility.
Harris’s answer, essentially a plug for the Biden campaign and its websites, came off as more divisive than conciliatory.
She once again invoked the debunked Charlottesville narrative and even glossed over the significant racial and civil unrest that occurred during the Obama administration.
“One of the reasons that Joe decided to run… is that, after Charlottesville, it so troubled him that there was that kind of hate and division [that] over the course of the last four years … has been happening,” she claimed.
“Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up,” she added—a stark contrast to her own race-baiting attacks on Biden during the Democrat primary.
Pence, meanwhile, sincerely appealed to the young questioner with every ounce of Christian empathy.
“I started following the news when I was very young,” he said, “and in America we believe in a free and open exchange of debate.”
Pence cautioned viewers not to assume that the political gridlock the media sensationally reported on was synonymous with the reality, citing as an example the unlikely friendship between ideologically opposite Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.
“Here in America, we can disagree [and] debate vigorously … but when the debate is over we come together as American citizens,” Pence said.
“We love a good debate; we love a good argument,” he continued. “But we always come together, and we are always there for each other.”