And his evasions were the rival of hers. He never did offer any explanation of how the United States ended up the world leader in recorded deaths related to the coronavirus. He instead tried to suggest that Harris, in calling out the country’s failures on that score, was insulting Americans.
No, Vice President Pence. She was insulting you and your boss.
It was a memorable debate even apart from the insect. (Now there’s a sentence I never imagined writing.) It was historic: Harris is the first woman of color on the presidential ticket of one of America’s two major parties. Her status as a trailblazer was openly acknowledged, and it informed — and gave extra force to — her disapproval of Pence when he wouldn’t acknowledge implicit racial bias in policing.
She and Pence were separated not only by 12 feet but by plexiglass shields, which called to mind sneeze guards, conjured thoughts of salad bars and prompted me to wonder which ingredient each of the candidates represented. (I’m going with cottage cheese for Pence.)
The Pence camp had resisted these droplet dams — which, truth be told, many public health experts said were of questionable use — but given how freely the coronavirus had been permitted to rampage through the White House, the Harris camp would have been justified in demanding that Pence debate from the inside of a giant Ziploc bag.
Harris and Pence were squaring off little more than a week after Trump and Biden had, and one overarching question was how far they’d depart from and how fully they’d redeem that fiasco. The answer: very far and almost fully. In the context of the Trump-Biden debate, which had all the calm, dignity and exalted purpose of a fraternity hazing, this was practically a poetry reading.
That’s not to say it was polite. On the subject of the pandemic, Harris unsparingly attacked Trump and Pence, the head of the administration’s coronavirus task force, saying, “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
And Pence kept talking over the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, ignoring her alerts that his two minutes were up so that he could commandeer more time than Harris got. Page was left to sputter endlessly, “Thank you, Vice President Pence. Thank you, Vice President Pence. Thank you, Vice President Pence.” But more than a thanking he needed a spanking.