The vice presidential debate was a refreshing upgrade on the cacophonous fiasco last week between the presidential nominees.
The incumbent, Mike Pence, was an easy winner on substantive points and general demeanor. The only question he did not really answer was how the administration is going to protect people with pre-existing medical problems if it succeeds in a judicial rejection of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). He effectively replied to the customary Democratic falsehoods about the failures of this administration’s management of COVID-19. More importantly, as the evening wore on, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, was more and more frequently reduced to the default page of the Democratic campaign: defamatory mudslinging against the president.
Senator Harris accused Trump of “the greatest presidential failure in history,” and said she would not take a vaccine on Trump’s recommendation. She repeated the lies that he only paid $750 in income taxes in 2017, that the current recession is as serious as the Great Depression, that he is a security risk because he owes $400 million, “that he doesn’t believe in science,” considers American war dead to be “suckers and losers,” that he never raised with Russian president Putin the matter of Russian bounties on American soldiers, that he described Mexicans in general as “rapists and criminals,” that he declared his support for Nazis at Charlottesville in 2017, that he has never condemned white supremacy, and that in questioning the security of mass mailed-out balloting, he is trying to prevent the nation from voting and suppressing democracy.
In fact, during the Great Depression, the unemployment rate reached 30 percent and there was no direct relief for the jobless. The indebtedness on some of Trump’s properties is covered by approximately $5 billion of assets and if any of his loans were called, every bank in the world would be happy to refinance them (on their merits, not because of his position).
The falsehood about denigrating American war dead has been revealed as a smear job by The Atlantic (which currently publishes little else).
There is not one scrap of evidence in his entire conscient life to support the argument that Donald Trump is a racist.
There is not much that can be done about the Trump-hating media giving credence to these scurrilous allegations, but when the Democratic vice presidential nominee is reduced to mouthing them as non-responses to the questions put to her, it amounts, at last, to a confession of substantive bankruptcy in the Biden campaign.
Pence referred with suitable disdain and outrage to the fraudulent Trump-Russia canard, but left Biden’s family’s questionable financial derring-do alone. He worked in the rioting and vandalism of the summer “peaceful protesters” but didn’t link the urban guerrillas to the Democrats.
Pence finally effectively rebutted the second leg of the Democratic campaign—that the administration has botched the pandemic. Unfortunately, he did not mention the antiquarian public health crisis response system bequeathed to this administration by Obama and Biden, but he did emphasize the lives saved by shutting down direct flights from China at the end of January, over noisy Democratic protestations, and the administration’s success in mass-producing medical supplies and accelerating the pursuit of a vaccine.
He did not take the president’s new post-hospitalization war cry calling for the United States to emancipate itself from the regime of panic and fretfulness that has been inflicted on it by the Democrats and their media, but he did point out that the so-called Biden plan is outright plagiarism from the administration (“an activity with which Joe Biden is familiar.”)
Pence scored well when Harris echoed her leader and professed not to support the Green New Deal by reminding her that she had been its co-sponsor in the Senate, and he put her claim that Trump had endangered world peace when he “walked away from the Iran” nuclear deal to the shredder by reminding her of the $150 billion that Obama had given the ayatollahs as part of an arrangement that would enable Iran to deploy nuclear weapons four years from now.
Pence had a steady fire of damaging lines: Biden had been “cheerleading for Communist China for 30 years,” and opposed the killing of Osama bin Laden. He reminded us that both Democratic nominees upheld the charge that the United States is “systemically racist,” and he accused Harris of having done absolutely nothing for African-Americans or race relations in general and of having over-prosecuted African-Americans when she was a district attorney and attorney general in California. He caught her wobbling on the issue of abolishing fracking, debunked the gap between Biden’s promise to repeal Trump’s tax cuts and their more recent promise not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 a year. Probably most tellingly of all, Pence caught Harris flat-footed when she repeatedly declined to indicate whether a Biden Administration would attempt to pack the Supreme Court if the current nominee to fill the vacancy on the court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, is confirmed.
The Democrats and their talking media robots have been strutting across our television screens all week like roosters pretending the campaign is over and the confirmation of their victory is a mere formality. It is likely that Mike Pence has succeeded in arresting the apparent erosion of the Republican campaign.
But it now remains to the president to transform his new theme of the country ceasing to be “dominated” by COVID-19, and recognizing that it is only a mortal threat to less than 1 percent of Americans and that 99 percent of those who contract it survive and are at least partially immunized thereafter. The average age of a person who dies with the coronavirus—and almost always has other ailments as well—is 78, which is the average life expectancy of the entire population. The Democrats recognize that Trump, after successfully shaking off the virus, is now finally attacking the Democratic campaign of panic and hysteria and is offering in its place a defiant battle cry of resistance, even drawing, a bit implausibly, on the inspirational rhetoric of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.
The Democrats are naturally mocking Trump and their media jackals are comparing him to Mussolini (because he stood briefly on the White House balcony, as has every president since John Adams) and the last days of the Romanoffs, but the president is correct. He has come late to this argument and wore his caution uneasily, but his bout with the illness has emboldened him to denounce the Democratic attempt to portray the coronavirus as a mortal threat to every person in the country or a reenacted medieval bubonic plague as the fear-mongering it is.
This will work, because it is true, but only if the president presses it hard and believably. His vice president has done all he could to regain the initiative for the administration. It is up to Trump to raise his game, hammer home his argument, and sweep Biden aside in the last two debates. Another shouting and slanging match like his first debate could produce the unimaginable calamity of a Biden presidency.