Analysis of the Vice-Presidential Debate

By Elizabeth Rauchet
National News Editor

After a chaotic presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the vice-presidential debate marked a return to a more traditional way of debating and addressing current issues and plans for the upcoming election. At the moment, it is unclear whether the vice-presidential is the last debate of the 2020 presidential campaign due to President’s Trump hospitalization with COVID-19.

Although The Salt Lake City debate was not as scandalous and out of proportion compared to the first meeting between Trump and Biden, there were still some instances of falsified information, interruptions, and statements that simply lacked context. These misleading statements came from both candidates, though, at different capacities.

During the discussion of COVID-19 and the presidential candidates’ plans to deal with the pandemic in the most effective manner, Pence claimed that Trump and his administration have never withheld the truth about COVID-19. This statement is fundamentally incorrect as, according to Trump’s own confession, the Trump administration decided to “downplay” the pandemic to avoid panic among the citizens. In a series of interviews with Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, he admitted that the pandemic was purposefully ignored to secure stability in the country. Over the course of months, Trump made various false claims about his travel restriction, the ineffectiveness of COVID testing, the power of hydroxychloroquine when fighting the virus, and his unwillingness to provide ventilators to healthcare facilities across the nation.

Another misleading comment made by Pence was made about Judge Amy Coney Barrett whose Supreme Court nomination was allegedly held outdoors. Pence stated that “it was an outdoor event,” where all COVID regulations were followed. The response was misleading since although part of the event was held in the Rose Garden, it also included smaller gatherings with no social distancing or the mask-wearing. Even so, some attendees of the Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination ceremony, gathered inside the White House reception rooms and the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, where no COVID-19 safety regulations were followed or even mentioned. Some attendees were tested positive, during the tests that were taken on arrival. Nonetheless, none of the guests who have been tested positive for COVID-19 have been asked to leave the event or at least social distance themselves from the rest of the crowd.

Pence also mentioned that Biden claimed that Trump’s travel restrictions on China were “xenophobic.” According to political experts who analyzed the vice-presidential debate, this comment significantly lacks context. Biden never linked his accusation of xenophobia to Trump’s travel restrictions. In actuality, Biden stated that Trump, in general, has a record of “hysterical xenophobia” and “fear of mongering,” not referring to the restrictions at all. Given Biden’s quotes, there is no substantial evidence for Pence to be making empty assumptions about Biden’s words, especially taking into account how many times Trump has used insulting and straight-up racist lexis when referring to the African American community, the immigrant community, the Chinese community, the Muslim community, and the Hispanic community, residing in the US and outside.

Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence at the beginning of Wednesday’s vice (Photo Courtesy of Erin Schaff, The New York Times)

Although there were instances of Pence making false accusations and ungrounded connection between words taken out of context and real events, Kamala Harris, has also been using a few misleading sources to use it as evidence for her arguments. Thus, Kamala stated that Trump “got rid of the” White House pandemic office, whereas, in reality, some of the public health officials on the team remained in their positions. She also mentioned that the Obama administration was successful when creating an office specifically designated for managing pandemics. It is unclear whether that team has ever been created by Obama, and why that team no longer exists.

When further discussing the problem of COVID-19, Harris stated that Trump definitely knew about the severity and seriousness of the pandemic situation on January 28. Although some political experts accused Harris of false and misleading information, this statement has been found true. President Trump, in his February 7 interview claimed that the President has been reported about the potential threat of COVID-19 and the urgency to deal with it as soon as possible.

Another claim made by Harris was regarding the manufacturing recession which the U.S. is currently experiencing. She said that as a result of malmanagement of COVID-19, “America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs.” There is no evidence of a manufacturing recession in the US at the moment. In fact, before the pandemic, the manufacturing sector was significantly developed under the Trump administration. Although the Americans lost 300,000 jobs, there is no mention that all those jobs were in the manufacturing sector.

Although there are more incidents of false information, misleading statements, and unsupported accusations, coming mostly from Pence, the instances mentioned above are the most relevant ones since they cover the topic of COVID-19 and the future of the Americans affected by the pandemic. Almost the entire debate was focused on coronavirus and on how the candidates are planning to handle the situation when elected. Both candidates interrupted each other and frequently sidestepped questions. Although the vice-presidential debate was held in a calmer and more reserved environment, some questions were not addressed neither by Harris nor by Pence, and many topics remain unaddressed and unclear.


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