Both candidates were separated by plexiglass barriers due to COVID-19, and sat 12.25 feet apart on the debate stage.

Kamala Harris-Mike Pence VP debate Five takeaways from the night
news US Elections Thursday, October 08, 2020 - 11:12

US Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris squared off in the 2020 vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, Utah, just a week after the first presidential debate with President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

Pence and Harris stepped onto the debate stage amidst a chaotic week that’s surrounded the Trump administration. Last week, Trump and First Lady Melania tested positive for the coronavirus, just days after the presidential debate, leading to concerns over safety precautions taken on the debate stage. Though the audience has been cut down to curb the spread of COVID-19, there were still fears that the virus would spread as several White House officials have tested positive since last week. Both candidates were separated by plexiglass barriers due to COVID-19, and sat 12.25 feet apart on the debate stage.

Five takeaways from the debate:

COVID-19: Kamala Harris described the Trump administration's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as the "greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country". “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said.

Vice President Mike Pence leads the president's coronavirus task force.

Kamala said people have had to sacrifice far too much “because of the incompetence of this administration.” She added that she would take a vaccine only if the public health professionals and doctor tell them that they should take it. 

“...but if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I'm not taking it," Kamala said.

The fly: A black house fly briefly captured the attention of everyone watching the debate, as it sat on Vice President Mike Pence’s white hair for some minutes. #Fly2024 soon became a hashtag on Twitter. A reporter who timed it said that the fly was on Pence’s head for 2 minutes and 3 seconds before flying away. 

Pence never reacted. 

The fly brought laughs and spawned a whole new cluster of Twitter accounts.

"Everyone jealous because I got the best seat for the debate tonight" tweeted a MikePenceFly handle.

"Please retweet if you agree that I defeated Mike Pence tonight," came from TheFlyBeatHim.

Racial justice: The debate also touched upon the case of Breonna Taylor — a Black woman who was shot in her own apartment by police officers — as the candidates were asked if justice was done. Kamala said that justice had not been done, and linked her killing to those of other Black people by the police, like George Floyd. 

For Breonna Taylor’s death, a grand jury did not indict officers on charges directly related to her death. “I trust our justice system, a grand jury that refused the evidence. And it really is remarkable that as a former prosecutor, you would assume that an empaneled grand jury looking at all the evidence got it wrong,” Pence said. 

For George Floyd, Pence said that there’s no excuse for what happened, but “there’s also no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed.”

He further added that the presumption of Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Kamala that law enforcement has a bias against minorities “is an insult to the men and women that serve in law enforcement.”

Trade: Kamala accused President Donald Trump of "betraying our friends and embracing dictators" as she attacked his "unilateral approach" to his foreign policy that led to America pulling out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal and making the country less safer.

President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018, in one of the biggest foreign policy decisions. The move was opposed by US allies France, Britain and Germany. The landmark deal was the crowning diplomatic achievement of former president Barack Obama.

"Donald Trump has betrayed our friends and has embraced dictators around the world," Kamala said, inviting strong rebuttal from Vice President Mike Pence who said the Trump administration has "stood strong with our allies."

We've strengthened our alliances ... and stood strong against those who would do us harm," Pence said, strongly defending his boss.

Transfer of power: President Donald Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if his opponent Joe Biden wins. When it was brought up during the debate, Pence did not answer the question. 

“First and foremost, I think we’re going to win this election,” Pence said. 

“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. It’s amazing,” he said, without answering what would happen if Biden wins the election. 

Packing the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has been a bone of contention following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, freeing up a coveted seat in what is said to be one of the most right-leaning courts. With a conservative majority, it would set a 6-3 conservative majority for many years to come, as US Supreme Court judges serve for life. 

President Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, but Democrats have said that the Senate is moving too quickly with her confirmation, and that it falls to whoever wins the election. 

Pence then accused them of wanting to pack the Supreme Court — which is expanding the bench so that it is not a conservative majority. 

“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed? Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the Supreme Court, which has had nine seats for 150 years, if you don’t get your way. This is a classic case of if you can’t win by the rules, you’re going to change the rules,” Pence said.

With inputs from agencies

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