Thursday, October 8, 2020

Pence the bully, last night, showed a complete disregard for debate rules.

I’ll lead off with my own reactions to last night’s debate.

First, I offer a choice to those who watched: (a) Harris, (b) Pence, (c) the fly on Pence’s head.

(1) Right at the start, it seemed like the two candidates were from different color domains with the result that (in my perception) they were of entirely different temperaments. The Pence color palette was gray and cold. The Harris palette was golden and warm. Thus my immediate impression was that Pence was a character out of the Adams family. Harris was motherly and, as her kids call her, “Momala”.

(2) Pence was a verbal abuser. He persistently talked over Harris and the (female) moderator. It occurred to me that his behavior was that of a misogynist. But that interpretation is too narrow. During the presidential debate, Trump talked over Joe Biden, incessantly, and ignored attempts at control by the (male) moderator, Chris Wallace, thus exceeding the agreed time limits. Which brings me to:

(3a) The election commission should install switches by which the moderator can mute the offending participant’s microphone. And then use them.

(3b) Trump and Pence share a common behavior indicative of a contempt for rules. Their behavior suggests a disdain for the rule of law and a belief that they are both above the law. Thus, in spite of the time limits agreed to by their respective campaigns, they just charged on, impervious to attempts to reign them in. In so doing, they showed a complete lack of trustworthiness.

Now, following are two posts that illustrate the above themes.

Dartagnan, a Daily Kos contributor, reacts to Pence’s blathering, his over-talking Kamala Harris and the moderator, Susan Page. You know, women notice it when they are talked over, again and again.

If there’s anything I’ve realized in my gradual understanding of my own institutional sexism, it’s that women really hate it when men talk over them and interrupt them. It’s a very bad quality that men just can’t seem to wrap their heads around. It’s really very obnoxious.

That, more than anything, is why this debate did nothing for Trump’s re-election prospects. Pence just kept on yammering, even when being told, by a female moderator, that he should shut up.

It’s just annoying, and women didn’t need to be reminded of it. But they were, repeatedly.

It happened over and over again. And Kamala Harris called him on it in the first half-hour, which was when everyone was paying attention.

Beyond the fly on [Pence’s head], that’s the takeaway. Harris was not only competent but expert. She held her own, as she should have.

Pence lost by not gaining anything. And he really, really needed to win.

Poliico.com posted its reaction to the debate: ‘Thank you, Mr. Vice President’: Another moderator struggles to control the conversation. USA Today’s Susan Page allowed Kamala Harris and Mike Pence to dodge questions and frequently interrupt each other.

Just a week after Fox News’ Chris Wallace got roasted for ceding control to Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage, USA Today’s Susan Page fared little better with the vice-presidential contenders.

Page repeatedly allowed Kamala Harris and Mike Pence to interrupt each other as well as her throughout the debate. And while she posed probing questions during the 90 minutes, she often declined to pose follow-ups when they dodged the substance of the questions.

She also drew criticism for her inability to rein in Pence, as he frequently interjected during Harris’ answers. She repeatedly tried and failed to get Pence to stop talking, saying variations of “thank you” or “thank you, Mr. Vice President" 22 times over the course of the evening, to no effect.

’Thank you VP Pence,’ may not be the best approach for a moderator to cut off a man running amok with a blatant disregard for the debate rules,” longtime news anchor Dan Rather tweeted.

Throughout the evening, Pence repeatedly exceeded the time limits set by the debate commissioners on individual questions and interrupted Harris, forcing Page to interject — mostly unsuccessfully.

"Your campaigns agreed to rules for tonight’s debate with the Commission on Presidential Debates. I’m here to enforce them,” Page said at a particularly unruly point.

But Page also appeared deferential at times to Pence, calling him “Mr. Vice President." Meanwhile, at one point she used Harris’ first name, addressing Biden’s running mate as “Kamala Harris,” rather than “Senator Harris,” before apologizing.

“That’s fine, I’m Kamala,” Harris responded.

Harris herself tried to exert control as Pence intruded on her answers, saying, "Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”

But when Harris interrupted Pence, Page admonished her.

“Thank you, Senator Harris,” Page said. “Let’s give Vice President Pence a chance to respond.”

Harris pushed back at another point, saying “He interrupted me, and I’d like to just finish, please.”

The California senator also insisted on gaining back her time on multiple occasions.

“He attacked my record. I would like an opportunity to respond,” Harris said, after which Page relented, allowing Harris 30 seconds “because we’re running out of time.”

And while the debate covered a range of substantive policy issues, Page often did not ask follow-up questions, allowing both candidates to revert to talking points. Harris and Pence declined to give straight answers on a range of questions, from their support for packing the Supreme Court to the idea of the peaceful transfer of power and Trump’s health care plan for Americans with preexisting conditions.

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