Pence, Harris, and the night we’ll never get back

Hello, dear readers of Pyramid.  My post summarizing/reacting to/snarking about the first presidential debate was not originally written for this site — as you might have guessed from that introductory sentence that assumes you know where I stand and what I’ve written in the past.  Since you may well be thinking “who the fuck is this fuck?”, I thought it might be nice to introduce myself before the next one.  My name is Paul Wiele, and I’ll be covering tonight’s vice presidential debate, as well as the other presidential debates if they are still going forward.  I am a QA tester with a background in psychology — before you ask, engineering psychology, not clinical.  I used to have a politics blog with a readership of approximately 4 where I mainly focused on picking apart stupid arguments I encountered in both social media and news media.  My current outlet for that kind of thing is the Our Long National Nightmare Facebook group, the precursor to this site, where I have been an active participant from the beginning, and where I originally posted that first debate reaction.  In the group, I wrote a series of reaction posts similar to what you saw here for almost all of the 2020 Democratic primary debates, and now I’m at it again for general election season.  I hope you enjoy this new feature.  Or if not, that you’re just as aggravated as I am.

So let’s look at the one and only vice presidential debate.  These things are usually minor, unless there’s a particularly memorable moment, but tonight, this actually feels important, because of the frankly higher chance than usual that the vice president will have to serve as at least acting president if not assume the presidency themselves.  Unfortunately, it didn’t really address that very serious aspect of the vice presidency and instead just packed more fuel into our ongoing dumpster fire.  Most of it put there by Pence. 

Worst Expression of a Good Point: Pence tried, and failed, just like Trump often does, to divert attention from climate change to forest management.  And there are good arguments that that’s a cause of the West Coast wildfires.  Except that (a) it’s obviously possible for a problem to have more than one cause, you buffoon, and (b) he brought it up in the context of hurricanes, not wildfires.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Best Expression of a Bad Point: I don’t think I can award anything on this point because I am too busy being furious.  If I have to?  Another Pence climate change comment comes to mind: when he said the US has reduced emissions more than the countries that have stayed in the Paris Climate Accord.  He sure sounded confident, and it would be astonishing if it made the point he thought it was making, but what’s actually going on is that the US was already reducing emissions before withdrawal, while China, Japan, and India skew the rest of the results by nominally agreeing to the accord but blatantly violating it.

Best Debate Performance: Harris wins, not for what she said, but for her admirable ability to hold back laughter.  Also for this line, delivered with a contemptuous smile: “Mr. Vice President?  I’m speaking.  I’m speaking, okay?”

Worst Debate Performance: Holy shit Pence.  I hope the fact checkers tear him apart in their coverage, because he sounded calm and confident, but both evaded and lied in response to nearly every question.

Is anyone else terribly distracted by the fly that landed on Pence’s head that he’s just calmly ignoring?

Biggest Shift in My Opinion on Any Person or Topic During This Entire Campaign: This campaign made me go from merely disliking Pence to being absolutely outraged by him.  What a contemptible lackey.

Point on Which the Candidates Most Agree: Giving answers that amount to “Thanks, that’s a great question.  I’m going to hold forth about something else instead because I know you won’t stop me.”

I Was Going to Award Something for Most Obvious Lie: But almost every word out of Pence’s mouth was a 1984-level lie.

Most Persistent “What”? Pence keeps changing what he claims the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did and how much money it was worth to taxpayers every time he mentions it.

Most Obviously Wrong Claim: Pence attempting to defend the administration’s COVID response.  Cutting off travel from China was the only thing the administration did that was even remotely arguably helpful for the first few months of the pandemic.  Otherwise, it actively undermined attempts by both Congress and state governments to do something, anything, useful.  The most audacious hypocrisy about this is that he attacked the Obama administration for “leaving the strategic national stockpile empty” during the swine flu (which, I would like to remind you, occurred only three months into the Obama administration, in contrast to COVID-19, three years into the Trump administration, so maybe George W. Bush deserves the blame for any problems with the swine flu stockpile?), when his administration refused to let states use the stockpile, didn’t maintain the equipment it was stockpiling anyway, steered a COVID-related contract to a con artist who couldn’t actually supply what was ordered, and basically stole supplies from state and local governments.

Quote that Sums This All Up: “We’ve asked that [the audience] express their enthusiasm only twice.” — Susan Page.  Although I personally found both participants in this debate much less unpleasant than the presidential debate, I don’t think holding our enthusiasm is a hard task.

Image credit: Charles E Uibel /