by Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
For about an hour, America got to see two contrasting candidates on the debate floor in Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. Yes, Susan Page, the journalist and biographer playing moderator, demonstrated her bias against the Vice President. And yes, the questions were skewed to favor opinions coming from the Left, but overall the moderator and the rules allowed the two candidates to speak their minds and clarify their positions on many of the questions facing Americans today. Well, at least one of them did.
The inherent problem for the Biden Harris ticket is that they have taken so many incongruous positions on so many issues that it has become nearly impossible for them to convince the public of which of their conflicting positions they will push. Say what you want about the President and the Vice President, they have been rock solid on the problems they have identified and intent on solving freeing them of any conflict in defending those positions. Last night, Vice President Pence sensed that and capitalized on it.
Perhaps the most glaring debate moment of this dynamic arose when the candidates addressed the issue of packing the court. In their dismay over President Trump’s opportunity to appoint a conservative justice to the Supreme Court in the waning days of his first term, the call has come from the Left for the Democrats, should the return to power, to add a slew of liberal justices to the Supreme Court in an effort to regain a liberal majority. Some Democrats have even hyperbolically claimed that packing the Court would “restore democracy.” Still others worry of the destabilizing nature of such an action.
The Biden Harris ticket has not yet committed on whether it would appease the calls from the Left to pack the Court. Notably, in the Trump Biden bloodbath that was the first debate, Biden refused to answer the question. Last night was no different. In one testy exchange characterized by Vice President Pence’s refusal to drop the question, Kamala Harris awkwardly deflected the topic, not once, not twice, but thrice.
Equally as awkward for Senator Harris was the discussion on fracking where Vice President Pence played his advantage of having a clear favorable position on the practice. Smelling blood, he pressed the issue, forcing Harris to say, “So, first of all, I will repeat and the American people know that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact.”
But Mr. Pence was quick to use both candidates’ words against them in their prior, unequivocal positions to the contrary. “You yourself said on multiple occasions when you were running for president, that you would ban fracking.” Pence reminded her. In fact, “Joe Biden looked at a supporter in the eye and pointed and said, ‘I guarantee, I guarantee that we will abolish fossil fuels.'” And that ended Senator Harris’s reassurances on the matter.
On the issue of taxes, Senator Harris stumbled upon the same stone. Here, she adamantly claimed that her ticket planned on raising taxes only on the rich, but Vice President Pence was quick to point out that both Mr. Biden and she had said that they would repeal the Trump tax cuts “on day one.” “Those tax cuts,” Pence reminded Harris, “brought $2,000 dollars of tax relief to the average American family.” Again, Harris could not convincingly reassure the public that, in the face of their prior rhetoric, they were only going to surgically repeal the parts of the Trump tax cuts that affects only the rich.
On her part, Senator Harris attacked the Vice President on race relations, the economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and on the handling of the COVID pandemic, but like a fighter scoring style points on glancing body blows to his opponent, in the end Harris’s attacks were unable to damage Pence’s position.
Harris suffered from three realities in the debate, made possible by the gentleness with which former Vice President Biden and she have been treated thus far by the press. First, she suffered from not being previously tested. The President and the Vice President, through the litany of the ruthless attacks against them over three years, are battle tested, and their positions polished.
Neither Biden nor Harris have benefited from the polishing that takes place when one is forced to defend one’s position. Second, Biden and Harris have both taken zealous positions on certain issues to appease a component of their followers and now find that they cannot back down without appearing disingenuous or losing support from the contrarian group. And finally, Biden and Harris have thus far been able to hide in the basement, but now, they can scarcely keep their eyes open when exposed to the lights.
President Trump stands much to gain from using the same, civil, measured, and statesmanlike techniques employed by his Vice President last night to bring those same weaknesses in his upcoming debate with former Vice President Biden.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He served in the Florida House of Representatives. He is the author of numerous books including The Federalist Pages, The Case for Free Market Healthcare, and Coronalessons. He is available for appearances and book signings, and can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com.
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