Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence sparred over COVID-19 on Wednesday, with Pence predicting an imminent vaccine and Harris accusing the Trump administration of “incompetence.”
Harris argued that the administration knew in January how serious the disease was, but sat on that information until March.
“They knew and they covered it up,” she said. “They minimized the seriousness of it. They still don’t have a plan. Joe Biden does.”
Harris also called the response, “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
Pence defended the administration’s response, and accused Harris of undermining public confidence in the vaccine and “playing politics with people’s lives.”
“President Trump and I trust the American people to make the best choices in the interests of their health,” Pence said. “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris consistently talk about mandates… We’re about freedom and respecting the freedom of the American people.”
Harris shot back: “You respect the American people when you tell them the truth.”
The debate featured fewer interruptions than last week’s presidential debate. The moderator, USA Today’s Susan Page did struggle to enforce the time limits on Pence, repeatedly saying “Thank you, Mr. Vice President.” That proved ineffectual, and after several instances Page urged him to stop.
“Vice President Pence, I did not create the rules for tonight,” she said, about an hour into the debate. “I’m here to enforce them, giving roughly equal time to both of you, which is what I’m trying to do.”
Both candidates ignored some of the questions. Page asked each candidate to talk about possible transfer of power if the president became incapacitated. Neither candidate answered that, instead reverting to talking points.
Pence interrupted Harris a few times, prompting her to say at one point, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”
Harris trained her real fire not on Pence, but on Trump, citing reports that he had called American service members “suckers” and “losers,” and blasting his deferential relationship toward Vladimir Putin.
Pence meanwhile chose to focus on Harris, calling her too liberal, and accused her of wanting to ban fracking and supporting the Green New Deal.
The candidates were separated by Plexiglass, and seated 12 feet apart.
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