Debates 2020

Both Pence and Harris Dodged the Only Important Question at the Vice Presidential Debate

Under what circumstances would these two potential vice presidents feel comfortable taking over? The country deserves to know.


"The vice president has two duties," then-Sen. John McCain quipped in 2000 to explain why he wasn't interested in the second-in-command spot on George W. Bush's ticket. "One is to inquire daily as to the health of the president, and the other is to attend the funerals of Third World dictators."

It's pretty obvious that neither Vice President Mike Pence nor Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) are competing for the chance to attend dictators' funerals.

That means that there was really only one important question asked at Wednesday night's vice presidential debate—a question that moderator Susan Page put to both would-be veeps within the first 20 minutes of the contest: "Have you had a conversation or reached an agreement…about safeguards or procedures when it comes to the issue of presidential disability?"

It's a question that looms ever larger in the middle of a deadly pandemic—and larger still after President Donald Trump was hospitalized last week for COVID-19. It matters more than it normally would because no matter wins this year's presidential election, he will be the oldest man ever inaugurated into the office in January: Trump will be 74 years old, and Biden will be 78.

Both candidates completely ignored it.

Pence dodged by going back to a previous topic, scolding Harris for comments she'd made previously about a potential COVID-19 vaccine. He pivoted away to the Trump administration's tired talking points about the swine flu that hit during President Barack Obama's tenure.

Harris waved it away in an even less serious way, choosing to call up some random biographical details from her stump speech and vague nonsense about how she values hard work—which is great, but c'mon.

Unfortunately, Page moved along to a different question and didn't press either candidate. That's a shame because, again, this is almost literally the only thing that a vice president has to do. The other discussions about policy—and, yes, in a welcome change there was a good bit of actual discussion of policy on Wednesday night—are somewhat moot since a vice president's formal responsibilities only kick in if the Senate is deadlocked or if the president can't do his job anymore.

In fact, Page should have drilled down even further. Are there any circumstances under which Harris or Pence would ask the president's cabinet to use their 25th Amendment powers to strip power from a president who was clearly unable to discharge his duties? The nation deserves to know.

It's understandable that both Pence and Harris are unwilling to talk about the obvious health and age concerns surrounding their running mates, of course. And both did a satisfactory job of showing that they are competent adults if they have to take over as commander-in-chief.

Still, the specific question matters. The White House has been obfuscating and misleading the public regarding Trump's recent bout with COVID-19, and this would have been an opportunity for Pence to reassure the public that there was a plan in place should the president's health take a turn for the worse. Heck, a lot of Americans think Pence would be a better president anyway.

Harris missed an opportunity to draw a contrast with the current administration's fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants strategy. Most Americans think Biden won't finish even a single four-year term in the White House, so she could have reassured voters by demonstrating she was at least aware of that worry.

In a race between two very old men, one of whom is sick with a potentially deadly disease at this very minute, neither Harris nor Pence respected the voters enough to provide a little straight talk.

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  1. That was the only important question? Did you switch to Spongebob after that?

    1. If you only listen to CNN and MSNBC, Trump is almost dead from Covid still.

      1. Fox News says The Dotard “hath risen again” and all his sycophants like you are going to Heaven in Branson, Missouri where you will hear shitty music for eternity.

        1. Wow. You are so not funny.

          1. Then why are the voices in his head laughing?

            1. “Watched” it on a stream to my phone, one headphone on the left ear.
              Right ear: no phone. Watching the baseball playoffs on my actual TV.
              Had to rewind the TV signal on some key plays, because the politics was distracting me from the games.

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            2. They’re laughing at him, not with him.

          2. He also fucks children.

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        2. Missed your meds….again?

      2. Lefties are so mad that even kungflu cannot get rid of Trump.

        1. well if Mueller and Pelosi couldn’t do it, what chance does COVID-19 have?

          1. Its a magic virus?

            1. Maybe, but Trump rolled an 18 on a D20 when only a 12 was required. So he made his saving throw and shook off the virus.

    2. It was asked in the most inappropriate manner too.
      What would’ve been a good question: how do you approach the prospect of assuming the office of president if necessary?
      Legitimate question.
      But the way they put it was just morbid, and really shouldn’t have been answered as asked by either of them.

    3. Boehm still won’t admit that Trump will be reelected.

      Boehm still thinks America sucks and we should be under the commie boots of communist china.

      1. Boehm still won’t admit that Trump will be reelected.

        Does this help you sleep at night? If I were you I’d be extremely concerned with Trump’s polling right now.

        1. and hillie is prezzie by landslide

          1. Lefties and their propagandists still believe “polling” that have Biden ahead.

            The reality is very depressing for Democrats, so they push the lie that a very popular sitting president will be beaten by Joe Biden and Kamala Rouge.

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    4. Before that.

  2. I didn’t realize there wasn’t something already written down as standard operating procedure.
    Why would each team have to have different agreements about this?

    1. It is the 25th amendment as far as SOP. However, it is very subjective as to when it should be deployed. Either the President can trigger it by saying “I am not capable at this time” or IF the Vice President can convince a majority of the Cabinet then the VP can take over for a limited time. Contrary to what Nancy Antoinette thinks, the House of Representatives has NOTHING to do with it. Once it is in play then upon the President declaring he is once again able to perform his duties IF the VP along with a majority of the Cabinet disagrees, then and only then does the House get involved.

  3. This might be the dumbest article ever posted on Reason. And that’s impressive given some of the writers they have on staff.

    1. Good, virtually content free CACLL signaling!

      1. Shut the fuck up Dee. Your jokes are stupid.

        1. It wasn’t a joke. It was criticism.

            1. Mr. R Mac can make comments that contribute nothing to the conversation, and make mooing sounds, too!

              1. To be fair, none of your defending of BLM or denials that your defending the left when you are add to the conversation either.

                Neither do your calls to ban Canadians from discussing presidential elections on a libertarian site.

                1. Dee thinks squawking like a bird adds something to the conversation.

  4. GOP strategist Nicole Wallace called Pence “limp” and “flaccid” for his performance tonight.

    1. Wow! Even a GOP strategist — obviously approaching things with a pro-Pence bias — has to admit how clearly Kamala Harris won!

      1. Why yes, Ms Wallace worked hard to get McCain elected.

        Imagine her indignation at Trump for calling vets like McCain “losers and suckers”.

        Why would she do that?

        1. But she’s okay with Biden calling troops stupid bastards on video?

        2. And by “vets like McCain”, you mean selfish, reckless, accident-prone, mean drunkards with an authoritarian streak who made a career in the military due to family connections?

          Vets like that are actually a lot worse than just “losers and suckers”.

          Fortunately, there are very few of them around.

        3. probably still sore they didn’t get to bomb Iran. all the neocons hate Trump.

    2. Still have ED buttplug?

    3. Nicole Wallace? The one that left the GOP in 2018 and joined the Never Trumpers? The one that was fired from the view and went to MSNBC? That Nichole Wallace?

      “I’m on the record. I will vote for whomever — I will, I will gladly and easily and handily vote for Bernie Sanders if he’s the nominee. This is not personal,” Wallace said

      Why is everything you say so ignorant?

    4. GOP strategist Nicole Wallace called Pence “limp” and “flaccid” for his performance tonight.

      That’s because Nicole Wallace wants an exciting, teutonic Fuhrer who will take her by the hand and lead her to a glorious future. Personally.

      Boring, dull, and moderately conservative is just fine with me in a president or VP.

    5. Poor Lefties. Harris had her mask covering her vagina which was up in the air for san francisco strange.

  5. I hate Pence, but he did ok. It seemed like Pence dodged more questions, but I wasn’t keeping count.

    I’m still praying Mike Lee and Ronna McDaniel die of Covid.

  6. Did you see the fly in Pence’s hair? I think it means he’s Satan.

    1. And compared to Harris, he’s the lesser evil.

      1. I didn’t watch this boring shit show, as I have better things to do with my time. Who won, the turd sandwich understudy or the giant douche understudy?

        1. Giant turd won this one.

          1. I’m surprised you tore yourself away from your child porn long enough to watch the debate

        2. So the usual uneducated diatribes from you then?

          1. The fly matters. The universe has spoken.

            1. Flies are attracted to good eats like pence.

              Flies are born out piles of shit like Harris, so they already flew out of her mouth minutes before.

      2. Harris is definitely Moloch or Shub-Niggurath

        1. And those are her positive traits.

        2. I guess Hillary has the rights to being Shelob sewed up tight.

    2. Satan would make a hell of a president.

      1. The greatest ever.

    3. Black flies matter

      1. LOL – don’t talk about blackflies – we Mainers know they matter.

  7. Pence – “I just want to point out she still didn’t answer the question” regarding packing the courts. Pretty good.

    1. That’s because there’s no answer that’s politically useful.
      Say you will, and you turn off a whole lot of Never-Trumpers who are looking for a reason to vote for Biden instead of staying home. Say you won’t and you turn off the left wing of your party who would only be satisfied with at least 6 new Justices (1 for Garland, 3 to balance out all of Trump’s picks, 1 to shift the balance of the Court, and 1 because elections have consequences). If you ignore the question, they can both pretend that it’s because you didn’t want to turn off the other.

  8. tired talking points about the swine flu that hit during President Barack Obama’s tenure.

    The one about 60 million americans being infected as not being a success story as Biden claims? Okay, guess that’s tired.

    1. Yes, the swine flu was a DISASTER for Obama!

      1. 60 million infected was a success? Good thing the IFR was low.

        1. I would call it domination.

          1. I would call you a pathetic piece of lefty shit.

    2. The pandemic that was actually ignored by the US President.

    3. Obama’s handling of H1N1 was a success story. If only the USA had taken a similar hands off approach with COVID-19, the economy wouldn’t have been wrecked.

      1. He also didn’t have state and local democrat controlled governments shutting down their economies either.

      2. Well he had a media who essentially back pages the pandemic for 4 months, almost zero ront page stories on the issue. He also didn’t have opposition governors and mayors shutting things down to hurt his reelection chances. So wasn’t really Obama doing. He didn’t even declare it a or respond to H1N1 for almost 3 months after WHO declared it a pandemic. His solution was essentially to ignore it.

  9. They both dodged many questions. It was nothing but spouting talking points at the camera.

    1. They were really dodging the COVID infested spittle flying from each others Spam Hole.

    2. The questions were lefty bullshit traps.

      Americans care about economy, government spending, taxes, term limits, corruption, and how socialist the party of slavery is.

      1. 27 debates so far, still no questions about the 27 trillion dollar national debt

        1. Yup. Nobody wants to kill grandmas and admit they spent so much that it costs a wheel-barrel,of cash to buy a loaf of bread.

          For you stupid kids on here who dont know history. Google german man wheel barrel deutschmarks to buy bread picture. Its real. Its a huge reason how Hitler the Socialist came to power.

      2. So what? Unlike Trump, Pence is a skilled orator, he should be able to handle any question without a problem. I don’t like the guy, but of all the candidates I think he speaks the best, his time as a right wing radio personality was good training.

    3. In other words, it was a modern televised debate, which is. basically a joint press conference.

  10. Silly question to ask. VPs don’t throw the president under the bus. It’s telling that reason wants silly questions and nonsense answers.

    1. They can. But they’re not going to say they will.

    2. It strikes me as variation of the prisoner’s dilemma.

      Sure, if Pence knew that Kamala would admit to having that conversation, he might too, but if one admitted it and the other didn’t, it would be logged as a huge concession. And be touted as a rhetorical win for the other side for the next two months. Same thing vice versa.

      As big an issue as this is, no rational VP candidate would concede this unless literally forced to.

    3. Obligatory:
      VP candidates don’t throw the president under the bus UNLESS they’re libertarian. Then you apparently just go out and stump for your opponent.

  11. I missed almost all the debate — didn’t realize it was this week already — so was anything of interest said?

    1. Nothing at all.

      1. Nothing to see here?

    2. Pence got Kamala to call herself a cop.

      1. What’d she call the cops for?

        1. Niggas smokin’ weed, per Pence. Woulda been nice if he worked in “on poor minority parents for not knowing their kids skipped school” too.

          1. I busted out a laugh imagining Pence saying that on stage.

            1. He pretty much did…subtly.

      2. “Pence got Kamala to call herself a cop.”

        Who wants to bring what she did as DA to the rest of the country

    3. Kamala reminded everyone why she finished dead last in the Democrat primary. Even the nice liberal PBS lady in the post-debate analysis said ” JESUS FUCKING CHRIST,DID SHE NOT KNOW SHE WAS ON A SPLIT SCREEN? about Kamala’s facial expressions and body language when the affable Pence had the mike.

      1. She’s trying to out-bitch Hillary Clinton.


        1. And….she succeeded.

      2. +10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

        Pence reminded all Americans who watched that harris locked up black Americans for minor offenses.

      3. Well put. I think the moderator should weild a gavel and vigorously assert supreme authority over the senators. Stop treating them like royalty.

        Please put comment input section at the top of the massively long list of responses.

  12. Trump just shook off Covid in a week. I don’t think he’s dying any time soon

  13. These two would not survive a high school debate club competition. Seems like Kamala dodged more questions than Pence, and far less eloquently. Too many questions (especially those for Pence – “Is climate change an existential threat?”) seemed like setups. Pence did some dodging, but with a bit more grace.

    Kamala smirking the entire time, oozing contempt didn’t help. And neither she nor Biden will answer the question about packing the court. She actually compared our current situation to Lincoln’s in the midst of a civil war. She’s comparing apples to pomegranates. This one bothers me a lot.

    Was it always this bad? Was there a time when the candidates had an honest debate about the issues?

    Kamala’s constant smirking and expressions of contempt didn’t help. Her long pauses on FP questions revealed her shallow experience. I kept waiting for her to say she could see Russia from her house. And did she seriously cite Moody’s and praise them after they rated those garbage bundled mortgage securities triple-A?

    The thing that frustrated me most was Kamala’s constant assertions about what the American people believe. Bitch, you do not speak for me.

    I could not be more sick of all the blathering about COVID.

    I am stressed and depressed and thinking of becoming a hermit.

    1. at this point i’m hoping *somehow* the public manages to send Biden to the white house but give him a republican congress.

      the best outcome is the one where the feds are as paralyzed as possible

      1. Fuck that. Give Trump 4 more years w/ a GOP Congress and they, the remnant donk judiciary and the bureaucracy will be all the check and balance you could ever want.

      2. If the people running Biden get the white house, congress won’t matter anymore

        1. American people wont mater anymore.

    2. Kamala misrepresented why Lincoln did not nominate someone right away. It had nothing to do with the upcoming election. Congress was in recess so there was no one to act on the nomination.

  14. “Under what circumstances would these two potential vice presidents feel comfortable taking over? The country deserves to know.”

    Under what circumstances would you write an article which was not ladden with TDS?
    We have a candidate who is obviously in the early (?) stages of senility, selected by the Ds as the only candidate which didn’t (they hope) guarantee Trump’s re-election, and by all evidence is, like FDR, not likely to last long if “he” is elected,
    And then we have Trump, who (unless you have other than speculation), seems to have suffered a mild case of the ‘rona.
    Was there something I missed?

    1. Yes, that Trump has trouble speaking in complete sentences, indicating that he cannot think in complete thoughts. That Trump had trouble when presented with the concept of per-capita statistics when presented with them in an interview interview. That Trump thought journalists receive Noble Prizes.

      Whether that’s mental decline or just limited mental ability, Trump is no more mentally fit than Biden.

      1. WK, your raging case of TDS has been noted for quite a while, you pathetic excuse for a human being. Further, your inability to offer any evidence to support your disease is also obvious.
        It’s not at all a shame that assholes like you are recognized for providing nothing other than your pathetic whining.
        Here’s the best suggestion adults can offer to asshole shits like you:
        Fuck off and die. Now. The world will thank you for measurably raising the average IQ.

        1. I was just going to call her a squawking bird again, but I like this answer better.

          1. Right, because Sevo’s comment wasn’t sufficiently lacking in substance.

            1. It was an appropriate response to your post though.

        2. No evidence, I gave two very specific examples right in the comment you are responding to with your usual content-free rudeness.

          1. Do you ever get the impression that nobody really pays much attention to your posts Dee?

            1. You were literally paying attention to my comment when you wrote that. Here’s what you could do: not respond to my comments at all. Click the little flag icon on them, if you want.

              1. So that’s a no?

                1. Or a yes? Your answer was unintelligible gibberish.

      2. Goddamn what an idiotic rambling statement. I suppose you need to convince yourself of that bullshit.

      3. Neutral Mikey everyone.

  15. Why would Pence answer that question? He’s the Vice President, his position on the matter is whatever the protocol is. Whatever discussions occur are secret. Whatever possibilities are planned for in the White House are not to be discussed. He has no business answering that question.

    Trump has served for 4 years and appears almost the same as he did at the start. Not even Obama managed that. Neither did Kennedy (seriously). Biden, however, is in a rapid decline. So the question only applies to Harris, but you can’t ask one-sided questions. So it’s a stupid question. Rightly ignored.

  16. Harris would back-stab Biden in a heartbeat to get the Big Chair.

    If Pence wants to be president at all, he’s the kind of guy who would wait four years and then campaign for the nomination.


    1. Pence has taken crap for his policy of never dining alone with a woman who is not his wife, but I think it shows integrity and propriety.

      I’ll never understand why someone who takes his Christian beliefs and marital fidelity seriously would agree to being running mate with Donald Trump.

      1. “I’ll never understand why someone who takes his Christian beliefs and marital fidelity seriously would agree to being running mate with Donald Trump.”

        Marital fidelity has nothing to do with governance. Not difficult to understand at all.

        1. Has anyone ever refused the Veep slot?

          1. Probably, but would we hear about someone saying no. It’s not something that is usually asked in public, like someone popping the question on the Jumbotron. It would be embarrassing to the Presidential candidate if someone publicly said, no.

          2. McCain declined the VP nomination under W. Bush. Reasonably sure it was public.

        2. But wouldn’t he have personal distaste for Trump and not want his name associated with a serial adulterer.

          1. Pence doesn’t have TDS and doesn’t seem to have a hateful heart like you. He grew up into an adult. Try it.

      2. “I’ll never understand”

        You can stop there, we’re all quite aware of your limitations.

        1. Birds have very small brains.

          1. birds are actually very intelligent

            1. Compared to what?

      3. Not everyone has raging TDS like you. Christians are not all raging scolding hypocrites. Many have humility. Many look at actions over words. Many don’t have hate in their hearts. Maybe you need religion to help your anger issues.

    2. Harris DID back stab biden to get the big chair.

      She brought up how biden is a segregationist during the primary.

  17. Did he ask her how Willie got her a residence on gov’t property?

  18. Well Pence doesn’t have a plan, because he thinks God has one.
    Harris has a plan all right, but her debate prep coaches advised her not to admit it, or mention it, or let it show from her jacket pocket.

    The plan is to let Biden coast through his first 100 days, racking up small victories (or blaming the lack thereof on the Republican controlled Senate, if there is one), then admit that he is facing “sudden onset” dementia and is no longer medically fit to carry out his duties. Which he may or may not have, or have already, but which Harris will make seem like the best option for him.

    1. Luckily Trump willl be reelected and we wont have to worry about the democrat party in the white house ever will

    2. Ummm what? Pence talked about a shit ton of policy last night while Harris kept rambling about unity.

      A hint of bigotry in your response.

  19. No, but you need to give Vice a pass on not answering, repeating the 25th Amendment would suffice.

    Sen. Harris answered by telling us what a great person she was; which is immediately suspect since she was a D.A.

  20. I do not believe the President and the Vice President have much room to negotiate on how a transfer of power would occur or under what circumstances except as outlined in the Constitution. It was not that important a question.

  21. Harris is HilLIARy in henna-face.

  22. This was a completely idiotic question by Susan Page. We have a process. It is called the 25th amendment.

  23. First, it is not the problem of Harris and Pence that two septuagenarians are running for President. The American people pick them (foolishly) through primaries and caucuses. While either Presidential candidate might die any day now the fact is we are all human and even people as young as Harris and Pence die everyday. So the question is not any more important for Harris and Pence as it would be for VP candidates in another election. Finally no candidate on the top of the ticket wants their VP talking about replacing them either temporarily or permanently and so no smart VP candidate would answer the question.

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  25. The most important question, by far, was “Will you pack the Supreme Court if elected?” It was never answered.

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  27. Harris’ comments make it clear she expects it to be her administration from day 1

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