The Sept. 29 debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden set a really, really low bar. So yes, this week’s vice presidential debate was a stark improvement.
Yet, most telling were the questions Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Vice President nominee Kamala Harris wouldn’t answer.
We know politicians are known for dodging questions they can't answer in a positive way for the campaign. That doesn't change the fact that important questions weren't addressed.
Both candidates running to take the oath in January would become the oldest sitting president in our country’s history — Trump at 74 years old, Biden at 78.
This has placed greater emphasis on presidential succession, which includes the vice president first. Pence, 61, and Harris, 55, wouldn’t respond to the moderator’s question about whether they’ve reached an understanding with each presidential candidate regarding the issue of presidential disability. Pence lectured Harris, claiming she was undermining confidence in a vaccine. Harris spent her time talking about her resume.
Should the public see detailed health information on Trump and Biden? Pence congratulated Harris on her historic nomination and thanked the Biden campaign and Americans for their concern during Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Harris talked about Biden’s transparency … when it comes to tax records.
Instead of talking specifics on Trump’s healthcare plan and how the administration would protect those with pre-existing conditions, Pence wouldn’t answer. He preferred to talk about his pro-life stance on abortion and the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
But, to his point, Harris refused to discuss whether a Biden administration would back a proposal gaining traction among Democrats to “pack to court,” or expand the Supreme Court with liberal justices if Barrett is confirmed.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has said "nothing is off the table" if Republicans confirm a justice to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg. That, coupled with the Biden campaign's non-answer to whether they support court-packing, would lead a reasonable person to conclude it's certainly possible they'd be willing.
To Pence's disregard on a question about how Trump would protect those with pre-existing conditions should the administration successfully strip Affordable Care Act protections: It's unacceptable not to have a firm answer on this. Trump ran on the issue of healthcare in 2016. He said he had a plan, and he didn't. Since being elected, he's said one is coming: Where is it?
To date, Trump has only taken a piecemeal approach through executive orders or a rough outline of a plan. This isn't enough. With the administration's pursuit of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, they either need a firm and comprehensive plan to replace it, or they need to quit claiming they'll protect those with pre-existing conditions.