VP candidates entitled to their own opinions and facts during debate

By Isaiah Colbert, Staff Reporter

Gianella Goan

The vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee and California Senator Kamala Harris elicited a calmer exchange than what viewers witnessed last week with the presidential candidates.

Scott Barnes, a senior journalism major, said the vice presidential candidates did a better job of representing their respective party’s values than the presidential candidates.

“Both candidates are passionate about their viewpoints, but [they] were able to have a discussion despite [their] differences,” he said.

Michael Wille, a senior photography major, said he often question those who are still on-the-fence about who to vote for because the candidates’ policies are fairly clear at this point in the election cycle.

“Every news cycle keeps saying ‘it’s not like 2016,'” Wille said. “No matter what … I think there’s gonna be disappointment,” he said, adding that he is concerned that Trump could be re-elected, despite Biden being ahead in many polls.

Held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Oct. 7, the debate was moderated by USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page.

Discussion topics included the pandemic, the economy, climate change, the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the role of American leadership.

Here is how the candidates answered some of the night’s most pressing questions:

Why is the U.S. coronavirus death toll higher than almost any other wealthy country?

Harris opened the debate by saying Americans have witnessed “the greatest failure” of any presidential administration under President Trump. Harris said the administration’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have not been effective.

She said Americans have sacrificed “far too much” because the Trump administration has not been willing to tell the truth.

But, Pence said since his first day in office, Trump has put the health of America first and that thousands of American lives were saved due to the “invaluable” time bought from the U.S. suspending travel to and from China.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, Operation Warp Speed will have millions of doses of a vaccine by the end of this year,” Pence said.

In response to a question from Page about the coronavirus death toll in the United States, Pence said for the past few months, Americans have demonstrated a willingness to put the health of their families, neighbors and strangers first “when given the facts.” He said he and Trump trust the American people’s ability to make choices in the best interest of their health.

Would raising taxes on the wealthy put the economic recovery at risk?

“Joe Biden believes you measure the health and strength of America’s economy based on the health and strength of the American worker and family,” Harris said. “On the other hand, you have Donald Trump who measures the strength of the economy based on how rich people are doing.”

Harris said if elected, Biden will repeal Trump’s Tax Cuts and Job Acts and invest the money from it into infrastructure and clean renewable energy on his first day in office. She said individuals from families making less than $125,000 a year would be able to attend public universities for free, and existing student loan debt would be cut by $10,000 for everyone under a Biden administration.

Pence said the average household income for four-member families has increased by $4,000 because of Trump’s tax plan.

“We have spared no expense to help American people through this,” he said. Pence said Biden and Harris will cost Americans their jobs because they want to abolish fossil fuels, ban fracking and repeal tariffs on China.

But, Biden does not want to ban fracking, according to FactCheck.org, rather he wants to ban new permits for fracking on public land.

Do you believe man-made climate change is responsible for more intense wildfires and hurricanes?

Pence said the climate is indeed changing and the Trump administration will continue to listen to the science.

“The progress we have made in a cleaner environment is because we have a strong free-market economy,” he said.

Pence said “climate alarmists” use hurricanes and wildfires to push forward the Green New Deal and that forest management must be “front and center.”

There is no concrete evidence climate change has increased the number of storms, but it has made them more severe, according to FactCheck.org.

“We don’t need a massive $2 trillion dollar Green New Deal that will impose new mandates on American businesses and families,” Pence said.

Last week during the presidential debate, Biden said he did not support the Green New Deal, though Pence said he did Wednesday night. Harris said Biden’s economic plan will create 7 million more jobs than Trump has during his presidency through clean and renewable energy and achieve zero emissions by 2050 and carbon neutral by 2035.

Was justice done in the case of Breonna Taylor?

Harris said justice was not served for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers during a botched drug investigation on March 13, according to the New York Times.

A Kentucky grand jury officially charged former police officer Brett Hankison with wanton endangerment for the shots he fired outside of Taylor’s apartment, but not for Taylor’s death.

“Bad cops are bad for good cops,” Harris said. “We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system.”

Harris said she and Biden will ban chokeholds and choreatic holds, require a national registry for police officers who break the law, get rid of private prisons and cash bail and decriminalize and expunge the records of those convicted on marijuana charges.

Although Pence said Taylor’s family has his sympathies, he said he trusts the current justice system.

“This presumption that America is systemically racist—that [Biden] believes law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities is a great insult to the men and women who serve,” he said.

Ellie Krigman, a sophomore comedy writing and performance major, said when Harris said there would be a national registry for police officers who engage in inappropriate conduct, it resonated with her.

“As a voter, I really liked that,” she said. “That’s change. That’s improvement. That stood out to me and I felt like we’re being heard.”

What steps would you take if President Trump refuses a peaceful transition of power?

Neither candidate answered the question directly. Pence was confident Trump would be re-elected and expressed distrust for mail-in voting, while Harris doubled down on Biden’s push for people to vote.

“We have it within our power within these next 27 days to make the decision about what will be the course of our country for the next four years,” she said. “If we use our vote, if we use our voice, we will win.”

Harris encouraged people to access information about early voting through iwillvote.com or joebiden.com.

Pence said the Democratic Party spent the last three years trying to overturn the 2016 election, had the FBI spy on Trump’s campaign and attempted to impeach Trump “over a phone call.”

But, the Justice Department’s Inspector General found no truth to the allegation of the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign, according to FactCheck.org.

“We have a free and fair election and we’re going to have confidence in it. I believe in all my heart that President Donald Trump is going to be re-elected for four more years,” he said.

The second presidential debate was slated for Thursday, Oct. 15, but Trump said Thursday he would not participate due to it being a virtual debate.