Pence-Harris debate more traditional

The most buzzed-about moment in Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate came when a fly perched on Vice President Mike Pence’s head for over two minutes, during which he was calling it an “insult” to police to claim that systemic racism against black people by law enforcement exists.

Pence’s debate with Sen. Kamala Harris took a far more traditional course than last week’s chaotic interaction between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden. There was far more policy discussion this time around, with the coronavirus pandemic, trade war with China, climate change, Trump taxes, criminal justice, and abortion being mentioned.

But Pence and Harris often did not actually respond to the questions of moderator Susan Page of USA Today. At one point, Pence asked Harris if she and Biden would try to pack the Supreme Court with their own nominees if Amy Coney Barrett is approved as a justice. Harris responded by criticizing judicial appointments occurring just before an election, something she had previously done when asked what she would want California to do if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

In what the Washington Post said could have been considered a “self-critique,” Pence said “I just want the record to reflect, she never answered the question.”

Page asked Pence about how he and the president would help Americans with preexisting conditions to have access to affordable insurance if the Affordable Care Act, which includes coverage of those conditions as a key tenet, is thrown out in a court battle the administration initiated.

The vice president dodged the question, saying, “President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect pre-existing conditions for every American,” but didn’t elaborate on a plan.

Page also asked the candidates about whether they had conversations with their running mates about what would happen if the president becomes disabled. Under the 25th Amendment, a president could be declared “disabled” and removed from office by the vice president acting with a majority of the cabinet.

Pence, apparently sensing the question was inspired by the recent diagnosis of Trump with COVID-19, pivoted to talk about how the administration will have a vaccine by the end of the year (something health officials say won’t be available to the public until 2021), and that Harris is undermining public confidence by criticizing the administration on vaccine creation. Harris similarly didn’t answer Page’s question, talking instead of the moment Biden asked her to join the ticket.

Harris scored points when she mentioned the 210,000 American deaths from COVID-19, and how Trump and Pence were aware of the nature and seriousness of the pandemic early on, but downplayed the significance at first.”Can you imagine if you knew on January 28th, as opposed to March 13th, what they knew, what you might’ve done to prepare?” she asked.

Page followed that up by asking Pence why the US death toll, as a percentage of the population, is higher than that of almost every other wealthy nation on Earth. Pence, the head of the administration’s coronavirus task force, focused his response on Trump’s February ban of foreign travelers from mainland China.

The two candidates had different strategies. Pence took the road of running out the clock, a filibuster method of sorts, as Joanna Weiss called it at WBUR, while looking quite serious and poised. Undecided voters on CNN later called the approach “confident.”

It seemed that Harris anticipated Pence’s many interruptions to her answers, pausing several times to look over and say ““Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” just to have him look back over and continue. He interrupted her twice as many times as she interrupted him, the first time when she was responding to Pence’s claim that Biden will raise taxes “on day one” of his presidency.

Marketwatch reports that those moments are resonating for women online, many of whom empathize with the many moments men have interrupted or spoken over them in professional settings.

SARAH BETANCOURT

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Lawmakers hear dire warnings about a downturn in state revenues that could range from $1.2 billion to $3.6 billion compared to last year. Revenues were up in the first three months of the year, but analysts say that will change as federal aid that had been propping up the economy dries up. Lobbying begins on whether new taxes are needed, with the Massachusetts High Technology Council urging that nothing be done on taxes until after the election or until the next Legislature is sworn in.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement calls the stop of a black jogger in West Roxbury “standard practice” when hunting a fugitive. The jogger’s partner calls it an example of the perils of “running while black.”

The number of COVID-19 high-risk, or red, communities in Massachusetts nearly doubles, and the state as a whole nears the red zone.

After the positive test rate for COVID-19 hits 4.1 percent in Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh puts back on in-person learning for most students.

Higher immigration fees put on hold.

Opinion: Attorney Margaret Monsell says the Legislature punted on the issue of expanding the governor’s powers to deal with emergencies in 2009, which is why those powers are being challenged in court now. Even then-Rep. Karyn Polito (now Lt. Gov. Polito) opposed expanding the governor’s powers in 2009.

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

BEACON HILL

Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan says the Baker administration does not want to raise taxes to fill a budget hole. (MassLive)

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame unveils a bobblehead of Gov. Charlie Baker. (MetroWest Daily News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says large landlords in the city have agreed to hold off on evictions and work with tenants should a state-imposed moratorium be lifted later this month. (Boston Globe)

Relying on a state nuisance law, the Board of Health in Natick authorizes fines of $1,000 for each violation of safety measures designed to protect the public from COVID-19. (MetroWest Daily News)

The towns of Dartmouth and Acushnet have joined New Bedford as red zone or higher risk communities, in the state’s coronavirus spread categories. (Standard-Times)

The Worcester fire department will undergo an outside review of its safety procedures after two firefighter deaths in one year. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Three epidemiologists urge people to sign the Great Barrington Declaration, which promotes focused protection against COVID-19 — shielding those most vulnerable to infection while allowing the least vulnerable to live normal lives, become infected, and build herd immunity. (Berkshire Eagle)

Hospital CEOs say they are better prepared for a surge in COVID-19 cases this winter than they were in the spring. (The Salem News)

MassLive profiles the plight of COVID-19 “long-haulers,” who experience virus symptoms for months after they appear to recover from their initial illness.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A barrage of bizarre and incendiary tweets by President Trump that “appeared erratic even by his standards” have some speculating about whether steroids he’s been prescribed are affecting his mental state. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that next week’s second debate between President Trump, who was diagnosed a week ago with COVID-19, and Joe Biden would be done virtually because of coronavirus concerns, but Trump promptly rejected the idea as “ridiculous” and said he won’t take part. (New York Times)

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine said US leaders have failed to respond to the challenge of COVID-19 and urged to embrace new leadership. “They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy,” the editorial said.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris squared off in a largely civil debate last night in Utah in which the coronavirus pandemic figured prominently. (Washington Post)

The Globe’s James Pindell says Pence performed better than Harris, but he gives both candidates a C- and says their relatively equal performances were bad news for the Trump-Pence ticket because it trails in the polls. The Herald’s Joe Battenfeld says Pence “dominated” the debate.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is facing a challenge from House Speaker Sara Gideon, but there are also two independents in the race. That means ranked-choice voting could play a role in the outcome. (NPR)

Some Haverhill voters who requested mail-in ballots for the November election received a letter listing a September 1 deadline for returning the ballot, after the clerk’s office mistakenly used materials left over from the September primary. (Eagle-Tribune)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

JPMorgan Chase is giving Boston Medical Center $5 million to help train Boston residents for better jobs and to promote access to affordable housing. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

An anonymous donor to Smith College gives $40 million for financial aid and $10 million for career development. The $50 million donation is the largest in the school’s history. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

ARTS/CULTURE

Museums adapt to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. (MassLive)

FABRIC Arts Festival organizers are bringing back their event to Fall River for a second year on October 16 and 17, with creative ways to adhere to pandemic limitations. (O Jornal)

Artistry meets industry at Plymouth’s 1620 Designs. (Patriot Ledger) 

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The state’s Drought Management Task Force is recommending that the Cape’s drought level remain classified as “significant,” citing the region’s worst drought conditions in four years. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The US Justice Department asks the US Supreme Court to hear the case of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose death sentence was overturned by a US Appeals Court. (Associated Press)

A coronavirus outbreak at Middleton Jail is leading to calls for more testing of jail inmates. (Gloucester Daily Times)

The Worcester police are refusing to release records of an internal investigation into a former K-9 handler whose dog bit a man after a brawl at a beer garden. The man who was bitten has sued the police. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

MassLive, which has long boasted of its free news content, will start offering certain stories only to subscribers. (MassLive)

PASSINGS

Former Berkshire Eagle executive editor and Boston Globe editorial writer Donald MacGillis died yesterday following a hiking accident on Mount Katahdin in Maine. He was 75. (Berkshire Eagle)