2020 debates

‘Mr. Vice President, I’m Speaking’

Kamala Harris. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

From moderator Susan Page’s opening statements, it was mercifully clear that tonight’s vice-presidential debate would be an altogether more coherent affair than last week’s presidential disaster. But even though Mike Pence was more restrained than President Trump, their debate style shared some notable unifying features: a refusal to answer the damn question; constant, unabashed interruptions; and the complete inability to respect the moderator or the rules. Only this time, he was far less successful in bulldozing his opponent.

The first time Pence attempted to butt in on Kamala Harris came early on in the debate, as she embarked on a 15-second rejoinder to the idea that President Trump and his coronavirus task force — of which Pence is the head — had handled the pandemic in a manner that instilled calm. Harris thwarted Pence’s interruption with a firm, “Mr. Vice-President, I’m speaking” — a phrase she wound up using often on Wednesday night.

Shortly after that, about half an hour in, Pence again tried to plow over Harris’s clarification of Joe Biden’s tax plan.

“This debate is supposed to be about fact and truth, and the truth and the fact is — Joe Biden has been very clear — he will not raise taxes on people who make less than $400,000 a year,” she said. As the vice-president butted in and began speaking over her, Harris came back with an exasperated but firm: “Mr. Vice-President, I’m speaking.”

“I’m speaking,” she said, as he sputtered his way back into her time slot a third time. “If you don’t mind letting me finish, we can have a conversation, okay? Okay.” Her face said it all:

‘Mr. Vice-President, I’m Speaking’