As is the usual pattern on the morning after a political debate, with only a few clicks of the mouse, you can find expert analysts claiming Mike Pence or Kamala Harris “won” last night’s encounter… sometimes on the same page. Others with a bit more of a sense of humor suggest that the real winner was the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head and stayed there for over two minutes. (That fly is no Pizza Rat, but still earned its fifteen minutes of fame.) Still, there was actually some substance to the exchanges between the two candidates. Perhaps the most telling engagement of the entire affair, and arguably one of the Vice President’s best moments of the evening, came when the subject of Democrats potentially packing the Supreme Court came up. Following in Joe Biden’s footsteps, Kamala Harris once again simply ignored the question and refused to answer. (Free Beacon)
“Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the Supreme Court, which has had nine seats for 150 years, if you don’t get your way,” Pence said. “Now you’ve refused to answer the question. Joe Biden has refused to answer the question, so I think the American people would really like to know. If Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, are you and Joe Biden going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?”
Harris said the open Supreme Court seat should not be filled while an election was underway but would not directly answer Pence’s question.
Pence repeated his question and said it was clear to viewers that she and Biden would pack the Court. Harris accused the Trump administration of packing the lower courts with what she deemed substandard judges, but she again dodged responding to Pence’s query.
“I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question. Maybe in the next debate Joe Biden will answer the question,” Pence said.
I’m not sure when the decision to adopt this strategy was made at Biden HQ, but it’s one of the more tone-deaf choices in recent memory. Both Biden and (potentially) Harris are asking to be placed in one of the most powerful positions in the world. And among the many powers granted to presidents, one of the arguably most weighty abilities is the opportunity to select the people who will serve on the nation’s highest court, potentially for a generation. How they plan to handle that responsibility is obviously of interest to the voters who are weighing their decision for November 3rd.
The way that Harris pulled off this trick is actually far more insulting to the public than what her running mate has done. At least when Joe Biden was asked about court-packing he flatly stated, “I’m not going to answer the question.” While unhelpful to the voting public, at least he owned the fact that he’s refusing to divulge his intentions. By contrast, Kamala Harris was asked the question multiple times and simply chose to answer a different question that hadn’t been asked. The situation was bad enough that Pence was finally forced to ask that the record reflect that Harris had dodged the issue yet again.
Of course, this really isn’t all that different from much of the rest of the Biden-Harris campaign. There’s been so little substance offered on policy throughout the contest that it’s difficult for anyone to know what their plans are if they are elected. Most of the time, Biden won’t commit to anything he actually plans on doing aside from a promise (that was repeated by Harris last night) to raise all of your taxes “on day one.” Aside from that, their joint platform is largely a mystery.
That’s not to say that both of them haven’t provided plenty of answers in the past. But the problem is, they’ve promised everything to everyone. Whether you’re talking about drilling for fossil fuels, eliminating private health insurance, or the Green New Deal, you can find clips and quotes from both of them taking each side of the position. Their answers are situational, depending on the audience of the moment, and subject to change as soon it’s inconvenient to hold the same position. We saw plenty of that again last night from Kamala Harris, who has abandoned virtually all of the positions she took during the primary to get in line with whatever Biden’s agenda of the moment happens to be.
So did last night’s show move the needle for any significant number of potentially persuadable voters? I’d be very surprised if it did. But we’ll always have the images of that house fly to amuse us until this long slog is finally over.