Vice Presidential debate between Harris and Pence taught us little

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Ruben Navarrette Jr., Opinion columnist
Published 3:15 a.m. ET Oct. 9, 2020

I saw two people who were oblivious to how annoying it is for voters to see politicians who — while perhaps well-versed in social studies — still managed to come up short on social skills.

The elephant in the room in Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate wasn’t an elephant at all. It was a zebra.

When Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence took the stage, the contrast was as clear as black and white.

In fact, even before Harris and Pence arrived at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City, some commentators were euphemistically alluding to the fact that the candidates came from different backgrounds.

It’s a safe bet they weren’t talking about how the 61-year-old Pence is a product of Columbus, Indiana and 55-year-old Harris was — as she was sure to emphasize at one point — born in Oakland, California. 

Riots, looting and systemic racism

After a tense summer of racial unrest in dozens of U.S. cities, and Americans more divided on the issue of race than we have been since the 1960’s, there they were on stage — albeit socially-distancing from one another: a Black woman and a White man. 

This kind of matchup doesn’t happen every day. In fact, it has never happened before in all of U.S. history. Oh, there have been two other women nominated for vice president by a major political party — Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008. But they were both White.

Watching the start of the debate, I anticipated that fireworks were on the way — and, more than likely, over the issue of race.

Yet, for the first 30 minutes of the debate, race did not come


University of Utah proceeding as planned for vice presidential debate Wednesday

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The vice presidential debate Wednesday is still proceeding as planned for now after President Trump’s positive coronavirus diagnosis, according to the University of Utah.

The university is hosting the event in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7.

A university spokesman said Friday that anybody who requests access to the security perimeter and those in the debate hall must test negative for the coronavirus and wear a mask at all times.

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris both tested negative for the virus Friday.

There will be exceptions for the mask mandate during the debate for Mr. Pence, Ms. Harris, and moderator Susan Page.

According to reporters who were at Tuesday’s debate between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden, many people on the president’s side of the room, including his four adult children, eschewed the Cleveland Clinic’s requirement that attendees wear masks once they were in their seats.

First lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive for the virus, was spotted wearing a mask as she walked to her seat but eventually took it off, according to Bloomberg’s Tyler Pager.

Mr. Trump himself lampooned Mr. Biden during the debate for his mask-wearing habits.

“Our policy is that everyone must wear a mask,” said Shawn Wood, the University of Utah spokesman, when asked about possible enforcement mechanisms for attendees at the vice presidential debate.

The Cleveland Clinic, the health advisor for the Commission on Presidential Debates, said in a statement Friday that everyone inside the debate hall on Tuesday had tested negative for COVID-19 prior to entry and that they believe there was a low risk of exposure for the guests.

“Individuals entering the debate hall were masked and in some cases removed their masks once seated,” the medical center also said. “A Cleveland Clinic physician