'Thank you, Mr. Vice President': Another moderator struggles to control the conversation

4

Moderator USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page takes her seat for the vice presidential debate, Oct. 7, 2020. | Justin Sullivan/Pool via AP

2020 Debates

USA Today’s Susan Page allowed Kamala Harris and Mike Pence to dodge questions and frequently interrupt each other.

Just a week after Fox News’ Chris Wallace got roasted for ceding control to Donald Trump and Joe Biden on the debate stage, USA Today’s Susan Page fared little better with the vice-presidential contenders.

Page repeatedly allowed Kamala Harris and Mike Pence to interrupt each other as well as her throughout the debate. And while she posed probing questions during the 90 minutes, she often declined to pose follow-ups when they dodged the substance of the questions.

Advertisement

She also drew criticism for her inability to rein in Pence, as he frequently interjected during Harris’ answers. She repeatedly tried and failed to get Pence to stop talking, saying variations of “thank you” or “thank you, Mr. Vice President” 22 times over the course of the evening, to no effect.

“’Thank you VP Pence,’ may not be the best approach for a moderator to cut off a man running amok with a blatant disregard for the debate rules,” longtime news anchor Dan Rather tweeted.

Throughout the evening, Pence repeatedly exceeded the time limits set by the debate commissioners on individual questions and interrupted Harris, forcing Page to interject — mostly unsuccessfully.

However, Harris jumped in on Pence as well, and ultimately the candidates ended up with roughly the same speaking time.

“Your campaigns agreed to rules for tonight’s debate with the Commission on Presidential Debates. I’m here to enforce them,” Page said at a particularly unruly point.

But Page also appeared deferential at times to Pence, calling him “Mr. Vice President.” Meanwhile, at one point she used Harris’ first name, addressing Biden’s running mate as “Kamala Harris,” rather than “Senator Harris,” before apologizing.

“That’s fine, I’m Kamala,” Harris responded.

Harris herself tried to exert control as Pence intruded on her answers, saying, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”

But when Harris interrupted Pence, Page admonished her.

“Thank you, Senator Harris,” Page said. “Let’s give Vice President Pence a chance to respond.”

Harris pushed back at another point, saying “He interrupted me, and I’d like to just finish, please.”

The California senator also insisted on gaining back her time on multiple occasions.

“He attacked my record. I would like an opportunity to respond,” Harris said, after which Page relented, allowing Harris 30 seconds “because we’re running out of time.”

And while the debate covered a range of substantive policy issues, Page often did not ask follow-up questions, allowing both candidates to revert to talking points. Harris and Pence declined to give straight answers on a range of questions, from their support for packing the Supreme Court to the idea of the peaceful transfer of power and Trump’s health care plan for Americans with preexisting conditions.

Still, the Harris-Pence showdown was markedly more civil than last week’s chaotic debate between Trump and Biden, which Wallace himself called “a terrible missed opportunity.”

View original post