President Trump can learn a lot from Mike Pence

He may have lost the debate, but he didn't behave like a maniac

President Trump and Mike Pence.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

Vice President Mike Pence held his own with Democratic nominee Joe Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, in their first and last debate. To be sure, the vice president repeatedly lied and leaned into deeply unpopular opinions, such as the idea that nightmare fires and mercury-melting summer temperatures are "climate alarmism" rather than catastrophic global warming, but he did so with the longstanding Republican flair for lying calmly and shamelessly that successfully characterized the GOP before the rise of Donald Trump. And it was a reminder of how much better off the Republican Party would be with someone like Pence at the helm rather than the erratic and repellant president himself that even his deeply slimy performance was significantly better than anything Trump could produce on his best day.

This is not to say that Pence won the debate. On balance, he probably lost it, because his job was to defend the record of a widely despised president in the midst of a national calamity that the president himself has intentionally exacerbated. A CNN post-debate poll — the only scientific survey available at the time this article was written — confirms that Harris was judged the winner by a decisive majority of viewers. After a somewhat slow start, when she returned to the Trump administration's evasive early response to the coronavirus outbreak one too many times, she got her jabs in, hitting Trump on some of his most yawning vulnerabilities, including his hot ongoing mess of a COVID response and his problematic tax returns.

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David Faris

David Faris is an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University and the author of It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. He is a frequent contributor to Informed Comment, and his work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Indy Week.