Fly in Pence's ointment
The fly in Pence's ointment. It stayed there for over two minutes, uninterrupted and undisturbed.

| The one and only vice-presidential debate took place last night, pitting Kamala Harris against Mike Pence. But the clear winner of the evening was a big black fly that perched on Pence's immaculately coiffed head for over two minutes.

This should tell you a lot about Pence's demeanor and posture for the evening. Normally when a fly lands on a creature, and the creature stirs, the fly flies away, at least temporarily. But Pence has perfected the art of entering a state of preternatural calm where nothing is allowed to intrude. It has served him well as Trump's vice president — he is able to spin utter fantasies or tell outrageous lies with a perfectly straight face, all while exuding an earnest, pinched, chronically constipated expression.

His skills in this regard were on full display last night. Faced with an uncomfortable question, he answers a different question and makes outlandish charges in the process. Also, his answers went on, and on, and on despite the best efforts of the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, to stop him: "Thank you Mr Vice President. Thank you Mr Vice President. Thank you Mr Vice President. Thank you Mr Vice President...." He did himself and his running mate no favors with this behavior. Every woman has experienced a male who will not shut up and let anyone — any female, that is — get a word in edgewise. Women have fled the Trump coalition in droves and will continue to do so. 

And when the fly landed on his head, a normal person would have felt it and swatted it away. Pence, not being a normal person, seemed utterly unaware of the fly. Or, if he was aware, was determined to simply ignore the little pest.

Truth over Flies, already sold out at the Biden campaign store

The Biden campaign, recognizing a social-media phenomenon when they saw one, immediately got to work producing a flyswatter to commemorate the event. I would have bought one, but they are already sold out.

Apart from the fly, one of the more intriguing aspects of the debate was Pence's left eye. There was obviously something wrong. Did "Mother" poke him in the eye? Does he have pink-eye? We'll never know the answer, of course.  The Trump administration is not exactly forthcoming; in fact they go to great lengths to keep things secret. Remember Trump's mysterious trip to Walter Reed hospital on a Saturday some months ago, the one Trump tried to pass off as just getting a start on his annual check-up? The Washington Post reports this morning that the doctors that saw Trump that day were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements (despite doctor-patient confidentiality) and two who refused were removed from the team.

There's no perfect debate, of course, and Kamala Harris stumbled a bit on a couple of questions. For example, she did not have a good answer to the packing-the-court question. A better response would have been to turn the question around to the packing that the Republicans have done by denying Obama's nominee Merrick Garland a hearing and blocking appointments to other courts so that Trump and McConnell could pack the judiciary with conservative judges.

But then, as a woman, as a black woman, Kamala had to walk a very fine line lest she be accused, as Michelle Obama was, of being angry. There is a double standard: the same behaviors that in men are considered leadership assets in women are treated as liabilities. And we can see it in the critique that Trump and his minions have settled on after the debate: Harris is not "likeable." Men rarely are termed "unlikeable" but women get that moniker all the time, especially those who assert themselves and refuse to take guff from blowhard men. "I'm talking"; "I don't need the vice president to lecture me about law enforcement"; etc.

This may have been the last debate of the season. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced this morning that the next debate, a town-hall style event in Miami would be done remotely because of concern about coronavirus. Trump immediately said he wouldn't participate. I say good. 


Last updated on Oct 8, 2020



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