The Fly-By-Night Debate


Just because viewers got transfixed watching a fly perched on Vice President Pence’s head doesn’t mean that there wasn’t substance to Wednesday night’s debate. The evening gave the audience ample chance to contrast the two individuals who– given the 70-plus age of the presidential contenders — might be called upon to lead our nation.

Sen. Kamala Harris likely scored best in the event, partly because she was able to delve into the administration’s greatest failures: management of the Covid pandemic, refusal to listen to scientists, undoing medical insurance, an erratic foreign policy and a failed China trade war. Harris opened the debate with the devastating remark that Trump had “the largest failure of any president in history” in his handling of a pandemic that cost the lives of 210,000 Americans.

Vice President Pence tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to dig President Trump out of the deep hole he dug for himself during his disastrous debate with Joe Biden. Pence, however, did manage to put Harris on the defensive with the questions he asked her, using the ploy to avoid responding to the moderator’s questions. 

What may have mattered more than the specific debate lines was the demeanor of the two opponents. Kamala Harris won when it came to body language. She managed to show herself an avid listener whenever Pence was speaking; when she herself spoke, she looked directly at the audience.  Meanwhile, Pence lost the audience, resorting to slow droning responses and adopting a tight-lipped demeanor and pained frown. He was like the juror you wouldn’t select for your jury.

With his many interruptions, Pence lost big with the very suburban women his ticket needs. It was a turnoff for any woman who has ever had the experience of having a man speak over her. The questions Pence could not or did not answer — questions like peaceful transition of power and the government’s position on Roe vs Wade — will return to haunt him. 

Did Kamala win the debate? I believe she did. She used the opportunity for viewers to get to know her better, mostly in a good way. The best you could say for Pence is he didn’t lose as badly as an out-of-control Trump did when facing Biden. As one commentator remarked the fly on Pence’s head left, bored by a vice president who did his best to pretend he works for a normal presidency.

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Jean Godden wrote columns first for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and later for the Seattle Times. In 2003, she quit to run for Seattle City Council where she served 12 years. She now writes for Westside Seattle and has been a co-host on The Bridge, aired on community radio station KMGP. You can email tips and comments to Jean at


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