With two presidential ticket debates now in the books, one fact is clear: If President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence did not step in to ask the tough questions of their opponents, they were likely not to get asked at all.
Of course, the converse is also true. If former Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Kamala Harris of California did not push their GOP rivals, the debate moderators would do it for them.
The Supreme Court-packing issue is a prime case in point.
Presidential debate moderator “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace did raise the issue, but appeared content with Biden’s non-answer answer.
“Whatever position I take on that, that’ll become the issue,” Biden said.
What does that even mean?
Biden’s response is an admission that the topic is very important, with significant implications for the separation of powers.
The Supreme Court has had nine justices since 1869, so if the Democratic nominee supports changing that number, the American people have the right to know.
Trump stepped in and asked Biden directly twice, “Are you going to pack the court?”
“He doesn’t want to answer the question,” the president concluded.
“I’m not going to answer the question,” Biden responded, before eventually saying to Trump, “Will you shut up, man?”
Wallace intervened and said, “Gentlemen … we have ended this segment.”
What’s that? How about a follow-up to Biden like this, “If you are supportive of changing the makeup of an entire branch of government, don’t you think Americans should know before casting a ballot?”
At this week’s vice presidential debate, moderator Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief, didn’t follow up on the court-packing issue either.
It was up to Pence to step in and press Harris on it.
“If Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, are you and Joe Biden, if somehow you win this election, going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?” Pence asked.
Harris responded by making the deceptive claim that Abraham Lincoln refused to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court shortly before his re-election in October 1864, claiming “Honest Abe” did not think it was the right thing to do.
However, Lincoln did not refuse to nominate, but rather waited to nominate Salmon Chase to replace Chief Justice Roger Taney until December 1864, because the Senate had been out of session.
Pence followed up, but Harris deflected again.
Page, like Wallace, let the senator’s response fly and announced, “Let’s go on and talk about the issue of racial justice.”
“I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question,” the vice president said in response, as Page shot a look of frustration his way.
Was Pence being aggressive toward Harris or “mansplaining” simply by doing what the moderator failed to do?
A review of the transcripts from each debate shows other times both Wallace and Page put loaded questions to Trump and Pence, but not to Biden and Harris.
The first question out of the gate in the Cleveland presidential debate was to Trump, asking him to refute Biden’s claim that the president is engaging in an “abuse of power” by trying to “jam” Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court appointment through the Senate.
“And where do you think a Justice Barrett would take the court?” Wallace wondered.
Wink, wink, nod, nod. Wallace’s subtext is: “You’re trying to fill the court with right-wing radicals.”
Shortly thereafter, Wallace noted there would be a case involving the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court shortly after the election.
The moderator then proceeded to get into a back and forth with Trump over the legislation, charging he has no plan to replace Obamacare, while Biden watched the two spar for the next few minutes.
“I guess I’m debating you, not him, but that’s OK. I’m not surprised,” Trump said.
Later in the debate, the moderator took a shot at Trump’s economic record. Trump consistently polls best among voters in his handling of the economy.
“You talk about the economy booming. It turns out that in Obama’s final three years as president more jobs were created, a million and a half more jobs, than in the first three years of your presidency,” he said.
What Wallace failed to mention is the the economy grew just 1.6 percent during Obama’s last year in office.
But under the Trump administration, the country enjoyed its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years and the lowest ever recorded for African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.
Trump pointed out during the Obama/Biden administration, the U.S. experienced its slowest economic recovery from a recession since before World War II, a point even CNN conceded in 2016.
At the end of Obama’s first term in office, the unemployment rate stood at 8 percent, slightly higher than the 7.9 percent it hit last month, despite being in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Gallup released a poll this week finding 56 percent of registered voters say they are better off now than they were four years ago under Obama/Biden.
That is the highest percentage the polling organization ever registered during a re-election year going back to Ronald Reagan in 1984.
? NEWS: @Gallup’s most recent survey found a clear majority of registered voters (56%) saying they are better off now (under President @realDonaldTrump’s Administration) than they were four years ago, while 32% said they are worse off. pic.twitter.com/XPoZSRfBBu
— Ken Farnaso (@KLF) October 9, 2020
Wallace steered entirely clear of the issue of Biden and his son Hunter’s highly suspect dealings in the Ukraine. Trump had to raise the topic.
In 2018, Biden bragged about threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Kiev unless a Ukrainian prosecutor (who happened to have investigated the natural gas company where Hunter earned a reported $50,000 per month as a board member) was fired.
That sure looks like a solid quid pro quo. Trump was impeached by the House on much flimsier grounds.
Biden is now seeking the presidency. Shouldn’t the question be asked?
FLASHBACK: Two years ago, Joe Biden bragged about holding up $1 BILLION in U.S. loans unless Ukraine fired the prosecutor investigating Burisma, the corrupt company paying Hunter $80k+ per month.
Why don’t Democrats want to investigate that??pic.twitter.com/bDhaKjFNZN
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) January 24, 2020
From Page came the accusation that the White House held a “super-spreader” COVID event in the Rose Garden to announce Barrett’s nominatiom to the Supreme Court.
That’s an establishment media narrative that has not been proven. Some people who attended the event later tested positive for COVID-19, but many did not, including the vice president himself, his wife Karen and Attorney General William Barr, all of whom were in the front row.
.@WhiteHouse press office just sent out a “photos of the week” email including (wait for it) new pics of Amy Coney Barrett event in Rose Garden, where several attendees may have contracted Covid. Good for contact tracing I guess. pic.twitter.com/2fjPmilQ2N
— Peter Spiegel (@SpiegelPeter) October 3, 2020
Seated right behind them were GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ben Sasse of Nebraska (who had his mask partially in place). Again, they did not test positive.
Many other administration officials and lawmakers were there, but no reports of a major outbreak justifying the characterization of a “super-spreader” event.
Yet Page advanced the narrative of Trump administration COVID-19 irresponsibility nonetheless.
The moderator slated for the next presidential debate — if it happens at all — is C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who worked on Biden’s Senate staff as a college intern and tweeted about his NeverTrump views in 2016, writing, “No, Not Trump. Not Ever.”
I don’t care how “good” of a person Steve Scully is. He’s a debate moderator who interned for Joe Biden, tweeted out “not Trump, not ever,” and now got exposed to have been coordinating with Scaramucci and is blaming “hackers.”
There is no coming back from this. He’s done. pic.twitter.com/Lcx35feoL2
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) October 9, 2020
The establishment media decries the aggressive debate styles of Trump and to a lesser degree Pence, but if the moderators would do their jobs better, there would be no need for the president and vice president to step in and do it for them.
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