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After VP debate, Trump and Biden disagree over future face-offs

A day after Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in their only debate, the schedule for the remaining presidential debates was thrown into disarray. In light of President Trump’s COVID-19 infection, the Commission on Presidential Debates converted the second event to virtual format, which displeased Trump. Judy Woodruff talks to Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For more on the debate and the state of the campaign, I'm joined by our own Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor.

    So, hello to both of you.

    And, Lisa, to you first.

    As we can tell from what we just listened to, this was a more policy-oriented debate than what we saw last week between the president and Joe Biden.

    So, what are some of the main policy contrasts that emerged last night?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Let's look at two, Judy.

    First, on climate change, you had Senator Harris saying it's an existential, threat and significant action is needed now. On the other hand, you had Vice President Pence just offering a question, which is, what is the cause and what do we do about it, not definitively giving his opinion on it.

    The other issue, Judy, is the economy. Vice President Pence put out there that Democrats, in his opinion, are willing to shut down the economy far too easily, overuse the muscles of government.

    Senator Harris posed a different problem. She said that, when you look at the Trump administration, it favors the rich too much.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, we did see Vice President Pence defending the president, the administration's response to the coronavirus.

    What, of all he said about that, stood out to you?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, what stood out the most is that, even though Mike Pence, Vice President Pence, is smoother and less brash than the president, not as combative, he was still sticking very closely to the Trump administration talking points.

    He said over and over again that they had saved millions of lives, hundreds of thousands of Americans, because he believes that they did the best that they possibly could, banning travel from China for most people.

    He also talked about the fact that he believes that they were straight with the American people, that they have been honest with the American people, when, in fact, President Trump, of course, has said that he downplayed the virus as to not cause panic. But Mike Pence didn't acknowledge that.

    In fact, he actually said at one point there wasn't a White House pandemic office that was dissolved, when we know, in fact, that that also actually happened under the Trump administration.

    Then, turning to the issue of racial justice, he conflated Black Lives Matter with rioting and looting in the streets, something the president does over and over again. The question became, did Breonna Taylor's family get justice?

    He said: I trust the just system, even though my heart breaks.

    Senator Harris said: Actually, no, they did not. We should get more justice for them.

    Another thing was, Pence did not answer a lot of questions, including, do the American people have a right to know what President Trump's health is like? Also, where's the Trump administration health care plan? And will you commit to a peaceful transfer of power?

    With those questions not answered, President Trump today is eager to get back on the campaign trail. He's saying that, at some point, he's going to hold a virtual rally. We're telling — we're being told that that's going to be tomorrow with Rush Limbaugh. He's, of course, the conservative radio host.

    So there's lots going on, and President Trump is anxious to have his voice be heard.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just quickly, Lisa, now that the president has pulled out of next week's debate, what are you looking for from the Biden camp in terms of their campaigning in coming days?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we can talk about today.

    Really, we're seeing some of the first even close to traditional campaign and yet for the Biden/Harris campaign.

    Both Biden and Harris are in Arizona right now, their first appearance together since the convention. They first met with tribal leaders there in Arizona, now on their way or at a union hall, and also unveiling a campaign bus.

    So, we're getting back to some traditional imagery. But one thing. Biden was asked about his opinion on whether to expand the Supreme Court. He told reporters he would not answer that question until after the Election Day.

    Speaking with his campaign, they told me that is because he doesn't want to presume that he will win. He thinks that issue is a distraction.

    However, of course, there is some criticism for Mr. Biden for not declaring what he thinks about that issue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, we thank you both.

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