- While much more traditional in scope, Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate was riddled with unanswered questions.
- Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) dodged or redirected questions about the U.S. Supreme Court, President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and potential situations of presidential succession given the ages of both presidential candidates.
- Following last night’s event, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the second presidential debate will be virtual. On Fox Business, Trump then said he would refuse to participate in a virtual debate.
A Far More Traditional Debate
Talking about Wednesday’s vice presidential debate would be impossible to do without addressing the elephant in the room — or in this case, the fly on Mike Pence’s head.
The fly, which perched itself upon Pence’s stark white hair for more than two minutes about halfway through the debate, easily stole the show.
But that wasn’t exactly hard. The debate between current VP Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) was aboundingly more traditional than the debate last week between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
“We want a debate that is lively, but Americans also deserve a discussion that is civil,” moderator Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau Chief, said Wednesday in a tongue-in-cheek reference to that debate.
Mostly, both Harris and Pence did exactly what analysts expected. Harris pitched the case for Joe Biden, while Pence used Harris to paint Biden as much more liberal than he actually is.
Main Theme: Unanswered Questions
Like any traditional debate, unanswered questions took center stage.
In one of her first questions, Page asked Pence — the head of the Coronavirus Task Force — why the U.S. death rate for COVID-19 was higher than almost every other country.
Instead of answering why 210,000 Americans have died under the Trump Administration’s watch, Pence did what almost every political analyst expected he would do: He redirected the question and emphasized Trump’s move to restrict what he described as “all travel” from China in February.
But that’s not exactly true. While Trump did restrict travel, he didn’t outright ban it. There were still a lot of people this rule didn’t apply to.
Pence then went on to insult Joe Biden, accusing him of calling the restrictions “xenophobic,” a point Pence came back to a few times throughout the night. That’s largely false. Yes, Biden has called Trump xenophobic, but those comments were never a direct reference to the travel restrictions.
At one point, Page noted that both Biden and Trump are the oldest presidential candidates ever. Because of that, she asked Pence and Harris if they’ve had conversations with Trump and Biden, respectively, about presidential disability and succession. Again, neither gave a direct answer to Page’s question, and she did not continue to press it.
The same situation occurred later when Page asked both candidates what they would do if Trump refuses to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election. Neither candidate actually answered the question. In fact, they mostly continued with the talking points they wanted to hit on.
At one point, Page also asked Pence if he thinks climate change is an existential threat. Rather than answering, he said, “The climate is changing. We’ll follow the science.”
To note, the Trump administration has frequently ignored scientific evidence and even rolled back environmental regulations.
Unanswered Questions About SCOTUS
In one of the most pivotal segments of the night, Page asked about the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination.
During the segment, both Pence and Harris dodged her questions about Roe v. Wade and what should happen in their home states if it’s overturned. Of course, that’s not to say their positions on abortion are a secret. Pence is undeniably pro-life. Harris is staunchly pro-choice.
“Are you and Joe Biden going to pack the court if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed?” Pence asked Harris directly during the segment.
In recent weeks, several Democrats have called for adding more justices to the SCOTUS bench if the Senate pushes through Barrett’s confirmation ahead of the election. For his part, Biden has not addressed the issue.
Like Biden, Wednesday night, Harris did the same, quickly redirecting the question back to Pence in what arguably became the most contentious moment of the debate.
“Let’s talk about packing—” Harris said.
“You, once again, gave a non-answer,” Pence interrupted. “Joe Biden gave a non-answer.”
“I’m trying to answer you now.” Harris said.
“You know the people deserve a straight answer,” Pence said, “and if you haven’t figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.”
“I’ve witnessed the appointments for lifetime appointments to the federal courts, district courts, courts of appeal, people who are purely ideological, people who have been reviewed by legal professional organizations and found who have been not competent or substandard,” Harris said several exchanges later.
“And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court? Let’s have that discussion.”
Second Presidential Debate to be Virtual
Thursday morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the second presidential debate, scheduled for next week, will now be virtual “in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.”
While Biden pretty much immediately hopped on board, on Fox Business, Trump announced that he was pulling out of the debate.
“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” he said. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want.”
Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien added that Trump will now hold a rally instead.
According to the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, federal election laws forbid the hosting of a solo debate.
Despite Trump seemingly pulling the plug on this debate, there is precedent for virtual presidential debates. In 1960, both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon debated remotely on opposite ends of the country.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (ABC News)
Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters
- More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
- The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
- The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.”
- Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.
Demands for Investigation
Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.
In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack.
In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.
They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.
The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.
“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”
The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”
Members Under Fire
Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.
In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection.
Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.
“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”
While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.
“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”
Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
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Twitch Faces Backlash After Announcing a Ban On The Word ‘Simp’
- Twitch announced that using words like ‘Simp,’ ‘Incel,’ and ‘Virgin’ can get you banned if you use them as an insult to someone’s ‘perceived sexual practices.’
- The announcement was made on Dec. 16 by COO Sara Clemens during a town hall on the company’s official stream.
- Major streamers on the platform have mocked the decision, including Jacksepticeye, who wrote, “Thank God Twitch finally cured all toxicity online.“ Others even thought of alternatives to use in replaces of these words.
- How the policy will be enforced is still up in the air, with streamers and fans alike both needing to wait until January 22, 2021.
No More Simping
Starting January 22, using “simp,” “incel,” and “virgin” as an insult will be a bannable offense on the popular streaming platform Twitch.
The announcement was made on Dec. 16 by COO Sara Clemens during a town hall on the company’s official stream. “Making any derogatory statements about another person’s perceived sexual practices – and that does include targeting another person with sexually-focused terms.”
She told the host “So, using terms like ‘simp,’ ‘incel,’ and ‘virgin’ as an insult to negatively refer to someone’s sexual activity is not allowed under this new policy.”
The news, as anyone with any knowledge of the community would expect, was widely mocked. Among the first to react was Rod Breslau, a former professional gamer and notable figure in the gaming community.
He tweeted: “Twitch now says that you can no longer call others ‘simp’, ‘incel’, and ‘virgin’ as they are now against TOS, along with any emotes relating to the term simp Twitch baby, what is you doing?”
“please don’t call me a simp i will report you to the twitch police and internet authorities, thanks”
Other creators were quick to react to the news as well. Streamer and Youtuber Jacksepticeye wrote, “Thank God Twitch finally cured all toxicity online. The great virgin and simp wars are finally over. The land is at peace and nature is healing.”
Some streamers, such as FazeSimp, were worried that the decision would mean necessary changes to their branding.
Lazarbeam, one of the largest streamers on any platform, decided that he’d stand in defiance of the new rules.
As Draconian As It Seems?
Not surprisingly, the community was quick to come up with alternatives for the words. In particular, there are efforts to save the word “simp,” or at least the meaning behind it. Sykkuno and other creators trying to push “Shrimp.”
While people like Neekolul pushed for a different word, writing, “Wait is the word simp like bannable if said on stream? O_O I need to find a new word… instead of incel I’ll say manbaby and instead of simp I’ll say KINGS💯”
Despite all the backlash, it’s possible the decision is as draconian as it’s being made out to be. The words “incel,” “simp,” and “virgin” aren’t being outright banned. In her interview, Clemens specifically said, “…using terms like ‘simp,’ ‘incel,’ and ‘virgin’ as an insult to negatively refer to someone’s sexual activity is not allowed under this new policy.”
Twitch backed up that stance in a clarifying statement Breslau:
“We will take action against the use of terms like ‘simp,’ ‘incel,’ or ‘virgin’ specifically when they are being used to negatively refer to another person’s sexual practices. Using these terms on their own wouldn’t lead to an enforcement but we would take action if they were used repeatedly in a harassing manner.”
The platform went on to say, “We deny emotes related to these terms and take them down when they are reported to us. We have a stricter policy on emotes overall because they can be used across twitch so we take more proactive measures to minimize the potential for harm.”
The short version seems to be that calling someone a simp could likely get you a ban while calling oneself a simp is okay.
Like many policies that attempt to enforce similar rules, there are concerns that the grey area in between the extremes will be hard to regulate. For example, Faze Nickmercs wrote, “Can’t imagine gamin’ with the boys and not roasting the shit out of em.”
Other people online pointed out that people are focusing too much on the decision to ban specific words rather than why they’re being banned. One user tweeted, “Why does it matter what kind of words you are using to harass somebody? Shouldnt everyone harrasing get banned regardles?”
How the policy will be enforced is still up in the air, with streamers and fans alike both needing to wait until January 22, 2021 to possibly have a better idea of whether or not they’re still allow to say who they simp for.