McArdle appeared underwhelmed by Harris’ debate performance, tweeting “Kamala Harris is … not a great debater” during the vice presidential showdown.
However, while watching post-debate coverage, the columnist took a swipe at CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who asked if Harris’ gender prevented her from “steamrolling” as much as Pence.
“Jake Tapper is suggesting that Harris was not able to be aggressive because she’s a woman. That was … not my impression of how that debate went,” McArdle reacted.
“I wish people would stop explaining every meh debate performance by a woman as a function of gender. Yes, there are challenges, but Elizabeth Warren is a good debater! Not all women are great debaters being held back by their sex–some of us, like some men, are just bad debaters,” McArdle said.
“Mike Pence is actually a good debater–full of nonsense, but a good debater. And you didn’t see him over there rolling his eyes and doing exaggerated high-school-theatrical ‘this is my disdainful face’ mugging. Harris’ X chromosomes did not force her to do that,’ the Post columnist said. “Nor did Harris’ gender force her to leave points on the table. She left them on the table because she couldn’t think of a good response quick enough.”
She concluded, “Stop grading us on a curve. We can make the grade.”
Tapper questioned if Harris held herself back during CNN’s post-debate coverage because of her gender.
“I wonder if a woman candidate feels like she can’t push as much or steamroll as much as, say, Mike Pence can for fear of seeming and offending some segment of the electorate,” Tapper said. “I’m not saying it should be that way but I’m wondering if it is that way.”
ABC News anchor George Stephanopolous took the opposite approach, accusing Pence of “mansplaining” Harris, which was rebuked by female panelists.
“Sara Fagen, let me bring that to you,” Stephanopolous pivoted to the female panelist, a former member of the George W. Bush administration. “Because obviously, Mike Pence is a former television commentator, does have a very calm demeanor, but I think that a lot of people were noticing some ‘mansplaining’ going on tonight.”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it that way, George. I didn’t come across to me,” Fagen responded. “I do think that he should have stopped talking a little quicker, but I don’t think he was disrespectful of either woman.”
Later on, Stephanopoulos’ colleague, ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz also dismissed the notion that Pence was “mansplaining.”
“When I hear people say- talk about mansplaining and talk about these things with Kamala Harris and ‘a man shouldn’t interrupt her and it’s going to look bad’… Kamala Harris is a vice-presidential candidate. She should be able to stand up for herself,” Raddatz told Stephanopoulos. “Yes, it’s history-making. Yes, you can talk about her history and who she is and she’s a woman of color there but a man can interrupt another vice presidential candidate. It is up to that candidate to talk back, to interrupt themselves, or to hold on to that debate in any way they could.”