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Must-See TV: Never in history has a vice presidential debate been so consequential

With Trump battling COVID and Biden turning 78, the showdown between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will draw heightened attention. Is one of them a soon-to-be American president?

JERUSALEM – On Wednesday night, the eyes of Israelis, Arabs and people all over the world will be on Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris as they square off for the most important, consequential and high-stakes vice presidential debate in American history.

  • The debate will begin on Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. eastern time.
  • It will be held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
  • It will be moderated by Susan Page of USA Today.
  • Watch online by clicking here.
In a typical year, scant attention is paid to vice presidential debates.

But 2020 is no typical year.

Threats Facing President Trump The leader of the free world, and Israel’s most important ally – President Donald J. Trump – has contracted COVID-19.

Given that the virus has taken the lives of more than 1 million people worldwide, including more than 200,000 Americans and a rising number of Israelis (see below), many wonder if – and some fear that – Trump could succumb to the virus, suddenly elevating Pence to the presidency.

At 74 years old and overweight, Trump is in a highly vulnerable category.

Last Thursday, he became so ill – with a 103 degree fever and needing supplemental oxygen – that he had to be hospitalized for several days at America’s premier military hospital. There, he was aggressively treated with experimental drugs usually reserved for those who are critically ill.

His medical team says they are encouraged by Trump’s improvement and allowed him to return to the White House on Monday night.

U.S. President Donald Trump works from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center  after testing positive for COVID. (Photo: White House)

But his doctors are also saying that while they are “cautiously optimistic” that he will make a full recovery, the president is “not out of the woods” and could yet have hard days ahead of him.

“Now, all eyes are shifting to Vice President Mike Pence,” as I wrote last Thursday in my dispatch about Pence’s speech to an Evangelical conference in Des Moines.

So far, Pence and his wife, Karen, have repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus.

Still, “questions abound,” I noted.

Among them:

  • If Trump becomes significantly ill and effectively incapacitated, would Pence have to assume — even if only temporarily — the full responsibilities of the presidency under Article 25 of the Constitution?
  • If the Secret Service was unable to keep the president safe from the coronavirus, how will they keep Pence safe?
  • Should Pence come off the campaign trail, avoid in-person events, and do only media interviews and Zoom events?
  • What happens if Pence contracts COVID-19 even while Trump is ill with the virus?
Threats Facing Joe Biden So far, Joe Biden – the Democrat presidential nominee and former vice president – has remained COVID-free.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden adjusts his protective face mask . (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Biden has been extra careful – he routinely wears a mask, and has severely limited his exposure to crowds, doing minimal public campaigning or even media interviews since the pandemic erupted in March, despite widespread criticism.

The reason is clear enough: When it comes to the threat of the coronavirus, Biden is, like Trump, also in a highly vulnerable category.

He will turn 78 years old on Nov. 20.

If elected, he would be the oldest first-term president in American history ever to take the oath of office.

What’s more, aside from COVID, many Americans are concerned that Biden does not appear to be up for the job. An article published by Psychology Today last week noted that “Biden’s mental state and alleged proneness to gaffes continue to be the topic of much discussion.”   In September, CNBC published a national poll that found a stunning 52 percent of Americans say Biden is “mentally unfit” to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

(That said, the same national poll found that an equally stunning 55 percent of Americans believe Trump is “mentally unfit” for the job as well.)

Not surprisingly, Americans are becoming increasingly interested in Biden’s vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris.

  • Who is she?
  • What does she believe?
  • What is her background and experience?
  • How does she handle herself under pressure?
  • If the Biden-Harris ticket wins, and for whatever reason Biden becomes unable to serve, is Harris ready to be president?
Never has it seemed so possible to so many people in the U.S., throughout the Middle East and around the world that one of the vice presidential candidates on the debate stage could actually become the nation’s chief executive – perhaps sooner rather than later.

That’s why so many will be paying such close attention to the debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night. I certainly plan to watch it live, even though it will air at 4 a.m. Israel time.

In the meantime, this week:

  • Please join me in praying for the quick and full recovery of President Trump, First Lady Melania and all of the White House staff and friends of the administration who are also battling COVID.
  • Please pray, too, that the Lord will protect Joe and Jill Biden, Kamala and Doug Harris, Mike and Karen Pence, and their families and advisors from getting COVID.
  • Please pray for their safety and stamina on the campaign trail, as well.
COVID Catastrophe In Israel The COVID-19 crisis in Israel remains out of control.
Doctors wear protective clothes in the coronavirus ward of Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital. (Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Here’s what to watch this week:

  • Nine million Israelis remain in full national lockdown, as they have throughout the last few weeks of the High Holidays.
  • Yet still, the death toll is soaring.
  • Last week, I noted that more Israelis have died from the coronavirus (1,507 people) than from all the wars and terror attacks for the last 20 years (1,411 people).
  • Since then, another 250 Israelis have died from COVID, bringing the death toll to 1,757 people.
  • Meanwhile, another 273,826 Israelis have tested positive for COVID, of which 875 are considered serious cases.
As you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, please pray for the health of all Israelis. Please pray for a quick and full recovery for all Israelis who are battling the virus.

And please pray, too, for the comfort of those who have lost loved ones due to the virus during this crazy, cruel year.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

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