Stella Maxwell
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Pete Buttigieg Discusses Channeling 'Inner Mike Pence' for Debate Prep

Mike Pence and Pete Buttigieg

In the segment prior to the Wednesday vice-presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, Rachel Maddow asked Pete Buttigieg his process for "channeling your inner Mike Pence."

The gay former presidential candidate helped the California senator get ready for the much-anticipated head-to-head in Salt Lake City by portraying the Republican vice president in debate prep.

"As we saw in 2016, Mike Pence is someone who is comfortable saying things that are utterly false with a completely straight face," a masked Buttigieg said in the MSNBC interview. "It's one of the reasons that he's actually a very effective debater. And we wanted to make sure that we're prepared for that."

Pence, said Buttigieg, delivers mistruths in a "more soothing much more calming way than Donald Trump but still putting out those same falsehoods."

President Trump, of course, last week delivered a disastrous debate performance that was full of falsehoods and extremely aggressive; he interrupted Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace dozens of times.

But Buttigieg sees tonight's debate as a new opportunity — particularly in delivering a message that resonated with himself as a gay American.

"This isn't just about the horrifying failures of this administration. It's also a chance to remind Americans of what we could have with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the country, not only listening to science and dealing with this coronavirus pandemic but having an economy that actually works for us, making sure we protect our rights and that we have a nominee to the Supreme Court who believes in protecting our rights from a woman's right to choose to our right to have health care to my right to be married [to] the importance of making sure we have not tax cuts for the wealthy but a fairer tax system," he said.

"There's issue after issue after issue where most Americans already agree with our ticket and this is a good chance to remind America what life would be like if you actually have the right kind of leadership, that the 2020s were a comeback for America instead of a decade of decline."

Buttigieg added that Pence's role in the Trump administration "has been to try and create the impression of normalcy around the utterly bizarre and he actually does it through tone. ... Even when he's delivering an attack, a lot of times he does it so calmly, so gently, they almost miss it if you're not watching closely." He asserted that he knows "some of those tricks" from having served as mayor of South Bend, Ind., when Pence was governor of Indiana.

However, Pence is in "a tough position," Buttigieg asserted, because he must "defend the indefensible. A lot of us were taken aback by how confidently he defended bizarre behavior in the 2016 debate. I think now that the American people can see for ourselves the consequences of that failed leadership, there's gonna be a chance to cut through all of that, and that's what I hoping the senator will be able to do."

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