The first vice presidential debate was a historic moment in at least one way. CBS News journalist Elaine Quijano became the first Asian-American journalist to assume the important role of moderator at such a debate. She singlehandedly quizzed Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence on issues like immigration, gun control, and fiscal policy. But there was one incredibly frustrating aspect of Tuesday night's event, which was held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. Ultimately, Quijano's experience at the VP debate was a microcosm of the everyday experience of being a woman — specifically, what it's like to be interrupted, talked over, and just generally disrespected in conversation.
Both candidates were guilty of failing to adhere to debate rules, running over their times and cacophonous bickering, to the point where Quijano stopped them dead in their tracks. "The people at home cannot understand either one of you when you speak over each other. I would please ask you to wait until it is that the other is finished," she stated at one point. Multiple times, she fought to steer candidates back on track to issues at hand rather than allow them time to just attack each other and let the debate devolve. "Elaine, let me finish a sentence," Pence said at one point when the esteemed journalist once again tried to break up a row.
Kaine was similarly guilty of acting shockingly rude to the moderator. "This is important, Elaine," he insisted about an off-topic statement. Quijano was asking about Aleppo and raising prescient foreign policy questions — specifically, whether "the U.S. have a responsibility to protect civilians and prevent mass casualties" such as those seen in the war-torn Syrian city. The Virginia senator was taking the latter part of his allotted time to question his opponent's support of U.S. troops, as well as attack GOP nominee Donald Trump for allegedly not paying taxes for two decades.
The attacks on the presidential nominees continued on yet another foreign policy question, with Pence choosing to discuss the Clinton Foundation and Kaine choosing to defend his running mate, as well as attack Trump's tax returns once more. "I would remind you both this was about North Korea," Quijano said as Pence prepared to combat allegations against the Trump Foundation, an organization that has little to do with North Korea.
Both candidates acted like children as Quijano endured a debate punctuated with condescending utterances of her name and enough cross-talk to make it the free space on a debate bingo card. Moderator or not, this type of social dynamic is all too common for women in America. Quijano did an incredible job of making the most of a debate with two unwieldy participants. It's a shame this historic moment was somewhat tarnished by their pettiness.