Playing oil spill tourist, state Attorney General and Democratic U.S. Senate wannabe Kamala Harris dropped by Santa Barbara Thursday, a visit that her staff kept insisting was official business but that sure felt like a campaign stop.
In the ancient tradition of high-profile California politicians, General Harris commanded the attention of most of the TV news cameras in Southern California, striking a pose before the Santa Barbara Channel, the state’s most beguiling symbol of enduring conflict between the splendors of nature and the abominations of corporate rapacity.
In brief remarks to reporters, the 2016 Democratic front-runner was definitely leaning nature’s way.
“It’s something that we’re taking very seriously,” she said when asked if she’s seen evidence of criminality on the part of Plains All-American Pipeline, the Texas-company that owns and operates a 24-inch pipeline that ruptured on May 19, spewing more than 100,000 gallons of 120-degree oil into the sea.
“And we’ve got boots on the ground, and in terms of my office, I’ve got almost a dozen attorneys combined with folks who are helping with our investigation to work with the local and state and federal agencies and to do our independent investigation,” she added.
Boots on the ground? A dozen attorneys? Goddam, boys, let’s get our asses headed back to Houston pronto!
So much for the official business.
A staff of four press aides from the AG’s office kept reporters penned up in a corner of the parking lot at Refugio State Beach, far away from Kamala’s private meeting with Plains officials and the inter-agency group conducting the clean-up and far away from her inspection of the actual oil-rinsed beach.
By the time she finally stood up before the cameras and consented to just over five minutes with TV types, the thought occurred that perhaps she had just come for pretty pictures, not for a substantive colloquy on the Man vs. Mother Earth conflict.
Kamala speaks! For what it’s worth, Calbuzz did get to advance a few quick questions in the 2:42 minutes it took to walk with her to her waiting car:
Coastal Commission: Harris, noting that she’s the governor’s lawyer, refused to be drawn into the controversy created when Gandalf suspended the authority of the Coastal Commission in dealing with the environmental impacts of spill: “I can’t talk about my relationship with my client, so I’m not going to answer but I do know the governor is taking this spill very seriously.” Clearly.
Trade: Harris said if she was in the Senate today, she would vote with organized labor and against President Obama, her erstwhile ally, and oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: “Basically the way I feel about it is, we’ve got to be able to protect American workers and balance, also talk about this issue (pointing to the aforementioned Channel), talk about what we need to do about having environmental standards around those trade agreements and I haven’t been satisfied that it meets those concerns.”
Iran: On the other hand, she said she would stand in the Senate with Obama on his efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran: “The point he’s making is, he’s trying to strike a balance around between creating a dialogue and an opportunity for a dialogue in that region and I support what he’s doing. And I’ll also say that we’ve got to, basically have some time period and some restraint on the use of force authorization and I support that the three year term that he has proposed is right.” Please diagram this sentence.
A final word on stagecraft: It’s hard to mess up a shot with the Santa Barbara coastline, but whoever did the advance for this trip did their best.
Instead of having the cameras set up to shoot her at an angle, Queen Kamala stood with her back directly to the sun and the wind, leaving her to struggle vainly with her hair, her hands in almost every shot, and her skinny little mic looking sad and lonely standing next to a big stout palm.
Photo credits: Paul Wellman and Barney Brantingham, Santa Barbara Independent.