Why It’s Way Too Soon to Celebrate Kamala Harris


kamalajoeAmid the Kamala Harris triumph- alism now reverb- erating through the Beltway echo chamber, Calbuzz interrupts this program to bring Democrats this public service reminder:

The 2020 presidential election is about three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And for every lefty hipster lighting up the Twitterverse with joyful, if thoroughly ageist, denunciations of Joe Biden, it’s worth remembering yet again that the campaign is not a national popular vote but 50 state elections – and asking a crucial question raised by NBC’s First Read:

“Can a private-insurance-eliminating, decriminalizing-border-crossings Democrat win outside of California and New York?”

williehortonTruancy and death penalty To which, we also wonder, how would Harris fare if Donald Trump attacks her (accurately) for proposing to punish parents of truant school children while opposing the death penalty for a cop killer?

If you thought Willie Horton was hard for Michael Dukakis to handle, wait until you see how Trump reminds voters of Harris’s actual position on sentencing for David Hill, who gunned down San Francisco Police Officer Isaac Espinoza with an AK-47 in 2004.

And at some point, her handling of sexual abuses cases by Catholic priests will also become fodder because it is so well documented by first-rate reporters like Mike Rezendes. She says she knows how to go after sexual predators (like Trump) except she didn’t when she was San Francisco DA and California AG.

Her refusal, when running for Attorney General, to support ordering the FBI to break into a terrorist’s I-Phone (or to oppose it on privacy or free speech grounds) is just another area where she has yet to be attacked because she’s never faced a slash-and-burn candidate from the law-and-order right,

Donald-Trump-as-Julius-CaesarFor what people? And as for “prosecuting” the case against Trump – which seems such a fashionable concept – what makes anyone believe that Trump would agree to debate anyone? There’s nothing that can force him into a debate and if he doesn’t think it’s to his advantage, why would he?

For Harris, going forward, the key will be whether she makes inroads with blacks (especially black women), whose votes are critical in winning the Democratic nomination and bolstering the base vote in the general. Beyond that measure, however, it’s not necessarily the third deck home run it looks like at first glance because:

— Older voters may be uncomfortable with her personal attack – and ambivalent about how they felt about busing 50 years ago too.

— Twitter Democrats are different than mainstream Democrats.

— Kamala still can’t get her story straight about health care.

gertrudesteinIs there there there? That she can perform well in a debate now is quite clear. But after watching Harris in action for more than a decade, as we’ve said before, we still can’t say she has a clear set of principles and convictions. And we wonder about the wisdom of her attacking Biden on the issue of school busing which was never popular among whites or blacks.

In fact, re-litigating school busing from the 1960s and ‘70s is a dangerous game for Democrats. Forcing candidates to support open borders and gun confiscation is madness. None of the pie-in-the-sky proposals Democrats would like to accomplish will be possible unless they first defeat Trump and take the US Senate.

As our old friend Steve Twomey put it on Facebook the other day: “After hearing from 20 Democrats, who somehow think this election is about ending private health insurance, more liberal borders, registering guns and school busing, I’d say the 45th president is closer than ever to a second term.”

We don’t know if Joe Biden can run a vigorous and smart campaign. We know Barack Obama chose him, vetted him and kept him on for two full terms. That’s not chopped liver. But Biden is certainly capable of rendering it so.

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  1. avatar I.F.Stone says:

    PROOFREAD VERSION (Please delete the first; I could not find a way to edit it.)

    Whether Harris was right or wrong about confronting Good Ol’ Joe on deseg bussing and whether she can satisfactorily answer the very good points you raise, Phil, and even whether or not she is electable, Kamala Harris provided all of us with a picture of Joe Biden better learned now than later.

    We all saw how easily he cracked under pressure. And the pressure was self-induced. He could have easily have deflected the question he knew was coming about his collaboration with ardent segregationists by saying, in his humble, folksy way, “Ya know, in retrospect, I was wrong 30 years ago, but at the time it seemed like the best thing for children and communities.”

    That would most likely have ended the attack. Instead, Biden dug himself into a deep states rights hole that he tried to defend. We should question his judgment on that.

    The Joe Biden of 2008 was much more nimble on his feet than he was at this debate. He would have handled Harris’ question with aplomb.

    More importantly, his implosion revealed his current fragility. He lost his cool and confidence, he raised his voice for a prolonged Captain Queeg-like ramble about his Civil Rights record and then abruptly cut himself off, like Queeg did on the witness stand during the court martial trial, saying, “My time is up. I’m sorry.”

    What we saw was sad, for me, to witness. I like Joe. But from that exchange through his closing statement, he was shaken. He lost his confidence and never regained it. He faltered, rambled, and stuttered. He clearly couldn’t concentrate. When asked what he what he would do on Day 1 as President, his answer that he would work as hard as he could to defeat Donald Trump. I felt more pity than humor.

    So, we have to ask ourselves, how would today’s Biden fare against the likes of Putin, Kim, Ayatollah Khamenei, or binSalman in a pressure situation. Or, even Trump in a debate.

    What Joe brought to mind is that of a veteran ballplayer who has to take a season off for injury and then tries to get back into the game, or an aging superstar who hasn’t realized he’s lost it and plays a season too long. Willie Mays on the Mets come to mind.

    I’m not an ageist; I’m 69 years old. But I increasingly think that Joe Biden has gotten too old to hold up under the requirements and hours of the most pressure-packed job in the world…and one that gets increasingly harder…for four much less eight years.

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