Prior to gaining national notoriety as California’s junior U.S. senator, Kamala Harris was widely considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 as her state’s attorney general, entering to the tune of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’”
Just as Barack Obama had been eight years earlier, Harris was being groomed for bigger things beyond her state’s borders. She was featured by McClatchy in a profile of the new Gen Xer politicians along with Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
It was thought that the spotlight would do for her what it did for Obama, transforming her from a local prospect into a major league slugger for the party. In September 2017, only eight months after taking office as a freshman senator, Newsweek asked if she was the favorite to take on Donald Trump in 2020. CNN’s Chris Cillizza dubbed her the frontrunner immediately after the 2018 midterm elections.
At a certain point, however, reality kicked in. Kamala Harris—try as she might—does not have the charismatic cadence Obama had, nor does she have his smooth mannerisms.
Unlike Obama in his 2008 campaign, Harris has never made any overtures toward middle America on any issue. Last May, she declared she would require states and municipalities to obtain federal approval before enacting laws that restrict abortion. She also proposed far-reaching executive orders that would impose mandatory background checks and allow for prosecution of gun manufacturers. These are two areas where Harris, apparently, is claiming as president she would reprise the role that she currently plays as a legislator—something that Obama ended up doing but never bragged about before his election.
Harris also distinguished herself during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings as a sensational grandstander, outdone perhaps only by “I Am Spartacus” Booker. For example, she grilled the judge over whether he’d had any conversations with a partner at the Kasowitz Benson Torres law firm about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The implication was that Harris had a “reliable source” that such a conversation had occurred. What was unstated, however, is that judges do not typically ask nor need to know with which law firm any given lawyer is affiliated when arguing a case, much less when they have a casual conversation. Kavanaugh would have had to risk perjuring himself if he’d said he hadn’t had the conversation and it later turned out that he had unknowingly.
The upshot? A month after the original exchange went viral on #Resistance Twitter, Kavanaugh answered the question saying he had not spoken with any such person. Almost no one called out Harris for bluffing except for a brief summary in her hometown San Francisco Chronicle.
From Sure Thing to Abandon Ship!
It was only three months after that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2019 that the Kamala Harris presidential campaign was announced. Despite months of fawning press coverage and cooing interviews with such luminaries as Jimmy Kimmel, her campaign was rocked by problems from the beginning.
Whereas in 2008 Obama distinguished himself as the suave alternative to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, Harris simply was outshined by her rivals—whether it was Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders and his fanatics, former Vice President Joe Biden with his instant Obama credibility, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg who was accused of outright ripping off Obama’s speaking style.
She was caught lying in an interview with one “Charlamagne tha God” about being a Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur fan in college—years before they were even active. Her big moment came with the first Democratic debate in June when she shamed Biden for his past opposition to federally mandated busing in the 1970s that integrated northern and western urban school districts. In retrospect, no matter how hard it is for his opponents to admit it, then-Senator Biden and many others opposed the policy because forced busing tore neighborhoods and communities apart and led to traumatic violence for children driven across town to schools that were often hostile to their presence.
No matter. In late June and early July after that debate, Harris’s national polling aggregate jumped from 7.5 to 15 percent at the expense of Biden who tumbled from 32 to just over 25 percent.
It seemed like Kamala had the tailwinds in her favor, so why is it that by December she was forced to drop out?
For one thing, a big wave named Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) swept over her decks. Gabbard, who was also profiled in the same 2016 McClatchy story, was aware Kamala Harris had a weak point in her armor: the real Kamala Harris.
Given a brief moment in the July debate, Gabbard slayed her by bringing attention to her record as a prosecutor withholding exculpatory evidence for a death row inmate, imprisoning drug offenders contrary to her own admission to smoking marijuana and other failings. By doing so Gabbard gained very little herself, but torpedoed Harris in the polls near to where she had been.
Even those who disagreed with Gabbard’s critiques of Harris’s performance could not help but notice that she could not respond to any of the Hawaiian congresswoman’s points. Try as she might, Kamala and her swarm of Twitiots known as #KHive could not get back in the saddle. When Michael Bloomberg entered the race in December, she threw her hands up and quit. She blamed money in politics, racists, and sexists for her flame-out. It was a typically tone-deaf tantrum from an awful candidate who had ignored all signs of her own shortcomings.
Put Me In Coach!
Despite her abysmal performance, Kamala Harris is leading the field according to oddsmakers trying to predict who Biden’s running mate will be.
Newsweek has proposed her as a “woman of color” option along with failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams and freshman Representative Val Demings (D-Fla.). She is now ahead of fellow former presidential candidates Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is the only man on the list.
Harris endorsed Biden, the man she once charged with racial insensitivity, on March 8. Biden has already set aside crucial roles in a future administration for fellow primary dropouts Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke. But why would the nominee (or the DNC) give the nod to one of his most bitter detractors during the campaign, after such a bold and charged attack?
The key word to remember for vice presidential candidates is reliability. This is why Mike Pence was chosen over other GOP former candidates in 2016 as Trump’s running mate. It is also why at the time the youthful rival John Edwards was picked in 2004 for John Kerry, and Paul Ryan for Mitt Romney in 2012.
The major difference this year would be that the vice-presidential nominee would be seen as a much more immediate potential successor should Biden win the presidency, and therefore must be reasonably younger. In this respect, Elizabeth Warren is at a disadvantage at age 70. But beyond her youth, Harris has the distinction of having been the product and instrument of the northern California political machine headed by her mentor and former lover Willie Brown.
As San Francisco mayor in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the rakish Brown appointed his mistress to key roles within the city’s various boards and departments. In 2003 he backed her in the city’s district attorney election against rival Terence Hallinan.
As the city’s top prosecutor, Harris allowed pedophile priests to escape justice and became notorious for putting the Brown machine’s friends ahead of the law. This is coming from a woman who reamed former Labor Secretary Alex Acosta for his light prosecution of sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein that happened during her tenure as D.A.
Much of this information is available from Bay Area media, but it has been copiously compiled by investigative journalist Peter Schweizer in his new book Profiles in Corruption. As California attorney general, Harris angered progressives by declining to prosecute former OneWest Bank executive Steven Mnuchin, now the treasury secretary under Trump, for foreclosure violations in 2013.
Time after time, Kamala Harris has come through for the right people when it mattered for her career. Other rival candidates may have shot themselves out of the cannon too fast, like former Obama housing secretary Julián Castro when he boldly accused Biden of having memory issues during a debate in September. A month earlier Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) did the same thing over a supposedly sexist op-ed that Biden had written in 1981. Booker questioned Biden’s mental acuity around the same time as Castro.
If he has any sense in him, however (which is an open question these days), Joe Biden will steer clear of Kamala Harris.
In September it was reported that she was polling at only 8 percent in the Bay Area against fellow Democratic presidential candidates. By November 2019 her national favorability was at -12 percent, far below Mike Pence who is at -7.6 percent. Beyond the polling, such a selection would be a blatant middle finger both to his party’s progressive wing and to any potential swing and undecided voters, as well as an embrace of wanton corruption. She is almost worse than having no running mate at all.