Vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has always been an odd choice for the No. 2 spot on the Democrat ticket.
During last year’s July primary debate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) deconstructed Kamala’s record of prosecutorial abuse, with devastating results. Harris sunk to single digits, where she lingered until finally dropping out in December, narrowing the race to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Joe Biden.
When the dust settled and the time came for Biden to choose a running mate rather than pick a popular figure he went for an identity politics exacta—a woman of color. A trifecta, of course, would have been a woman of color with popular appeal.
Harris—given Biden’s advanced age—is de facto the top of the ticket. If he had let himself see this, Biden might have altered his calculus, because Harris could not win the presidency—not even close—were she de jure the top of the ticket. It’s a good thing Harris cannot win the presidency. As Gabbard’s takedown showed, Harris is not a good person.
A look at Harris’ style of examination tells us even more.
Examination is the art of questioning a witness. Our legal system is an adversarial one, descended from the medieval form of trial by combat. Over time, trial by combat by hired champions evolved into a contest of advocates.
The American adversarial system of justice revolves around zealous advocates. The clash of advocates in front of a passive judge and jury is intended to force the truth to emerge.
Evidence in a trial includes testimony introduced by examining a witness with questions. Advocates, in examining witnesses, have to think about the persuasive effect of their questioning. Badgering, baiting, abusing, and insensitivity can sway a judge or jury in the wrong direction.
Attorneys also have duties of candor. While attorneys are not required to volunteer information unhelpful to their clients, what they say must be truthful. A trial is supposed to be a clean fight, because the truth will not emerge if advocates engage in subterfuge and legerdemain.
This brings us back to Harris. The public by now is familiar with her examination style—Kamalexamination seems a fitting name for it—from recalling the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing and now watching Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s.
Kamalexamination is officious. Middling intellects like Harris take great pride in being lawyers, adopting an officious style to display what invariably is their only intellectual achievement. Kamalexamination is a martinet’s affectation. It is alienating, as it is intended to oppress nonlawyers with rank.
“Middling intellect” is not a great recommendation for a president, but it is not the most concerning, either. A middling intellect combined with sub-middling ethics, however, is a problem.
Consistent with this, let’s look at other features of Kamalexamination that are consistent with such loose morals. Kamalexamination relies on several methods, or tricks, that reveal a venal cast of mind. I will discuss only four of these, but we can safely suspect, having seen four, there are more in the walls.
First, Harris likes to pause in a way that invites a response. Harris then interrupts the response, asserts overbearing authority, claiming offense at being interrupted. She baits the witness into a moment where she can then demean him.
Second, Harris likes to ask a question as though she knows the embarrassing answer. The witness is immediately confused, and she follows up with, “You are under oath.” This is intended to create the impression that the witness is lying—to undermine the credibility of the witness—without any facts.
Harris did this to Kavanaugh, asking if he had spoken to anyone at a prominent law firm regarding the Mueller investigation. In normal conduct, to discredit a witness you have to show the goods—the evidence that reveals what the witness conceals. Because it was contrived, nothing ever came of Harris’ insinuation. Perfidious Kamalexamination concocts discredit from thin air.
Third, Kamalexamination demands “yes or no” answers. Some questions are entitled to a yes or no answer, such as, “Do you own a house in Brentwood, yes or no?” But compound questions, questions that assume falsehoods, and vague questions cannot be answered yes or no without confusing matters. A witness is entitled to insist on the clarification, reconstruction, or excision of falsehood from the question.
Fourth, Kamalexamination sets up false analogies. Kamalexamination deployed false analogies during her questioning of Barrett. Do you believe that COVID-19 is infectious? Yes. Do you believe smoking causes cancer? Yes. Do you believe “climate change is happening and it’s threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?” Wait, what? The first two are uncontroverted. The last is vague and controverted. The purpose is to get the examined to appear to deny the truth of something controverted or uncertain by setting it up with a false analogy to incontrovertible matters.
The common feature of each of these techniques of Kamalexamination is they are built on mendacity. One paying attention can see that the liar in these exchanges is Harris.
Undermining your own credibility on questioning is something a good examiner would never do, because it makes you less, not more persuasive. Harris’ seeming lack of awareness of this feature of Kamalexamination reveals a middling intellect. But the dishonesty at the core of Kamalexaminaton betrays a low and dangerous character.