Kamala Harris seems unready for a Presidential campaign

Matthew Continetti:
David Axelrod has described presidential campaigns as MRIs for the soul. He means that a candidate is subjected to pressures strong enough to reveal his or her true character. What voters get at the end of the process is a fuller picture of the men and women they choose to inhabit the White House. In these early weeks of what is certain to be a seemingly endless and certainly vitriolic campaign, Harris has demonstrated both strengths and weaknesses. Her strength is that she seems a perfect fit for the current shape of the Democratic Party. Her weakness is a blithe and insouciant manner that is sure to cause her trouble. In fact it already has. Consider three recent slipups.

The first took place during that CNN special. An audience member asked Senator Harris for her "solution to ensure that people have access to quality health care at an affordable price," and "does that solution involve cutting insurance companies as we know them out of the equation?" You bet it does, was Harris's answer. "We need to have Medicare For All. That's just the bottom line." Following up, Jake Tapper mentioned that Harris has co-sponsored a bill that would end employer-based insurance, which covers some 180 million Americans. "So," Tapper asked, "for people out there who like their insurance, they don't get to keep it?"

Harris seemed not to understand the magnitude of the change she supports. She mentioned the "process of going through an insurance company," how "going through all of that paperwork" has caused delays and headaches for many. "Let's eliminate all of that," she said. "Let's move on."

Actually, let's stay still for now, and ask the following questions. Harris promises to end the health coverage of millions without providing a satisfactory rationale for, or explanation of, her position. Does she really believe there won't be paperwork in government-run health care? Paperwork is government's specialty. And if the Obamacare mandate was unpopular, how will voters greet President Harris's mandate to "eliminate" the status quo that covers the vast majority? The substance of her answer was obvious catnip for Republicans always eager to "pounce," and the style was no less harmful. Harris did not give the impression that she took either the question or the implications of her answer all too seriously. This is something that happens often.

Moment two: On January 29, after Jussie Smollett claimed he had been attacked in a hate crime by two white Trump fans in the middle of a wintry Chicago night, Harris tweeted her support for the actor. "This was an attempted modern day lynching," she said. "No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin. We must confront this hate." What Harris did not mention were the curious details of the story—details that the Chicago Police Department investigated and finally debunked. It turns out Smollett was attacked not by white supremacists but by two Nigerian immigrants who he had put up to the job. The "modern day lynching" was a bogus, disgusting, and exploitative affront to the real victims of hatred. A prepared candidate would have expressed regret at her Tweet and familiarity with the case. Harris was not prepared.

During a visit to New Hampshire last weekend, a reporter asked Harris if she would like to revisit her words about Smollett. Harris clearly had no idea what the reporter was talking about. "Which Tweet? What Tweet?" she said. The reporter read the Tweet back to Harris. Who stood there, agog, looking to her aides for help. And who finally answered, "I think that the facts are still unfolding, and, um, I'm very, um concerned about obviously, the initial, um, allegation that he made about what might have happened." Except it didn't happen. Nor is it clear if Harris actually wrote the Tweet in support of Smollett. She might hold positions, including on health care, the details of which she is unaware. Which is a problem.

What trips up Kamala Harris is an evident desire to please her audience. She wants no enemies to her left, no identity politics left untouched....
There is more.

She also came across as deeply unfair in her performance in the Kavanaugh hearings cross-examining witnesses in what looked like an attempt to mislead.  As the examples point out, she tends to speak without much thought and is left having to backtrack.


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