DANIEL VAUGHAN: Will the real Kamala Harris please stand up?

July 5, 2019

One of the most memorable moments of the 2016 election cycle was when then-candidate Chris Christie decided he had one last moment to make a comeback in the Republican debates. He, like everyone else, was losing to Donald Trump by that point in the primaries, so Christie did what he thought was a brave and bold political move: He attacked the man in third place, Marco Rubio, for saying: “Barack Obama knows exactly what he is doing.”

Christie gained nothing from the polls for this, because his campaign was already dead in the water. However, the move sunk Rubio in the polls — and likely any chance of him overtaking Cruz and challenging Trump.

In this 2020 Democratic primary cycle, it’s about time for someone to make a comparable kamikaze charge at Kamala Harris, who has similar verbal tics — and seemingly no stomach to defend any stance she’s ever taken.

Harris has a favorite fallback when she’s corner and doesn’t want to answer a question: “We should have a conversation about that,” she says. “We should study that,” she suggests, as her hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, observed back in the spring.

The Chronicle argued that this was Harris being “too cautious.” But it’s more of a sign of a politician who wants to pander to everyone and stand for nothing.

Take Harris’ most recent viral moment at the debates: She attacked Joe Biden’s stance on busing in the 1970s, trying to paint the former vice president as a racist without ever overtly making that exact accusation.

Politico reported that she and her advisers spent months trying to create this exact moment in the debates: weakening Biden in hopes of taking his place in the race. They had a picture, t-shirts, and a slogan ready to go moments after the debate was over.

In the days after the campaign, Harris went even further, bizarrely claiming that we should bring back 1970s-style busing. Harris put out a statement that said: “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in [school]… The federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”

I thought we’d get some weird policies in the Democratic primaries. This is the party, after all, that is flirting with Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialism, which has failed everywhere it has been tried. But I never guessed we’d start relitigating the costs and benefits of 1970s busing policy.

Of course, we aren’t really relitigating those ideas, because Harris backed down again on this position. And after journalists kept peppering her campaign with questions on why she would bring back busing, she again backed down. The Associated Press summed up Harris’ new position: “Harris says busing should be considered, not mandated.”

We need to have that conversation.

Biden’s campaign fired back at Harris, correctly noting that Harris had backed herself down from celebrating busing in the debate, and is now saying the exact same thing as Biden on the issue. AP reported:

In a tweet Wednesday, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield knocked Harris for her response, writing, “It’s disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden’s position on busing — particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posed to him!”

Harris’ comments Wednesday were far from the indictment she delivered during the debate last week.

Don’t worry about all this backfiring, though. Harris just wants to have a conversation about that.

It’s not the only conversation Harris wants. When the debate moderators asked all the presidential candidates to raise their hand if they supported abolishing private health insurance, Harris dutifully raised her hand. But afterward, she said she “misheard the question,” and didn’t support that at all.

But in January, during her campaign rollout, Harris said at a CNN town hall, “We should eliminate all that,” referring to private health insurance. Of course, just a few days later, Harris was busy walking back that statement too.

Kirsten Gillibrand is far more straightforward about her flip-flopping on various issues; she’ll say anything to get elected to the office she seeks. Harris doesn’t have the guts even to be that crass; she backs down and wants conversations and studies.

When presented with the spectacle of letting felons in prison vote in elections, Harris, the former California attorney general, could only muster her fallback to everything: “We should have a conversation about that.”

Does Kamala Harris support Bernie Sanders-style “Medicare for All,” a plan she co-sponsored and that would eliminate private health insurance?

We should have a conversation about that.

Does Harris support a new federal mandate to bus children around to different schools to prevent segregation?

We should have a conversation about that.

Does Harris believe anything at all, or is she just another Gillibrand trying to appease progressives on one side of her mouth and moderates with the other?

We should have a conversation about that.

We should have a conversation about Kamala Harris and what she believes, because it appears the last thing she wants is a conversation about what and who Kamala Harris is.

Rubio was right that Barack Obama knew what he was doing; it’s not clear Harris knows what she is doing. Who will be the Democratic Chris Christie to finally call her on the floor about all her — lack of — conversations? I have a hunch we’re about to find out soon, when some low-tier candidate tries to make their mark, like Christie.

It’s time for a conversation about Kamala Harris.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.