Elections

Kamala Harris’s Debate Performance Was Pathetic

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks during the Democratic presidential candidates debate in Westerville, Ohio, October 15, 2019. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Given the chance to confront rival Elizabeth Warren, Harris steered the conversation to … Trump’s Twitter account.

Kamala Harris briefly surged in the Democratic primary after after she successfully deployed a premeditated attack on Joe Biden’s record on busing during the first debate. Harris faded after she backtracked on forced busing, a deeply unpopular policy no one really wants to reinstate in 2019, and then she tried to have it both ways for several months on Medicare for All, the policy at the center of the 2020 Democratic primary.

It’s hard to imagine Harris helped herself at Tuesday night’s debate in Ohio. Given the chance to confront co-front-runner Elizabeth Warren, Harris aggressively challenged the Massachusetts senator to . . . call on Twitter to delete Donald Trump’s account. Really.

“Senator Warren, I just want to say that I was surprised to hear that you did not agree with me that on this subject of what should be the rules around corporate responsibility for these big tech companies, when I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump’s account,” Harris said. “Because here we have Donald Trump, who has 65 million Twitter followers and is using that platform as the president of the United States to openly intimidate witnesses, to threaten witnesses, to obstruct justice, and he and his account should be taken down.”

“Twitter should be held accountable, and shut down that [account]. It is a matter of safety and corporate accountability,” she said.

“I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter. I want to push him out of the White House. That’s our job,” Warren replied.

Harris just kept coming back to it: “Join me in saying that his Twitter account should be shut down.”

“I cannot believe @KamalaHarris is pushing this suspend Donald Trump’s twitter account bulls*it at a presidential debate. It’s so small ball. She is bigger and better than this,” former Obama-administration official Tommy Vietor wrote on Twitter. “Last time I checked, he can deliver those messages without Twitter. I think this [ . . .] is a ridiculous thing to raise at a presidential debate. I’m a huge Kamala Harris fan. I think she’s being poorly served by whoever told her to focus on this.”

Vietor is right, but are we sure that Kamala is getting bad advice here? When a candidate spouts an idea this ridiculous, I tend to think that’s a sign the person who came up with the idea is the candidate. Or maybe a member of the candidate’s family. I just find it very hard to believe that someone getting paid to work in politics told Harris that her one shot at Elizabeth Warren on a national stage between now and November 20 should focus on deleting Trump’s Twitter account.

Harris’s Twitter flop was her most memorable contribution to the debate, but the rest of the night wasn’t good for her, either. There were the forced attempts at authenticity. “Dude got to go,” Harris said of Trump at one point. “I’m done,” she said while calling for gun control. And she indignantly attacked the media for not asking a question about abortion during the first six debates. Putting abortion front and center in the primary was a strategy last employed by New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who dropped out of the race when she was polling at less than 1 percent. Attacking the media almost certainly works better in a Republican primary than it does in a Democratic primary. And the moderators did in fact ask a number of softball questions about abortion later in the debate, as they had planned.

Harris isn’t quite dead yet in the Democratic party, but it’s getting a little late in the game for her to come back. The Iowa caucuses are in three and a half months. And the rest of Harris’s debate performance didn’t inspire much confidence that she knows how to turn things around.

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