The Corner

Elections

What’s Kamala Harris’s Real Weakness as a Presidential Candidate?

Sen. Kamala Harris talks with MSNBC host Chris Matthews after the second night of the first Democratic presidential candidates debate in Miami, Fla., June 27, 2019. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

On today’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, Greg and I discussed Representative Tulsi Gabbard declaring that “Kamala Harris is not qualified to serve as commander in chief.” Allahpundit wonders why Gabbard is going after Harris; I’m wondering why other trailing Democratic candidates aren’t joining Gabbard in taking shots at Harris. We know Joe Biden has a glass jaw and has lost a step, Bernie Sanders is sinking, and Elizabeth Warren will eventually get nuked by somebody over letting Harvard tout her as “a woman of color.” If you’re a second-tier Democrat who needs to make a splash, take a shot at the suddenly first-tier, buzz-generating woman who’s got built-in advantages for all those delegates in California — before it’s too late.

But is Gabbard right that Harris’s weakness is that she has “no background or experience in foreign policy”? Whether or not you think that’s Harris’s biggest weakness, there’s not much sign that Democratic primary voters worry about that much. Barack Obama had limited background and experience in foreign policy, as did Bill Clinton. For that matter, so did Donald Trump and Mitt Romney.

The only figures on the Democratic debate stage who have background and experience in foreign policy beyond the usual congressional committees are Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and maybe Seth Moulton and Joe Sestak. (Marianne Williamson’s experience is less with other nations than with other spiritual planes and realms of consciousness.)

No, the soft underbelly of the Harris campaign is her flip-flops and the general sense that she’ll say whatever she needs to say to please the audience in front of her.

She hit Joe Biden for opposing a federal mandate for bussing but later said she herself wouldn’t support a federal mandate. In a January town hall, she said she supported eliminating private insurance but then backtracked a few days later. At the first debate, she raised her hand indicating she would eliminate private insurance, then said afterwards she misunderstood the question. She said she wouldn’t raise middle-class taxes to pay for Medicare for All, a stance that Jeff Weaver of the Sanders campaign amounts to “unicorns and magic wands.”

She’s flipped positions on some parts of immigration enforcement policy as well. She now says she supports independent investigations of police shootings, when she opposed them as a Senate candidate in 2016.

Harris will undoubtedly unveil some more applause lines and big promises at the next debate. Any of her rivals ought to respond, “This all sounds great, but we’ll have to wait a few days to see if Senator Harris really means what she’s saying tonight or whether she’s changing her position again.”

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