The Morning Jolt

Immigration

Is Kamala Harris the Target of a Dem ‘Whisper Campaign’?

Vice President Kamala Harris stands next to members of the media as she arrives at El Paso, Texas, June 25, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

On the menu today: Biden senior adviser Cedric Richmond contends that Vice President Kamala Harris is being sabotaged by a whisper campaign; why Harris’s message about immigration-law enforcement isn’t seen as authentic; and wondering how much the Biden administration is really committed to a just-announced pause on federal executions.

Biden Aide: Someone Is Sabotaging Kamala Harris

If Kamala Harris had wanted to, she could have been a uniquely powerful voice promoting legal immigration and denouncing illegal immigration.

At any point in her career in Washington, she could have said, “I believe in the American dream and what America can offer those who wish to immigrate. I am living proof. My mother wanted a degree in biochemistry that wasn’t available to her in India. My father, in Jamaica, wanted a doctorate in economics. They came here for a better life — and they did it legally. They both received visas and scholarships to study at U.C. Berkeley. They followed the rules, filled out the paperwork, and waited for legal permission to enter the country. Opportunities to legally immigrate have never been easy to come by, but they have always been present, and they are still present today. If they had tried to sneak in, to get across the border, it is unlikely I would be standing here now. Life in America is worth the patience, the work, and the adherence to the law that legal immigration requires. As Americans, we welcome immigrants with open arms and open hearts — but we demand that they obey our laws. You cannot love this country and simultaneously believe that its laws do not apply to you.”

Who would dare characterize Kamala Harris as “xenophobic” for making a speech like that?

Instead, Harris’s views on immigration have been a muddle. As district attorney of San Francisco in 2008, Harris supported a city policy that required law enforcement to turn over undocumented juvenile immigrants to federal immigration authorities if they were arrested and suspected of committing a felony.

Once she was running for president, she claimed she disagreed with those policies. And in fact, as DA, her office did run a program that trained illegal immigrants for jobs they could not legally hold.

In her inaugural address as state attorney general, she lamented that, “organized violent criminal gangs continue to present an expanding threat across borders.” But late in her term as attorney general, she supported sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and declared that, “when local law enforcement officials are seen as de facto immigration agents, it erodes the trust between our peace officers and the communities we are sworn to serve.” She contended that “an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”

As a senator and presidential candidate, she said, “I’m not going to vote for a wall under any circumstances.” (Note that in June of 2017, Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council — the labor union that represents the U.S. Border Patrol — testified before Congress that “I will not advocate for 2,000 miles’ worth of border [wall]. That is just not necessary. But what I will advocate for is a border wall in strategic locations, which helps us secure the border.” He called for an additional 300 miles of fencing.)

And then, last month, Harris traveled to Guatemala and told all potential migrants, “do not come.”

“We will discourage illegal migration,” she warned. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. . . . If you come to our border, you will be turned back.”

Can you blame anyone for feeling whiplash or not finding her warnings authentic? That blunt warning and stance just doesn’t fit with what the world has seen from Harris before. What she’s describing is clearly a Biden policy, not a Harris policy, and despite the insistence of everyone in the administration, the two figures do not see this issue the same way.

Harris is technically saluting and playing the good soldier, doing what she’s supposed to do as vice president. But apparently some folks in the Biden administration are unimpressed, considering that brutal Politico article quoting unnamed “administration officials and associates of Harris and Biden” describing “dysfunction in the VP’s ranks.” Remember that last month, a CNN article declared that, “her two-day swing through Mexico and Guatemala left some administration officials quietly perplexed about what they perceive as her bumpy answers to questions about whether she will go to the US-Mexico border.”

And now, Biden senior adviser Cedric Richmond has told Axios that, “It’s a whisper campaign designed to sabotage her.” Even more intriguingly, “many Democrats, including some current senior administration officials, are concerned [Harris] could not defeat whomever the Republican Party puts up [for president in 2024] — even if it were Donald Trump.”

Clearly, some faction within the Biden administration is supremely unconvinced about Harris’s skills, loyalty, or both, and sees her as a liability — and it’s unafraid to leak those worries to the press. I think Joe Cunningham — the Red State writer, not the former South Carolina Democratic congressman — is right when he speculates that, “I’m starting to think Biden loyalists, many of whom are those older, more moderate/slow-walking progressives, are still extremely upset with Harris over her attacks on Biden during the presidential primary debates. And while I won’t go as far as to agree with the Times opinion piece that every task she’s being given is a trap, I do think that perhaps some of those on the Biden team who still hold a grudge aren’t giving her the full support she needs.”

I was chatting with another right-minded person the other day and we noted that one of the most consequential phenomena of the past decade was the Democratic Party’s inability or unwillingness to see Hillary Clinton clearly. Democratic Party leaders talked themselves into believing that Clinton was perceived as the cool “abuela” who always carried hot sauce in her purse.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the autopsy of the Clinton campaign was how many internal warning signs of impending defeat were ignored, dismissed, suppressed, or hidden from others. As I wrote in my review of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes:

In other words, quite a few people knew that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was a paper tiger. Loyalty to the Clintons (and fear of retribution) kept them from speaking publicly and honestly about it. It must have been a great relief to these frustrated, frightened Clinton staffers to vent to Allen and Parnes, knowing their words wouldn’t risk influencing the outcome of the election. Allen and Parnes, on the other hand, knew that the public was getting, at best, a seriously incomplete portrait of the state of the race and the election dynamics, and they acknowledge the uncomfortable position this put them in . . .

And separately: “The narrative of the impending Clinton landslide was a combination of Democrats’ wishful thinking, Clinton campaign spin, conventional wisdom, groupthink, and dismissal of contrary indicators.”

Does this sound a bit like what we’re seeing with Kamala Harris? A Democratic Party leader with a fervent fanbase and considerable media hype, but who is much less popular with the overall public than her coverage would suggest?

Just How Serious Is the Biden Team about a Moratorium on the Death Penalty?

From NRO’s news team today: “Attorney General Merrick Garland suspended scheduling of federal executions Thursday, pending further review of the lethal-injection protocol by which a single drug is administered to recipients.”

Then there is this not-so-discussed question: Is the Biden administration going to keep this suspension in place when attention turns to the now-postponed-indefinitely executions of figures such as Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof? If Biden and his team are willing to take the criticism and lumps that will come from being the ones who spared indisputably guilty, notorious, unrepentant, and vicious mass killers from the death penalty, then go right ahead, fellas.

But if they’re not . . . and if they’re just making this move to temporarily placate death-penalty opponents’ complaints that were growing louder . . . then this decision will backfire.

You often see statements such as, “Public-opinion polls show that support for the death penalty is currently near historic lows after peaking in 1994 and declining over the last 25 years.” Characterizations such as these glide over the fact that the “near historic low” is still a majority: “Results of Pew’s April 5–11, 2021 on-line survey of U.S. adults, released on June 2, indicated that 60 percent of respondents said they favored the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, down from the 65 percent level of support reported by on-line respondents in August 2020 and September 2019. In a phone survey over what Pew said was ‘a nearly identical period’ in August 2020, 52 percent of adults said that they favored the death penalty.” In other words, blanket opposition to the death penalty is a minority position, but you would rarely know it from the coverage of the issue.

People’s views on the death penalty are complicated and sometimes contradictory. Back in 2001, Gallup found that, “of the 80 percent who favor the death penalty in Timothy McVeigh’s case, 57 percent told Gallup that they favor the death penalty in general, while 23 percent generally oppose the death penalty.” I suspect if asked, surveys would show similar contradictions today. A lot of people who aren’t sure the justice system convicted the right man in lesser-known cases will have no doubts about those infamous crimes.

ADDENDUM: I hope you have a terrific Independence Day weekend. If you’re in the mood for some summer beach reading, you know where to look.

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