She is a historic choice for reasons other than just her sex and race: even in the party of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris is arguably the least-principled candidate in recent memory.
Column originally published in The Times of Israel
Israeli and Jewish-interest publications wasted no time in playing up the “Jewish” angle of Joe Biden’s “historic” choice for vice president, Senator Kamala Harris. Front page stories featured “what Jewish voters should know” about her. Seemingly all needed to kvell over her Jewish husband — a successful lawyer, no less! — Douglas Emhoff, who, it was noted excitedly, could become America’s first Jewish Second Husband! (Someone, evidently, seriously lowered the bar for Jewish cultural achievement.)
These puff-pieces went on, generally soft-pedaling troubling positions like her advocacy for the Iran nuclear deal—and for rejoining it—or her defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar following her inexcusably antisemitic trolling. Instead, they focused on Harris having once visited Israel, opposing threats to cut off U.S. aid to Israel if it doesn’t leave the West Bank, and on her supposedly being “more AIPAC than J Street.” Speaking of lowered standards, this really does place her on the “pro-Israel” side of the Democratic party.
But they neglect plenty that voters really should know about her. She is a historic choice, after all, but for reasons other than just her sex and race: more importantly, even in the party of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris is arguably the least-principled candidate in recent memory.
That might matter less in a normal election year. But Joe Biden is at the top of the ticket, sadly declining mentally before our eyes. His “campaigning” consists of word salads, even with scripts right in front of him, delivered on-screen by Zoom from his basement. It’s weirdly starting to look like a cross between “Weekend at Bernie’s” and Max Headroom (minus the wit). Graphing the steady decay of his faculties, it appears he’s got about a 50-50 chance of breaking William Henry Harrison’s record for shortest presidency (31 days) when the 25th Amendment is inevitably invoked removing him from office for incapacity. How confident is anyone that he’ll be firmly in control on February 20, 2021? (Harrison, in fact, was the oldest president elected until Reagan; Biden, if elected, will smash the oldest-elected record by over seven years.)
These “news” introductions to Senator Harris skip over the most interesting, eyebrow-raising parts of her resume. Like, how did she leap from being a relatively undistinguished student at a middle-tier college and middle-tier law school, initially failing the California Bar Exam, and spending a few unspectacular years as one of dozens of obscure junior lawyers in the Alameda County prosecutor’s office…to become San Francisco District Attorney, Attorney General of California, and then Senator? She was always ambitious, but that climb must be an amazing story!
In fact, it is amazing. In its own way. In early 1994, she met and began a relationship with the powerful Speaker of the California State Assembly, Willie Brown. She was 29. He was 60. And married (though separated). Brown soon appointed Harris to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a position that paid $97,000 annually. He then placed her on the California Medical Assistance Commission (not that she had any background in medical care, hospital management, risk management, or other official qualifications for the job), which paid her $99,000 per year to attend two meetings per month (at least, in theory: records show she missed 20% of the meetings). She made some $450,000 in these roles. Brown also gave her a flashy new BMW 7 Series (not from state funds), and, likely most valuable, introduced her to his circle of high-society friends and donors.
The couple split in late 1995 as Brown was about to become San Francisco’s mayor. Brown moved on to his next relationship, with Carolyn Carpeneti, 32, one of his fundraisers. (Harris, it seems, might have sought more material rewards from her relationship with Brown; he would funnel some $2.3 million to Carpeneti over the next five years.)
In 2019, Brown acknowledged that he “may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly speaker. And I certainly helped with her first race for district attorney in San Francisco.”
That he certainly did. When Harris decided she wanted that office, Brown provided her with key connections to his own network of contributors, and had his political machine fundraise for her. With that help, she amassed a war chest that dwarfed those of her opponents, including the incumbent district attorney (who was her former boss). Her need for such financial advantage was most curious, as the campaign finance law limited her spending on the race to $211,000. She spent $625,000. With Brown as mayor, the city’s Ethics Commission issued her a $34,000 fine, but found the overspending to be “unintentional.” Oops!
She won her election. Her new political career was off and running, with all the integrity one would expect. She raised her office’s conviction rate, as promised; that is, until it was revealed that she had ignored staff warnings as to the tainting of evidence from San Francisco’s drug lab, resulting in the dismissal of over 1,000 cases. A scathing court decision found Harris’s office to have repeatedly acted with indifference to defendants’ constitutional rights.
Was she just overzealous? If so, only selectively. As chillingly reported by The Lid (and, originally, by Peter Schweizer), contributions connected to Catholic Church associates had poured into her campaign, particularly from associates of priests accused of child molestation. Her predecessor aggressively investigated these claims and obtained detailed, voluminous records from the archdiocese, implicating at least 40 priests. When she entered office, she would not prosecute a single one of these cases. Even when the victims asked her for help with their own civil cases against those molesters, she is alleged to have covered up evidence; in fact, all those archdiocese records seem to have disappeared. Perhaps she could at least be asked for an explanation?
She’s earned a reputation for being cunning, even vicious, and willing to say anything (with tremendous sincerity!) to further short-term political goals. Her signature skill is the TV drive-by character-assassination, insinuating all manner of nefarious activity to her chosen target while the cameras are on, in a tone suggestive of bombshell evidence at hand; but later, having tarred her target, providing no further support for the accusations raised. She promoted the most scandalous and least credible of Bret Kavanaugh’s accusers—with the cameras rolling; then she offered nothing as the women recanted under FBI questioning. Joe McCarthy would be proud.
She seems instinctively left-wing, expressing support for the elimination of all private health insurance, the “Green New Deal”, and the confiscation of guns (without bothering to address the Constitution which permits them). Non-partisan GovTrak.us rates her voting record as the number one most left-wing in the entire Senate. Number two belongs to Bernie Sanders. Think about that.
But it’s anyone’s guess how much of that is posturing in the current political climate and pandering to her party’s left-lurching base: she has no laws or major legislation to her name—that would require ideological commitment.
In this context, her interactions with Biden should be alarming. On the debate stage, to his face, she said “I don’t believe you are a racist; but…”, then launched attacks on his close relationship with segregationist Senators and his opposition to forced busing to integrate schools, with a powerful (and, of course, false) claim that she was one of those children bused to desegregate her school. She says she “believes all women” who have accused Biden of inappropriate physical contact, including Tara Reade, his former aide who says Biden molested her. Yet, she is all lovey-dovey with Biden now, even though she supposedly believes that he is a serial sexual predator and segregationist.
So, what should Jewish voters know about Kamala Harris? That her Jewish stepchildren call her “Mamala”? That she was moved by her visit to Jerusalem? Very nice. But perhaps they should also know that she has shown herself bound by no apparent principles; that her fervent beliefs expire at the end of each news cycle; that her history is one of saying or doing pretty much anything to anyone to further her power and political advantage; that, because she is running with a man of rapidly declining competence, she goes into this election already frighteningly close to attaining presidential power; and that she is not someone to be trusted with it.
Every non-Jewish voter should know that, too.
Abe Katsman is an American attorney, political writer and policy analyst based in Israel.
On Sat, Aug 15, 2020, 11:07 AM Another country heard from: Abe Katsman weighs
Hello, Abe. I hope you are well.
I read your piece about Kamala Harris. Neither of the Democratic candidates is perfect, but, in my mind, both are infinitely better than Trump and Pence. They and the Republican Senate majority have to go. Trump may be good for Israel, although I’m not even sure about that, but he certainly isn’t good for the US.
The conditions that produced Trump were a long time building and won’t go away when/if he’s defeated but they must be addressed. The faux concern of the Republican Party for the working class is just that: a sham. I sympathize with those folks whole heartedly having come from it myself, but their lives have not materially improved in a very long time, and tax cuts are not the answer.
I’m not sure what I can do to insure his defeat in November, but whatever it is, I’ll do it, old age or Covid or whatever else.
Well, it’s obvious we do not agree politically!
Meanwhile, keep on keeping on.
On Sat, Aug 15, 2020 at 11:07 AM Another country heard from: Abe Katsman weighs
I hear you, and I know we’re not entirely on the same page. But I do understand what you’re saying. More important to me in a comment from you: did you think it was well-written and well-reasoned?? :)