Democrats are well aware of their long history of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory; you can ask President Dukakis, President Gore, President Kerry and of course President Hillary Clinton all about it. Now with Joe Biden on the cusp of what looks like an easy win, many Democrats are working full time to make sure he does follow in their footsteps by picking Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice president. They rightly fear she might doom the ticket.
The stop-Harris effort now includes a public airing of her considerable political baggage. And it turns out Harris has lots of enemies in the Democratic Party who fear that her famous take down of Biden in the first presidential debate a year ago as a closet racist would be fodder for Republican attack ads this fall.
One of the loudest criticisms of Harris comes from her quasi-hometown newspaper from her days as California Attorney General, the Sacramento Bee. The Bee’s editorial page editor Gil Duran was a top aide to Gov. Jerry Brown and once worked for Harris. But in an editorial last week the paper wrote:
“Recent reports suggest that some in Biden’s camp are still mad at Harris because she has expressed ‘no remorse’ for the ambush. Harris, however, doesn’t owe Biden any apologies. She played the game of politics exactly as it is played, and she almost succeeded.
“When Biden was her obstacle, she treated him as one. Now that he’s a stepping stone, she’d be honored to climb aboard. That’s how it works.
“Instead of worrying about apologies, the Biden campaign should be concerned about things like the secret $400,000 Harris’ office paid to settle ‘gender harassment’ claims against a top aide named Larry Wallace. The Sacramento Bee uncovered the settlement in 2018. Harris claimed she didn’t know about the scandal in the California attorney general’s office and then fired Wallace, who had received a plum position when she won election to the Senate.”
Wallace had been Harris state director in the U.S. Senate; however, she fired him in 2018 when the Bee began asking questions about the sexual harassment settlement. But that was not all. The Bee on Friday reported on a $35,000 settlement with her Chief Deputy Attorney General Terri Carbaugh in 2011, a settlement that was accompanied by a nondisclosure order. While the details have not been in the media, the actual settlement is in the hands of the Biden vetting team.
Democrats with a long memory may recall 1984, the last time the party picked a woman for vice president, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York. Much of the fall campaign centered on her husband’s financial arrangements; Ferraro ended up being on ticket that lost 49 states.
In the age of #Me-Too sexual harassment can be a major political millstone; you can ask former Sen. Al Franken about that. In Harris’ case she claims not to have known about a major harassment case involving her top Senate aide, and was part of a secret settlement with a major aide while she was attorney general. The Trump ads would write themselves on these matters.
Much of the Harris problem, and one reason why the vice-presidential choice may have been delayed, involves the Biden vetting team, or at least one member, former US Senator Chris Dodd. Dodd let it leak that Harris was unapologetic about the assault on Biden in the 2019 debate, which obviously still rankles the Biden loyalists.
This led to a conference call arranged by wanna be California Senators hoping to succeed Harris if she is elected, led by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis. If Harris were elected vice president, Kounalakis, the highest ranking woman in California government, certainly would be on the short list to succeed her in Washington. The Biden team reportedly assured the Californians that Harris was still in the running.
But perhaps the Biden folks should be most concerned about Harris’ early years, and her advancement up the political pole as girl friend to the powerful former Assembly Speaker and mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown.
When Harris first announced for President in 2019, the Brown role in her career received a fair amount of attention.
“Yes, we dated,” he said in an interview. “Yes, I may have influenced her career by appointing her to two state commissions when I was Assembly Speaker,” Brown admitted.
Indeed, he did by appointing Harris to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and later to the Medical Assistance Commission – plum jobs that paid her more than $400,000 over several years. According to SF Weekly, Brown also gave Harris a BMW.
He also admitted to helping start her political career by helping her beat the son of an old 1940s Stalinist who was San Francisco’s district attorney at the time. In 2010, she ran successfully for California attorney general, and in 2016 wanted to run for an open US Senate seat. Brown was again to the rescue, loudly complaining that other Democrats should stay out so Harris could have a free ride. He helped keep Antonio Villaraigosa, a prominent Latino former Los Angeles mayor, out of the race and sure enough Harris had only minor opposition.
Again it was the Sacramento Bee that reported Brown forced Villaraigosa to stand aside for Harris. “Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown suggested Friday that Antonio Villaraigosa should pass on the U.S. Senate race out of allegiance to fellow Democrat Kamala Harris, the only announced candidate for the 2016 contest. ‘His loyalty and his relationship with her should be so valuable, and he should, in my opinion, see it as an opportunity to demonstrate that,’ Brown told The Sacramento Bee.
Had he rather than Harris been elected, Villaraigosa today would be the most prominent Latino politician in America. Now if you don’t think the Republicans will exploit this to drive a wedge between blacks and Latinos if Harris is chosen, then I have several bridges and ocean piers to sell you. No wonder Donald Trump said Harris would be a “fine choice” for Biden.
Trump’s re-election chances look absolutely dismal right now. But he does have that tendency of Democrats to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory and nominating Kamala Harris for vice president might be just what Trump needs to assure himself another four years.