Saturday, July 08, 2023

An Ongoing Error

Four weeks ago, public radio station WBUR in Boston broadcast an episode of its On Point show focused on the question "Is vice president Kamala Harris a liability or an asset in Joe Biden's re-election campaign?"

It featured three intelligent guests, one of them the dishonest Cornell Belcher, a Democratic strategist and founder of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies. Three-quarters into the discussion, fan boy Belcher stated

Go back and look at her trip that she took to Asia. That was a success. Go back and look at her trips to Eastern Europe and shoring up our alliances with NATO. Those are successes. It's hard to criticize her on what she's actually doing as vice president. So the criticism is these other things that speak to sexism and racial aversion. And people being uncomfortable with a woman, a woman of color, being in such a position of power, and so close to power.

She is doing as vice-president what she is told to do. That's the job of the nation's vice-president, whose only power is casting a vote to break ties in the Senate, which vote is always cast as the President wishes. Under those circumstances, the concept of "success"- or of failure, for that matter- is virtually meaningless. Harris is not in a "position of power" because she has no power.

Belcher contends that criticism of Harris is rooted in "people being uncomfortable with a woman, a woman of color, being in such a position of power, and so close to power." That was Harris' choice, and the choice of her supporters. She could have run for vice-president as the Senator and former Attorney General of the largest state in the country.

But she did not. That experience was largely cast aside in favor of a heavy emphasis on her being the first as vice president- first woman, first black, first black woman, first Asian-American woman.  That's fine; whatever it takes to get the party's presidential nominee elected, which is the primary purpose of the vice presidential selection. So the complaint that people are uncomfortable with a black woman being in position of power (of which she has almost none- see above) is rich coming from individuals who were publicly over the moon because a black woman finally had been nominated to be a heartbeat from the presidency. 

Belcher adds

I'd put her resume up against any vice president over the last two decades. Who's had a resume that's better than hers? So why is it that this extraordinarily accomplished woman, this groundbreaking political figure, why is it that all of a sudden people are questioning her readiness for the job? Take a man and give him the same resumé as Vice President Harris, his qualifications are never questioned.

There he goes again. After suggesting that Harris wouldn't face as much criticism if she weren't female and black, Belcher refers to Harris as "groundbreaking" because he can't avoid the temptation of defining this vice president as the sum of her sex and race.

Harris matters. Therefore, she has been under more intense scrutiny than previous vice presidents. She matters because Joe Biden is 80 years old and voters not only question his mental and physical health to serve adequately for another four years, they believe he may not survive another four years. And that would mean a President Harris, which is why Nikki Haley is blaring "a vote for President Biden is a vote for President Kamala Harris" (also because as an Asian-American woman herself, Harris feels freer than do other Republicans to attack Harris.)

Against persuasive evidence, Belcher contends that Harris is an "asset" to the her party and the presidential ticket. "She is," he states, "in many ways representative of this new, younger, more diverse America that is coming into its political power." Belcher attributes criticism of her to "racial and sexual aversion" while he himself boosts her on the basis of her sex and ethnic background. Supporters are to applaud the vice president's youth, sex, and status as a racial minority; critics are not permitted to consider those factors.

The strategist argues that Harris is "extraordinarily accomplished," would "put her resume up against any (recent) vice president," and that the qualifications of a man with that resume wouldn't be questioned.

Someone notify Mike Pence. Before becoming vice president, he was a governor and on the leadership team of the House Republican caucus. Nonetheless, his suitability for the position of vice president was questioned and he still, properly, is not being given a free pass, though he does know the difference between North and South Korea, unlike his successor in the position:

So the United States shares a very important relationship, which is an alliance with the Republic of North Korea. And it is an alliance that is strong and enduring. And today, there were several demonstrations of just that point.

Her gaffe is reminiscent of that of Gerald Ford, who had been elected as vice-president, then arguably lost a presidential election when he stated "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." However, Ms. Harris is best known for her word salads, as in

We will assist Jamaica in COVID recovery by assisting in terms of the recovery efforts in Jamaica that have been essential to, I believe, what is necessary to strengthen not only the issue of public health, but also the economy.

Even aside from Donald Trump, who has elevated lying to an art form, every politician lies at one time or another. If one is a Democrat, she must not get caught doing it:

Kamala Harris: I'm here in Guatemala today. At some point, we are going to the border. We've been to the border. So this whole, this whole, this whole thing about the border. We've been to the border. We've been to the border.

Lester Holt: You haven't been to the border.

Kamala Harris: And I haven't been to Europe. I mean (LAUGHS) I don't, I don't understand the point that you're making.

In show business history, it was "how do you solve a problem like Maria?"  Democrats are neither sexist nor racist when they, unlike Cornell Belcher, ponder "how do we solve a problem like Kamala?"


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