Political debates – in the primaries and the general – are like professional-wrestling matches. They are about moments. Like the arm drags or the headlocks in a singles match, nobody remembers candidates’ discussions on public policy issues or their proposed panaceas for the myriad of problems facing the nation today. But everyone remembers the knockout blow in WWE contests and electoral debates. Just ask Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who took only 30 seconds to dismantle Senator Kamala Harris’ 2020 campaign single-handedly. The four-term congresswoman’s half-minute flawless victory will haunt Harris’ political aspirations for the rest of her career.
Fight Night in America
It has already been a year since Sen. Harris was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Her coronation made sense because she met the criteria of progressive orthodoxy: black, female, and progressive. She had been steadily rising in the polls, the mainstream media adored her, and the leftist establishment was prepared to ditch former Vice President Joe Biden. Then came Gabbard.
In the second Democratic debate on CNN, Gabbard tore into Harris’ record as California’s Attorney General, alluding to her hypocrisy and failure to enact change. It was an 83-word moment that should dominate the highlight reel of past primary seasons for future election cycles because it dashed not only Harris’ hopes and dreams but also the bobbysoxers in the press who fawned over her.
“She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations, and then laughed about it when she was asked if she’d ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed a man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California. And she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”
Harris failed to think on her feet, responding with some vague “I’m proud of that record” cliché. Later, instead of addressing Gabbard’s comments, Harris declared herself to be “a top tier candidate,” and so it was expected that somebody polling at the bottom would attack her. The lack of humility failed to impress Democratic voters. Within a few months, her campaign ran out of cash, she collapsed in the polls, and she dropped out before the first primary contest. Ouch.
But that was not the worst of it.
Talking Out of Their Assad
In 2017, Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while on a fact-finding mission to the Middle Eastern country. According to Gabbard, the meeting was not planned, but when the opportunity presented itself, she accepted it. Months later, there was a horrific chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun that killed dozens and wounded hundreds. Within days, a coalition of governments, led by the U.S., attributed the incident to Assad. President Donald Trump launched 59 tomahawk missiles aimed at Syria, prompting the media to drool over the prospect of war.
Gabbard called it a “war crime that must be thoroughly condemned,” and that whoever is responsible “must be held accountable.” At the same time, she was critical of the president’s use of force, arguing that Congress did not authorize the missile attack, nor had it been presented with the White House’s findings regarding the release of sarin gas in Syria. The U.S., she stated, was not at war with Damascus.
Experts on television asked who she thought was responsible for the chemical attack. Instead of repeating the name listed on the 3×5 card of allowable opinion, Gabbard called for an independent investigation to determine the facts and evidence of what occurred, which was justified considering the complicated situation and conflicting reports about the devastating event. Was it the government, or bad actors in a war-torn country who wanted to push the U.S. to oust the Assad regime?
Rep. Gabbard told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:
“If President Assad is found to be responsible after an independent investigation for these horrific chemical weapons attacks, I’ll be the first one to denounce him, to call him a war criminal, and to call for his prosecution in the International Criminal Court to make sure that those consequences are there.”
It turned out that her caution and reasoning were astute. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis later confirmed that “we do not have evidence” the Syrian government used the deadly chemical on its people. But that did not stop Gabbard’s opponents from labeling her as an “Assad apologist” and a “Russian asset” because she wanted facts first. Who was one such person? None other than Biden’s running mate.
“This coming from someone who has been an apologist for Assad, who has murdered the people of his country to, like, cockroaches. She who has embraced and been an apologist for him [Assad] in a way that she refuses to call him a war criminal. I can only take what she says in her opinion so seriously,” Harris said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper after being trounced by Gabbard on the debate stage.
What does that have to do with Harris locking up 1,500 people for marijuana violations? It was Harris attempting to discredit a Democratic Party challenger by playing fast and loose with the facts. As Biden would say, c’mon man! What is worse, her allies in the Fourth Estate refused to challenge her deceit.
Ghost of Politics Past
The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it? No matter how many times Gabbard called for an investigation into what happened in Syria, the mainstream media spun it as her defending Assad. This was hard for Gabbard to shake off since this fib was repeated far and wide by both the press and members of her party. Indeed, what decent voter would cast a ballot for somebody who defends a war criminal? It just goes to show that you can never stray too far away from what the gatekeepers of approved opinion and analysis deem right and wrong. Cable news networks and newspapers will do their best to ship this incident down the memory hole until November, but the internet will never forget. Soon after Biden announced his running mate, Gabbard was trending on Twitter for her iconic moment on a hot July evening in Detroit, MI. Is it any wonder why Harris is calling for censorship on social networks? The ghost of Gabbard will forever cast a shadow over Harris’ permanent record.
Read more from Andrew Moran.