Kamala Harris Made Joe Biden's Rough Week Even Worse
BY XANDER LANDEN ON 10/3/21 AT 6:09 PM EDT
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The past week was tough for President Joe Biden. Vice President Kamala
Harris didn't make it any easier.
Biden's legislative agenda, including a $1.2 trillion infrastructure
bill and a sprawling $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package,
stalled after Democrats failed to reach an agreement on the larger piece
of legislation, which includes funding for a variety of social programs.
Earlier in the week, lawmakers grilled military leaders over the U.S.
evacuation of Afghanistan, and one contradicted a statement the
president made last month claiming that advisers did not tell him to
keep a small military presence in the country.
Polls in recent weeks have shown Biden struggling. Last month in a
Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, 51 percent of registered voters said Donald
Trump was a better president than Biden. A survey released by the
Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Friday showed
Biden's approval dropping among Democrats.
Harris, for her part, inadvertently added to the president's problems on
Tuesday with her response to a George Mason University student's comment
accusing Israel of "ethnic genocide."
Harris Under Fire After Israel Comment Response
Vice President Kamala Harris made a difficult week for the Biden
administration even harder after she appeared to agree with a student
accusing Israel of “ethnic genocide.” Above, she speaks during a virtual
COVID summit in the White House on September 22.
"You brought up how the power of the people and demonstrations and
organizing is very valuable in America," the student said, "but I see
that over the summer there have been protests and demonstrations in
astronomical numbers standing with Palestine. But then just a few days
ago there were funds allocated to continue backing Israel, which hurts
my heart because it's ethnic genocide and displacement of people, the
same that happened in America, and I'm sure you're aware of this."
In response, Harris said: "This is about the fact that your voice, your
perspective, your experience, your truth should not be suppressed, and
it must be heard."
The Israeli press jumped on the story. "VP Harris to student who accused
Israel of 'genocide:' Your truth must be heard," read a headline in the
Jerusalem Post on September 29. "Harris praises student for expressing
'your truth' after anti-Israel rant," Israel Hayom wrote.
Republicans quickly criticized Harris for her reaction, which some took
to be agreement with the student.
"Kamala Harris doesn't have time to go the border, but she apparently
has plenty of time to encourage anti-Israel, anti-Semitic falsehoods,"
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted Tuesday, responding
to a video of the exchange posted by the Republican National Committee.
Harris's office released a statement noting that the vice president has
been "unwavering in her commitment to Israel and to Israel's security,"
and that she "strongly disagrees with the student's characterization of
Israel." Politico reported that Harris was working to mend relationships
with pro-Israel Democrats; her office was also in touch with Jewish
groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
"Just spoke with@VP office. Glad to hear her confirm she is proud of her
record supporting #Israel, and knows claim it is committing 'ethnic
genocide' is patently false. Looking fwd to a clearing of the record so
there's no ambiguity that what that student said was hateful/wrong," ADL
CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Twitter Thursday.
The White House sent Newsweek a statement from Harris spokesperson
Symone Sanders on Sunday saying that "throughout her career, the Vice
President has been unwavering in her commitment to Israel and to
Israel's security. While visiting George Mason University to discuss
voting rights, a student voiced a personal opinion during a political
science class. The Vice President strongly disagrees with the student's
characterization of Israel."
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It wasn't the first time Harris opened the Biden administration to
Republicans went after her earlier this year with questions about why
she hadn't visited the U.S.-Mexico border as part of her role in
addressing the sharp rise in illegal immigration, and for laughing while
being questioned about the matter during an interview with Lester Holt
on NBC News.
Guatemala's president, Alejandro Giammattei, who has been in talks with
Harris about the migrant crisis, this summer criticized the Biden
administration's messaging around immigration. Harris was also
criticized by the left for comments she made in Guatemala in June when
she said "do not come" to people in the region thinking about traveling
to the U.S. border.
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"First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of
arrival," Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter at
the time. "Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change
and destabilization in Latin America. We can't help set someone's house
on fire and then blame them for fleeing."
"Kamala Harris is still not ready for primetime (much less 2024)," said
a headline in The Hill in June.
The pileup of problems explains why many Democrats were so relieved by
Governor Gavin Newsom's emphatic win in California's recall election
last month. Harris's difficulty in staying on message or connecting with
voters (her 2020 campaign ended before Iowa because she was polling so
poorly) doesn't fill Democrats with confidence. If Biden should decide
not to run for re-election in 2024, Harris—the sitting vice president, a
former California senator and attorney general, and a history-making
woman of color—would be the obvious candidate to succeed him. But it's
not clear that she would be the best.