Willie Brown: Yeah, I once dated Kamala Harris and may have helped her career. What about it?

Reading this, I had a mental image of Trump reading it aloud, a la “The Snake,” at every campaign rally in October 2020. That’s how nasty a Trump/Harris race might get. In fact, consider it my first prediction for the coming campaign.

He really has no choice. If he doesn’t mention Brown’s column frequently, his fans will bash him for going soft on the opposition. Why is he acting like McCain and Romney? Why won’t he fight?

The media narrative that Republicans Hate Women requires that every ounce of publicity Harris’s dating history receives ultimately be blamed on right-wing sexism, but the GOP has less incentive at the moment to promote this than Harris’s many Democratic rivals do. Brown even makes a point of noting that he’s been “peppered” with questions from reporters about it. That’s not all due to some Trump lackey in a room somewhere cold-calling dozens of media outlets to push it. Frankly, Team Trump might be laying off Harris for now because they’ve concluded they want to face her in the general election — or at least more than they want to face Joe Biden or a generic “Not Trump” candidate like Amy Klobuchar. It might be easier to hold on to some working-class white voters in the Rust Belt if the alternative is a young-ish left-wing black woman from California than a familiar older white guy from Scranton.

Yes, we dated. It was more than 20 years ago. Yes, I 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. I have also helped the careers of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a host of other politicians.

The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I “so much as jaywalked” while she was D.A.

That’s nice that she promised him no leniency under the law just because they once dated but no one’s implying otherwise. The reason reporters are after this is because of the insinuation that Harris slept her way to the top, or at least far enough towards the top that she could then launch herself to truly big things. It took three minutes after I tweeted about it earlier today for someone to tweet back about “Senator Side Piece,” which is nasty but potentially effective: At least one study has suggested that sexist stereotypes really do hurt women candidates badly at the polls. No Democratic candidate will come within a mile of implying anything about Harris on the stump, fearing the backlash they’d face once she claimed martyrdom to women voters, but there’ll be plenty of whispering. No one knows yet how core Democratic constituencies will shake out but there’s a fair chance Harris will lead big among black voters and sizably among women voters — and if she does, she’s unbeatable. Belittling her with “Senator Side Piece” stuff is a way to sow doubt early about her abilities and inculcate a gut-level feeling of disrespect. “Do we really want the first woman president to owe part of her success to a powerful man she dated?”

And Team Harris knows it, of course. Unless there’s bad blood between her Brown, which there isn’t as far as I know, it’s unimaginable that he coughed up this op-ed without clearing it with her first. The piece reeks of a coordinated attempt by her campaign to get this issue out in front of the public at the moment she’s announcing her campaign, when she’s awash with good press and excited buzz. It’s a one-day story, for now. If/when someone in the media brings it up a month from now, she can point back to the op-ed and say, “Asked and answered. Old news. Next topic.”

Exit question: How many questions from the media will Harris answer about this before insisting that any further questions are sexist, pure and simple, and must be avoided? She’ll do hundreds of interviews over the next year. Does she develop a stock answer for when she’s asked or does she do one presser where she fields questions and then tries to shame any journalist who insists on asking her again in the future? I’m not sure trying to create a taboo around the subject is the smartest way to go. Trump won’t respect the taboo; his entire brand is being “politically incorrect.” She’s probably better off just happily fielding questions about it and treating it like a nothingburger.