Strange alliances: Tulsi Gabbard slams Kamala Harris for leveling a "false accusation" of racism at Joe Biden

Team Harris will say (and has said) that there was no accusation of racism aimed at Biden at the last debate, that in fact Harris began her spiel about busing by saying to him specifically, “I do not believe you are a racist.” But that’s nonsense. That was Harris’s sly way of having her cake and eating it too, simultaneously avoiding calling Biden a racist while suggesting that the matter is in enough doubt that one might rightly hold an opinion on either side of it. It’s a debate, see, and what was suddenly being debated was whether the VP to the first black president might just have enough of a problem with black people that he’d need Kamala Harris to vouch for him publicly.

And of course, the point of the exchange was to appeal to black voters. Harris might not think Biden’s a racist, but if that exchange on busing convinced the black Democrats who were watching that there’s a question mark over Uncle Joe’s head — at least enough of one to make them take a hard look at Harris as an alternative — then, hey.

See why Philip Klein calls her the most “cynical and dishonest” member of the Democratic field? She’s constantly trying to have it both ways. Biden’s not a racist — but he sort of is. She supports Medicare for All — but also sees a place for private insurance. She’s for busing in the name of integrating schools — but just as an option, which makes her position on the issue no different from Uncle Joe’s.

Tulsi Gabbard’s already had enough of her BS:

I’m fascinated that she’s jumping into this on Biden’s side because they’re not natural allies ideologically. She’s running a niche candidacy, broadly progressive but distinguished by her very dovish foreign policy views (which sometimes bleed over into apologetics for the likes of Bashar Assad). Biden’s running as a moderate who voted for war in Iraq and who served as VP in an administration that backed adventurism in Libya, among other places. They’re not simpatico, and Biden is sufficiently loathed by left-wingers, a.k.a. would-be Tulsi voters, that Gabbard may be costing herself some goodwill by riding to his defense against Harris. So why’s she doing it? What stake does she have in this spat between him and Harris?

This isn’t the first time she’s jabbed at Harris for questioning Biden’s racial views either:

Why’s she riding to Biden’s rescue? I wonder if Gabbard’s already concluded that her candidacy is doomed and now is the time to align herself with whom she thinks is most likely to be the nominee, expecting that’ll pay off with a cabinet position later. Her support is potentially valuable to Biden, both among anti-war voters and as one of the two minority women candidates running. That’s what makes her rebuke to Harris potentially potent, in fact: She’s implicitly challenging the moral authority Harris claims to enjoy on racial issues as the lone black woman running. But … if Gabbard’s behaving strategically, why would she throw in with Biden after he performed so badly at the last debate? He’s never looked *less* likely to be the nominee than he does right now. And Gabbard had a good debate herself last time. If there’s any ultra-longshot whom you’d think might have a breakout moment at the next one, propelling her upwards in polling, it’s her. She doesn’t have a reason yet to completely write off her own chances.

Is she thinking she can peel off some of Harris’s voters by attacking her? If so, is complaining about “false accusations” of racism the way to do that?

My sense of Gabbard is that she’s not a calculating politician at all, actually. I think she shows her cards and lets the chips fall where they may. Maybe she really is genuinely annoyed to see Harris demagoging Biden on race in bad faith and feels obliged to speak up. To the extent there’s a calculation here, it may be as simple as Gabbard wanting to highlight her own commitment to bipartisanship. It’s fine for Democrats to work with Republicans for the common good, she’s saying, just as it was fine for Biden to work with segregationists to the same end. Gabbard’s a “bring everyone together” candidate. Harris is not, although all Democrats running this year naturally claim to be.

I’m eager to see all three together onstage at the next debate to see if Gabbard goes on the attack there. It’d be in her interest to do so: Harris and Biden will be the most closely watched candidates of the 20, with everyone curious to see if Harris can win again. She’ll be body-checked this time. Gabbard has every incentive to do the checking, knowing how much attention it’ll bring her. The wrinkle is that there’s no guarantee that they’ll all be onstage together: Once again it’s the luck of the draw that’ll determine which of two different groups of 10 each candidate ends up in. CNN will be airing that draw live on July 18th, in fact, because we’re all in hell and politics is just a sports event now like the NBA draft lottery.