“Is this part of a pattern for her?” asks CNN’s Abby Phillip after playing Kamala Harris’ border-czar lowlights from the past week. The incidents are by now familiar to readers, but not perhaps this kind of reaction from the media. Harris’ fumbles became the final topic yesterday for the Inside Politics panel, and to call them unimpressed is an understatement.
In fact, they were so unimpressed that the Republicans pounce®! angle turned out to be not secondary but even tertiary. The RNC cut a clip of the very beginning of this exchange to highlight Phillips’ assessment of Harris’ performance as “cringeworthy”:
CNN’s Abby Phillip on Kamala Harris’ first foreign trip: “Cringeworthy,” Harris allies are “wondering what is going on?” pic.twitter.com/vkfotrzN0r
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 13, 2021
If you thought that was amusing, the full discussion goes even further — so much so that one has to wonder why the RNC didn’t capture the entirety of it. Politico’s Laura Barron-Lopez initially tries shrugging off these clips by saying that no one will remember one bad performance in 2024, let alone 2028. However, Phillip points out that it’s not just one bad performance but rather part of a pattern emerging of incompetence.
Washington Post correspondent Olivier Knox says that “malpractice” extends to the White House itself on the border issue:
PHILLIP: It’s just a little cringeworthy, and I know that her allies in the White House and elsewhere are watching it and just kind of wondering what is going on. How poorly did this go for her in her first foray onto the world stage?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, it certainly didn’t go the way the White House wanted it to go. And again, immigration, as you mention, is a hot potato no one wants to touch. And Harris has been dealt it and so she has to handle now what Biden had to handle when he was VP which is relationships with the Northern Triangle. And, of course, Republicans have been trying to clump that in with the border and the board situation and attacking her on that.
Now, did the trip go the way they wanted? No. In 2024, 2028, if she decides to run are people going to remember this trip? I don’t really think so.
PHILLIP: Yes. That’s definitely true. This is one event, maybe it’s the first, but it’s one. But there are some broader questions about is this part of a pattern. I mean even in the campaign, she struggled with press interviews, had some major flip-flops on the campaign trail.
I mean, is this part of a pattern for her? And should it be troubling to her advisers and allies and people who want her to succeed, that it’s still happening even as vice president?
KNOX: I mean to be clear, she was going to be asked this question. And the fact that they didn’t have something better than I haven’t been to Europe is fairly notable.
Republicans have been pounding away at this issue for weeks and for months. You can argue that going — physically to the border serves no meaningful policy purpose except ok, I saw the border, I saw what conditions are like there.
But the fact that they didn’t have a response, that they didn’t anticipate this is, I mean — it’s malpractice.
That’s the actual key point. Not only did Joe Biden and the White House put Harris in a position where she’s clearly out of her depth, they didn’t do anything to help her out either. A quick trip to the border might have involved momentary risk of greater media attention to the disaster, but it would have been brief — and months old by now. Instead, Biden stuck Harris with this sword of Damocles for every interview she does now, and any subsequent trip to the border will look like a box-checking exercise rather than leadership.
Even a skilled politician would have trouble in this situation. And Harris is far from being a skilled politician, as even CNN has begun to notice.
As if to distract from that observation, Politico’s Melanie Zanona then attempts to shift attention to all the pouncing. Zanona argues that Republicans aren’t getting much traction by demonizing Biden (which remains to be seen), so they’re using Harris instead. Naturally, this is also where the race card gets dropped:
ZANONA: Can we also just point out the Republicans have been hammering Kamala Harris, right. But they have been really struggling to define Joe Biden and villainize him Biden.
ZANONA: And so instead they turn to Kamala. Yes, it makes sense, immigration, that riles up their base, that really excites them. But you also have to look at who are the other politicians they tend to demonize? Speaker Pelosi, AOC, Maxine Waters — it’s women and it’s women of color.
Bingo! Yachtzee! We have a winner! Even Phillip and John Harwood have trouble buying that as the big issue, however. She’s the VP and presumed heir apparent for Democrats, so of course Harris will become a political target for the opposition, Phillip says to finish up. Harwood also points out that by this time Harris should have had an answer to those questions, and that the “nervous laughter” is a “tic” that Harris needs to fix.
Will she, though? Harris has had a couple of years to work on this after her debacles in the presidential debates. Thus far, it looks as though she’s either incapable of recognizing her deficiencies or uninterested in fixing them. The same can be said for the White House, for that matter.