OPINION: California’s Kamala Harris would be best served to mind her own manners

Amid the partisan rancor surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to  sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, California’s junior Democratic senator, Kamala Harris, took aim at President Trump for his apparent lack of empathy for Kavanaugh accuser Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford at an event sponsored by The Atlantic in Washington, D.C.

In its 10th year, the annual meeting known as The Atlantic Festival celebrates journalism by showcasing public officials, artists, writers and business leaders.

In her appearance on day two of the annual gabfest, Harris took exception to Trump’s words following the president’s visit to Mississippi, where he defended Judge Kavanaugh against his accuser.

Harris was asked by interlocutor Laurene Powell Jobs her reaction to Trump’s comments at a rally in which the president blandly parodied gaps in Ford’s recollections of the alleged 1982 assault.

Shaking her head, Harris replied:  “Stop being mean.”

Describing a segment of Ford’s testimony as a “very poignant, moving moment,” Harris continued:

“Now we have, last night, the president of the United States at a rally urging a crowd to laugh at her. I can’t think of anything more — inappropriate is not descriptive enough — it’s mean. It’s mean. It’s completely without any level of empathy.  What was the purpose of saying that and doing that? I can’t understand it, and I’m embarrassed that the president of the United States would do that to this woman.”

Harris followed with:  “Did it need to be done?  Of course not.”


This is rich.  First elected in 2016, Harris almost immediately established herself as a chief inquisitor when questioning witnesses whose political opinions differed from hers upon assuming office in January 2017.

Shortly after being seated on the Senate Homeland Security and Judiciary committees, Harris moved with the speed of light to demonstrate her willingness to discard the role of honest public official entrusted with the responsibility to respectfully and considerately question witnesses in public hearings and assume the post of disciplinarian shouting down Republican officials.

Inquiries often taking the form of harsh judgement over sharp questions, in separate hearings early in 2017, Harris’ behavior traversed Senate red lines and moved into territory which could be accurately described as demonstrating outright belligerence directed at witnesses and occasionally her GOP colleagues.

During a sitting of the Judiciary Committee in June 2017, Harris sat opposite Attorney General Jeff Sessions and quizzed him over his contacts with Russian officials prior to and after the 2016 election.  A common practice among government servants, as Sessions struggled to recall and attempted to respond, Harris engaged in a series of rapid-fire questions, all of which were long-winded, and concluded with a sour demand Sessions answer with a simple “yes or no.”

Endeavoring to reply, Session was abruptly cut off by Harris, time and again, and followed with biting demands he answer “yes or no” to complex questions over Justice Department procedure dictating the handing over of sensitive documents to Harris’ committee.  Harris’ pugnacious attitude prompted Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to remind California’s junior senator of Senate decorum.

In two separate incidents while participating in committee hearings on Homeland Security in June and November 2017, Harris again engaged in a line of questioning which verged on outright harassment of a witness.

Confronting then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly over immigration policy and procedure, Harris repeatedly pressured Kelly to answer her quick-fire queries, all as Kelly struggled to enter one word into record.  In each instance, Harris demonstrated no willingness to conduct herself appropriately or to contribute to the building of collegiality in the upper chamber of Congress.

In contrast, Harris responded to rebukes from majority chairmen over her lack of manners by crying afoul and accusing fellow Republican senators of latent sexism on Left-leaning media outlets.

Resuming the role of chief tormentor of conservatives and GOP officials during official Senate hearings, Harris treatment of Judge Kavanaugh at confirmation hearings was outright mean.

It took scarcely five seconds into the opening of the Kavanaugh hearings on Sept. 4 for Harris’ truculent stance to reappear.  Just after Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley pounded the gavel, Harris repeatedly interrupted the chair, upending the hearing by demanding the session be postponed over the sham complaint the Trump White House had failed to hand over documents related to the judge’s confirmation exercise.

Democrats, particularly Harris, were vague in their demands; however it was later revealed Democratic members of the committee were referring to documents related to Kavanaugh’s service as Staff Secretary in the Bush White House.  An utterly irrelevant demand, Grassley later stated the required documents had been provided for access to all committee senators, and the procedures for Kavanaugh’s hearing had followed examples of five previous nominees.

Once in session, Harris trained Kavanaugh in her cross hairs for questioning.  A laughably embarrassing exercise even for the California senator, Harris kicked off time set aside for her questioning not by probing Kavanaugh over judicial philosophy, but rather if Kavanaugh had held a conversation with any attorney at the New York law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres.

Continuing with her sloppy question, Harris was deliberately vague and when asked by the judge to clarify a specific name, she declined and darkly hinted Kavanaugh’s appeal for specifics was tantamount to an admission of guilt.  Snarling at Kavanaugh, Harris warned him to “be careful” with his answer.  Fortunately, one GOP senator, Utah’s Mike Lee, intervened on Kavanaugh’s behalf to end the spectacle.

In doing as much, preferring to impugn the judge instead of evaluating his fitness for the Court, Harris burned an astounding ten of her allotted thirty minutes for questions.

In tone and tenor, Harris’ questioning of Kavanaugh was snide, arrogant, and always conveyed with a slight but persistent nod of the head as if she is always right, an expression of deep skepticism, and delivered with an overweening sanctimony as if Kavanaugh was getting his due or being taught a lesson from the master.

Outside the hearing room, Harris continued the offensive against Trump’s nominee, doing nothing to counter any of the baseless attacks against the man in numerous on-air interviews, in particular the outrage advanced from disreputable lawyer, Michael Avenatti, Kavanaugh had participated in gang rape.

Harris punctuated her role in turning the sacred ritual of appraising a judicial nominee for the High Court into a three-ringed circus by throwing a tantrum with fellow Democratic senators and storming out of the hearing room.  Chairman Grassley later characterized the rancorous, partisan sideshow as reaching “rock bottom.”

Far from being empathetic and apprehending the gravity of the accusations against the accused, Ms. Harris consistently demonstrated a hostility toward Kavanaugh, never expressing sympathy for his plight or the effects of the ordeal on his wife and family.

A woman with a burning ambition to be president, Harris’ actions were nothing short of theatrics and using the Supreme Court hearings as a platform to position herself for a bid for the White House in 2020.

Recent polls in Iowa place Harris in fourth place behind Democratic presidential contenders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but ahead of New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who is barely registering in surveys.

Does Harris need to do what she does?  Of course not.  But with her long history of mistreating witnesses testifying in front of committees on which she sits, instead of expecting conservatives and GOP officials to courtesy, Ms. Harris is best advised to take a moment for introspection and examine her attitude when coming face-to-face with those in opposition to her ideology.

Harris is just mean.


[The Hill] [Photo courtesy DOUG MILLS/STF/New York Times]