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Issues & Insights

Uncalm Kamala Out-Emotes Rivals

It took over 30 years, but the infamous Dukakis debate gaffe was undone Thursday night on the Democrats’ debate stage.

At the very outset of the second 1988 presidential debate, CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw asked Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis a shockingly provocative question about the Massachusetts governor’s opposition to capital punishment. If his wife “were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”

Millions watched Dukakis respond like a passionless robot, detached from the reality of ordinary people’s lives, clicked off their sets, and knew then that they weren’t going to be voting for him.

California Sen. Kamala Harris was the anti-Dukakis. It’s guaranteed that her well-formulated outrage against frontrunner Joe Biden and deftly-delivered soundbites will give the former Golden State attorney general a significant bounce in the polls. But is emotion a wise criterion when it comes to voting for president?

Now that Americans know they can’t keep their doctor after all, and if the unthinkable someday happens because of the Iran nuclear appeasement deal, will it be any consolation that Barack Obama made them feel tingly all over when they watched him give a speech?

Harris by turns had NBC’s liberal Miami audience riled into hooting and hollering, and mesmerized into stony silence.

Soundbites & Anger

Early on, amidst crosstalk, she chimed in with one of the signature lines of the evening: “OK guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight; they want to know how we’re gonna put food on their table.”

She matched Bernie Sanders’ now all-too-familar booming calls for the masses to rise up with a fiery – perhaps nasty is a better word – non-factual attack on the Trump expansion.

“You know, this president walks around talking about and flouting his great economy, right? My great economy, my great economy,” Harris said. “You ask him, ‘well, how are you measuring the greatness of this economy of yours?’ and he talks about the stock market. Well that’s fine if you own stock!” she said, spitting the word “stock” as if it were a manifestation of pure evil.

In fact, Trump usually points to the record employment levels, usually mentioning the best black employment on record.

Virtually everything from Harris in the debate was laced with emotion and personalized.

“I will release children from cages,” she promised. “I will ensure that this microphone that the president of the United States holds in her hand is used in a way that is about reflecting the values of our country and not about locking children up.”

When it comes to illegal aliens, she said, “we have to think about this issue in terms of real people. A mother who pays a coyote to transport her child through their country of origin through the entire country of Mexico, facing unknown peril, to come here – why would that mother do that? … because she has decided that for that child to remain where they are is worse. But what does Donald Trump do? He says go back to where you came from.”

You, the voter, may be thinking of the economic and social effects of 10 or 15 million illegals. But listen to Kamala long enough and you’ll have unforgettable, wrenching images like this imprinted on your conscience: “I want a rape victim to be able to run in the middle of the street and wave down a police officer and report the crime against her. I want anybody who’s been the victim of any real crime to be able to do that and not be afraid that if they do that they will be deported because the abuser will tell them it is they who are the criminal. It is wrong! It is wrong!”

Talk about the opposite of Mike Dukakis speaking of the rape of his own wife as if it were akin to bookkeeping.

Playing The Race Card, Post-Obama

But then came the topper of toppers. After flaky “author” candidate Marianne Williamson called for slavery reparations, Harris interjected that as the only black person on the stage, “I would like to speak on the issue of race” – her opening to go after Biden for his gaffe earlier in the month on segregationist Democrat senators he worked with in the 1970s.

She began: “I couldn’t agree more that this is an issue that is still not being talked about truthfully and honestly. There is not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend or a co-worker, who has not been the subject of some form of profiling or discrimination. Growing up, my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents couldn’t play with us because we were black.”

Then, turning to Biden, she said: “I do not believe you are a racist, and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe, and it’s personal, and I was actually very – it’s hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

These moving stories, of course, are very much a one-way street. It may not be good, according to the ever-more-leftist Democratic Party, that race “is an issue that is still not being talked about truthfully and honestly,” but you won’t be hearing one of the white male candidates tell of, say, his mother being mugged at gunpoint on the way home from the grocery store and how it spurred his working-class family to join the “white flight” to another neighborhood the next year. The like of that must remain repressed.

President Obama was supposed to purge the nation of its white guilt and its racial animosity and unite us into “a more perfect union.” Instead, the next generation of leaders of his party are using race as a weapon more shamelessly than ever. Reparations, for instance, a fringe position until very recently, has never been more talked about within the left, and by the establishment media. The supposed Great Unifier set us on a road toward fully-socialized medicine, trillions added to the national debt, the most tepid economic recovery in history, surrender in Iraq, and a deal that in exchange for a delay in building nukes gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Tehran that it now uses to fund terrorism and proxy wars. It is all that that the voters got, not the cure for racial disharmony.

Will style, a clever turn of phrase, a sparkling smile, and an ability to relate a moving anecdote and express race-based and class-based anger propel Uncalm Kamala, the anti-Dukakis, to the presidency? Or will voters learn the lesson the votes of 2008 and 2012 should have taught them?

Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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Thomas McArdle

Tom McArdle @MacArdghail, longtime Senior Writer for Investor's Business Daily, was a White House Speechwriter for President George W. Bush, National Political Reporter for Washington political columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, Managing Editor of Human Events, and has worked as a writer for CNN and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His work has appeared in National Review, the American Spectator, The Hill, the Washington Examiner, Newsmax, and the National Catholic Register. He has appeared on Fox News and numerous talk radio programs. He is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, M. Stanton Evans' National Journalism Center in Washington, Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, and at 17 was one of Curtis Sliwa's original "Magnificent 13" Guardian Angels.

2 comments

  • Let me get this straight. Kamala Harris chastises Biden because he opposed busing…which allowed the poor and minority children to attend better schools. Yet Harris, and every Dem running, opposes vouchers or school choice…which allows poor and minority children to go to better schools.

  • And Kamala Harris jumped right in on a question that wasn’t meant for her and turned it to race. In the end, her tagline was “that little girl was me. She had to get it in any way she could, after all, they already had the T shirts made up for sale.

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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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