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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/29/19

Kamala Harris' Record as Tough-On-Crime Prosecutor Far From Progressive

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BRANKO MARCETIC: She laughed at the idea. That was her reaction. She laughed, because it was such a ridiculous idea. Now she's asked about smoking pot on the Breakfast Club.

KAMALA HARRIS: There are a lot of reasons why we need to legalize.

SPEAKER: Have you ever smoked?

KAMALA HARRIS: I have.

SPEAKER: OK.

KAMALA HARRIS: And I inhaled. I did inhale.Again and I inhale.

BRANKO MARCETIC: To me it's the height of hypocrisy to now be bragging about using drugs illegally while refusing to even countenance the idea of legalizing that drug. So many people have been having the book thrown at them by the criminal justice system.

THOMAS HEDGES: The contradictions in Harris's record touch other issues as well. In 2011, for example, she was lauded when she reached a $25 billion settlement with too-big-to-fail banks for their roles in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. But she was also heavily criticized for not going as far as many say she should have. California was the epicenter of the crisis, and yet Harris made no effort to put even a single executive behind bars. And in 2017, the Intercept divulged a 2013 memo prosecutors from her office had sent her, saying that it had "uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct" at OneWest Bank, where current Treasury Secretary Steve Menuchin had been the CEO.

BRANKO MARCETIC: Harris's offices had actually advised to go after Steve Mnuchin's bank, OneWest, that had engaged in really flabbergasting criminality. Basically, really, just stealing people's houses, in many cases. And she did not do that. Who knows why? As The Intercept pointed out, Mnuchin, OneWest, had donated to her. Whether that's why, or whether it's more to do with a sort of caution or timidity to take on, you know, moneyed interests, powerful moneyed interests, it's hard to say, at this point.

THOMAS HEDGES: On environmental issues she's taken a similar approach. She has a strong track record when it comes to holding polluters accountable. And as DA in San Francisco, she created a team whose sole purpose was pursuing cases of illegal dumping and air pollution. But she's been reluctant to speak out and support the Green New Deal, supporting the idea of it but not explicitly endorsing it.

BRANKO MARCETIC: I think we sort of see a similarity in that with her recent comments on Medicare for All, where she had first said that yes, she was in favor of abolishing private insurance, and then she got a wave of criticism from the right and the Democratic Party. And she immediately, very quickly, backtracked on that. She said afterwards, you know, Medicare for All, single payer, can mean a lot of things. It could mean a public option; it could mean this, it could mean that. I meanwhich is not true. A public option, single payer, are very different things. Basically it's, she's, I think, now sort of walking back a little bit from the Medicare for All vision that's outlined in the Sanders bill, and sort of saying, well, you know, it could be other things, too. There could be a lot of ways that we get to single payer. Which is not strictly true.

THOMAS HEDGES: On foreign policy, Harris tends to be silent. But when she does speak up, she's nakedly hawkish. She's a strong apologist for Israel, and spoke at AIPAC's conference last year, going so far as to compare the civil rights movement in Selma to Israel's struggle for nationhood today.

BRANKO MARCETIC: It certainly seems like the donor base, the large donor base that was supporting Clinton has migrated towards Kamala Harris. She did a fundraiser in Hollywood not too long ago where a bunch of Clinton donors, you know, these sort of entertainment moguls showed up to be there. 2017, she was reported to be going to fundraisers with former Clinton donors in Martha's Vineyard, I believe. You can definitely make the case that she's sort of, Harris is kind of the torchbearer passed on from Hillary Clinton. Many of the same donors and establishment opinion is behind her.

THOMAS HEDGES: Kamala Harris is part of a camp of politicians in Washington who have built their credentials on the increasingly outdated idea that Democratic voters want tough-on-crime liberals in office. But it's clear Harris is struggling to switch gears and rework her image to appeal to the more progressive wing of the party that supported Bernie Sanders in the last elections. A recent poll even suggests that among black primary voters, Harris trails Sanders 2:1. In the end, Harris, along with other establishment Democrats like Cory Booker and Joe Biden, seem to be frantically trying to salvage their political careers.

BRANKO MARCETIC: Politicians like Harris, Biden, Booker, they must feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them. Harris, like all these other politicians, now are scrambling to to make up for their past records. But it's very hard to run away from your history; especially someone like Harris, or someone like Biden. They have decades worth of things they've done that now look very bad when inspected.

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris
(Image by Gage Skidmore)
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