Kamala Harris’s Problem Isn’t Her Identity. It’s Her Character.

Kamala Harris in Selma with John Lewis. Ironic! Public Domain.
Kamala Harris in Selma with John Lewis. Ironic! Public Domain.

As you no doubt know by now, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has chosen US Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate.

You’ve probably also noticed  the first salvo of Republican attacks on Harris: She’s “not really black,” and she may not even be a “natural born citizen” as required by the Constitution to hold the office of president or vice president.

No one sane or intelligent finds either of these attacks convincing.

One need not be a direct descendant of slaves in the antebellum American South to be “black.” Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father of African descent, has been treated as a member of the African-American community, both by that community and by society at large, for her entire life.

Nor must one be the child of American citizens to be a “natural born citizen.” Harris was born “in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” per the 14th Amendment. Her claim to “natural born citizen” status is better than that of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain (born in Panama) or 2016 Republican nomination contender Ted Cruz (born in Canada, with a Cuban father).

These attacks on Harris miss the point entirely, and I find that neither surprising nor coincidental. The attacks that actually make sense boil down to this:

Skin color and eligibility concern trolling aside, Kamala Harris would make a perfect post-Nixon Republican candidate for any office, including president or vice president.

Harris made her name as a “tough on crime” prosecutor.

As San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris dramatically increased the number of prosecutions for marijuana possession (thereby encouraging higher arrest rates). Nearly 2,000 San Franciscans found themselves entangled with the “justice” system over possession of a plant she now jokes about smoking herself and says she wants to legalize.

In her one-and-a-half terms as attorney general of California, Harris oversaw the incarceration of nearly 45,000 new African-American, and more than new 80,000 Latinx, prisoners, several thousand of them for victimless “drug crimes.” When it comes to persecuting African-Americans, Bull Connor had nothing on Kamala Harris.

When she wasn’t hassling people of color, Harris spent her time as AG protecting corrupt and violent cops, fighting against the release of exonerated prisoners, and engaging in showy arrests without legal basis (e.g. her instantly dismissed charging of Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer with “pimping” for publishing material she disliked).

Harris doesn’t seem to be a Democrat based on any particular conviction — at least not any conviction matching the current Democratic mood. She just climbed the political ladder of the party in power where she happened to live. Republicans who question her racial background and citizenship status would carry her to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on their shoulders if she had an “R” next to her name.

Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a world where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” By that standard, Kamala Harris is completely unfit for the office of vice president.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


CNN: “Scientific” Means “Agrees With Us”

Technocracy 1942 (Public Domain)
Technocracy 1942 (Public Domain)

“Trump adds coronavirus adviser who echoes his unscientific claims,” reports CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.

Collins neither makes any scientific claims of her own, nor uses actual science to rebut any claims made by that adviser — Dr. Scott Atlas — or President Donald Trump himself, in the article under that headline. She merely notes that Atlas disagrees with claims made by the “experts”  her bosses at CNN agree with, and expects the reader to accept that disagreement with those favored “experts” flies in the face of “science.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Ms. Collins’s Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Alabama may not put her in the same league as Dr. Atlas when it comes to proffering scientific and medical judgments.

Resolved: Dr. Scott W. Atlas is, by any objective measure, an “expert” in the field of medicine. He holds a  Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Illinois and an MD from the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. He’s published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles on the use of MRIs in neurological disorders. He helped write the qualifying exam in neuroradiology. He served as Professor and Chief of Neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, currently serves as Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution where he works on health policy issues, and has advised three Republican presidential nominees on health policy.

The man obviously knows his medicine. So should we simply accept as gospel anything and everything he has to say, on the subject of COVID-19 or on anything else? Of course not. He may be an “expert,” but it’s the responsibility of every individual to judge his claims against the facts.

The same is true  of CNN favorites like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. Their credentials and qualifications put them in the “experts” category and entitle them to a respectful hearing, but they’re not omniscient and unquestionable demigods.

This ongoing duel over which “experts” to trust incorporates two faulty assumptions. One is that “experts” must be trusted rather than tested. Another is that “experts” can never disagree.

The duel also demonstrates that “public health” is at least as much a political ideology as a scientific endeavor, and that politics doesn’t end at science’s edge.

The truth will out, eventually. In the meantime, it’s probably a bad idea to let CNN choose “experts” for you.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


America Doesn’t Have Presidential Debates, But It Should

RGBStock.com Vote Pencil

On August 6, the Commission on Presidential Debates denied US president Donald Trump’s request to increase the number of debates between himself and Democratic nominee Joe Biden from three to four.

Trump’s case: The expansion of voting by mail means that many ballots will have been cast before the first scheduled fake debate on September 29.

The CPD’s response: “[T]he debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized. Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”

In reality, the number of CPD presidential debates will, as usual, come to a grand total of zero. The purpose of CPD since its formation in 1987 has been to, as League of Women Voters president Nancy M. Neuman noted at the time, “steal the debates from the American voters.”

The events put on by CPD are not “debates.” Debates involve formal arguments over questions of substance. CPD events are theatrical productions — side-by-side candidate commercials, financed by millions of dollars in arguably illegal campaign contributions from corporate sponsors.

You almost certainly won’t see the Constitution Party’s Don Blankenship, Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins, or Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen on the CPD “debate” stage this year. These two-contestant, two-winner beauty pageants are run by the two “major” parties, and since 1992 (when independent candidate Ross Perot got onto the stage and took 19% of the vote) have been specifically designed to exclude third party and independent candidates.

Going into the CPD “debates,” Donald Trump’s goal will be to make Joe Biden look senile, and Joe Biden’s goal will be to make Donald Trump look stupid. They’ll both almost certainly succeed.

When the events end, most viewers probably won’t know any more than they did before about where those two candidates stand on the important issues. For the candidates, the CPD, and the “major” parties, that’s a feature, not a bug. If voters understood how similar the two “major” parties and their candidates are on actual policy, they might start taking a harder look at those third party and independent candidates.

Every four years, those other candidates spend a good deal of time and money trying to get over the CPD’s bar, a bar they know will be manipulated or simply raised if that starts to look like a possibility.

We won’t get real debates until voters start boycotting the parties and candidates who refuse to have them.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.