Alan Zendell, August 13, 2020
Sometimes, starting out getting a thing wrong is the best way to get it right. For three months, I was certain the best running mate for Joe Biden was Amy Klobuchar. Her Midwest roots, centrist policies, and law enforcement background made her the obvious choice. When the pandemic struck, forcing major cities to shut down and throwing millions out of work, her straightforward, easygoing sincerity made her an even better choice.
Then, her own state sabotaged her when three Minneapolis police officers murdered an unarmed black civilian in plain view of anyone with a phone camera. From that moment on, the Black Lives Matter movement dominated the election cycle, making it inevitable that Biden would have to select a black woman as his running mate, and inspiring President Trump to order unidentified federal officers to attack peaceful civilian demonstrators and threaten to have a federal police force occupy cities controlled by Democrats. Klobuchar withdrew her name and advised Biden to choose a woman of color.
After that, my favorite was Susan Rice because I can’t resist an intellect as powerful as hers, despite the fact that her close ties to the Clintons and her involvement in the Benghazi debacle made her a lightning rod. That’s twice I was wrong, but no one had asked my advice. I had nothing against Kamala Harris, but I thought her aborted presidential campaign was too forced and staged, and lacked the likability that had drawn me to Klobuchar.
When Biden announced Harris as his choice, I accepted it as inescapable. I was ambivalent, waiting for their first appearance together. And wait we did, for three hours, as the event scheduled for 2 pm yesterday in Wilmington, didn’t get started until 5. We knew they both had to be at their best.
Biden spoke first, and did exactly what he had to. Fully aware of the right-wing spin that his life-long stuttering affliction is actually mental infirmity, he knows he must always speak at a measured pace. It’s a double whammy because when he restrains the passion he feels, he‘s criticized for not having enough fire in his belly. I thought he found the perfect balance, yesterday, pacing himself and never raising his voice, while letting his anger at the failures of the Trump administration and his compassion for its many victims come through clearly. His basically gentle nature, devoid of insults and name-calling served him well. He was the perfect Antitrump.
Harris watched from across the room, smiling like an excited school girl anticipating her first dance. When she took the podium, the sheer joy of the occasion shone on her face. In fifteen minutes, she showed several different aspects of who she is. Her emotional description of the relationship between Biden and his deceased son, Beau, was heartfelt and genuine in a way we never saw when she was a presidential candidate. Her pride in being the first non-white woman to stand for one of the two highest offices in the country was unmistakable. She was charismatic in a way that surprised and delighted my wife and me.
When it was time to get serious, we saw the other Kamala Harris, the woman who is a brilliant prosecutor, who can argue a case coherently and logically in a way that anyone can understand. She laid out a tough indictment of the Trump administration, and most directly of the president himself.
She was entirely self-assured, completely on top of her game. She was so effective, I had a strange thought. Like the commercials that say, “I’m not a doctor, I just play one on TV,” I thought she couldn’t have done better if she were Meryl Streep playing herself.
I have never been so happy to have gotten something completely wrong. Harris is the perfect running mate for Biden, and in four years, she may stand alone as the only viable Democratic candidate for president. Except for dyed-in-the-wool racists, I can’t imagine anyone watching and hearing her and not entirely forgetting that she is Black or Indian or anything else. She will be a formidable running mate who will get under Donald Trump’s skin just by being herself and telling “her truths” as she likes to say.
Trump is absolutely incapable of dealing with a woman like Harris. The fumbling responses to her speech by his campaign, today, showed that despite knowing for weeks that she was Biden’s most likely choice, they still haven’t formulated a strategy for dealing with her. And when they come up with one, Trump will stay on script for perhaps thirty seconds, before his terror of facing off against a strong, competent black woman makes him lose control. It’s going to be great theater.