There was quite a brouhaha last week after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris appeared at George Mason University, speaking to students about political events. During a subsequent Q&A, a student majoring in political science, who described herself as part-Iranian, part-Yemeni, defamed Israel by alleging Jewish “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians from the land.
These extremist vilifications of Israel are part of a regular mantra repeated on the political left, especially at liberal American university campuses.
To the surprise and deep disappointment of Israel supporters, however, Harris opted for an accommodating and genteel rhetorical parry: “Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth should not be suppressed.”
That vanilla response set off a social-media storm, as Jewish voices raced in to articulate their dismay that Harris had missed the opportunity afforded by her political prominence to correct a vile lie. In the aftermath of the controversy, Harris’s office came out with assurances that the vice president remains firm in her support for Israel.
Those of us who have followed Harris’s political career in California, as I have from my vantage point as a Los Angeles and Orange County resident of more than 30 years, were far less surprised or concerned than others by her remarks. That kind of non-committal pablum simply is her classic style of public commentary.
Repeatedly, she has stumbled badly on the widest imaginable range of issues, because she either fails to prepare for her audiences or does not enjoy a range of depth on matters of public import to respond firmly and with conviction when surprised.
Upon being confronted with an unscripted challenge or a controversial question, Harris often reverts to one of two fallback retorts. She either says, “Yes, I think we should have that conversation,” or she employs the new mantra of the woke: “I think you should continue sharing your truth.”
As a result, failing to offer something more substantive, she repeatedly gets herself into major political trouble. Rest assured that this ballet will continue and become even more prevalent now that she has been thrust into a greater public spotlight as vice president.
As one example, she shifted her pronouncements and views on healthcare policy during the 2020 Democrat presidential primaries, suddenly moving to advocate “Medicare for All,” because all her opponents were moving that way. Soon, Jake Tapper, a highly regarded CNN interviewer, was asking her whether she effectively was calling for an end to private health insurance in America. To which she replied: “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”
A political firestorm rapidly ensued because American blue-collar union workers, a core constituency of the Democrats, have traded away years of salary increases and other valuable employee benefits just so that they can enjoy private health insurance.
When viewed in the light of her prior public embarrassments, Harris’s most recent stumble when that student slandered Israel is easily recognized not as a substantive position shift towards moral equivocation, but as a flawed debating technique that continually fails her.
She was not prepared, amid the collegiality of a relatively intimate setting of campus banter, for a blistering lie to be spoken against Israel.
That is Kamala Harris, whom most Americans really do not know as well as we Californians do. Expect more of the same on any number of topics over the next three years. It is a conversation she repeatedly must have because that is her Truth.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, a law professor and senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, is a senior contributing editor at “The American Spectator.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.