(Jerusalem, Israel) — The race is on.
With Joe Biden’s announcement on Tuesday that Senator Kamala Harris, the California Democrat, will be his running mate, the two tickets are now set. An epic battle for control of the White House is underway. Expect it to get brutal as both sides will work overtime to paint the other as extremists who endanger the future of the United States.
So, who is Kamala Harris?
- “Kamala Devi Harris was born in Oakland, California on October 20, 1964, the eldest of two children born to Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher from India, and Donald Harris, an economist from Jamaica,” notes Politico, in their helpful article, “55 Things You Need To Know About Kamala Harris.”
- “Her mother chose Kamala’s name as a nod both to her Indian roots — Kamala means ‘lotus’ and is another name for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi — and the empowerment of women,” reports Politico.
- “As a child, Harris went to both a Black Baptist church and a Hindu temple — embracing both her South Asian and Black identities,” reports Politico.
- She is the first African American woman to be named a vice presidential contender.
- She is a lawyer, the former District Attorney of San Francisco, the former Attorney General for the State of California, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.
- She married Doug Emhoff, a lawyer, in 2014.
What are Jewish Democrats saying about Kamala Harris?
- The first thing Jewish Democrats point out about Harris is that she is married to a Jewish man (Emhoff) and is the step mom of his two Jewish children from a previous marriage.
- At a book tour event in 2019, recounted by The Forward, Harris shared the story that her Jewish in-laws are from originally from Brooklyn, and lived for many years in New Jersey. “Imitating the thick accent of a New York bubbe [grandmother], Harris said, ‘The first time I meet my mother-in-law, she looks at me, puts my face in her hand … she looks at me and she says, “Oh look at you. You’re prettier than you are on television. Mike, look at her!”….I swear to you.” (see video clip)
- Jewish Democratic leaders also note that Harris is far more moderate on Israel than many in their party.
- Tuesday night, the “Democratic Majority For Israel” — a group of pro-Israel Jewish Democrats founded by pollster and strategist Mark Mellman — immediately Tweeted out: “We hope you’ll join us in congratulating Senator @KamalaHarris on her selection as @JoeBiden’s running mate! They are the perfect team to take on President Trump and restore American leadership!”
- Mellman’s group also Tweeted: “Pro-Israel Democratic presidential candidate. Pro-Israel Democratic vice presidential candidate. Pro-Israel Democratic platform.”
- As a freshman Senator, Harris visited Israel in November 2017 and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who Tweeted out a picture of their meeting.
- The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Tuesday night, “As a senator, Harris has been aligned with Biden on Israel: She is seen as a strong supporter with ties to AIPAC, the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby, and unlike some Democrats has not broached the idea of conditioning aid to Israel to influence its policies. During her presidential run, Harris separated herself somewhat from even the mainstream moderates in the pack, firmly opposing the idea of condemnatory U.N. votes or even strong public criticism aimed at swaying Israeli policy. While the more liberal pro-Israel group J Street has endorsed the centrist Biden, who also has committed to keeping spats with Israel private and the idea of not allowing any ‘daylight’ between the U.S. and Israel in diplomatic terms, it has not backed Harris. J Street, which lobbies for a two-state solution, has endorsed more than half of Senate Democrats.”
What are Jewish Republicans saying about Kamala Harris?
- Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, immediately issued a statement on Tuesday night warning that Biden and Harris would “push the Left’s agenda on the American people…endangering our allies and weakening our relationship with Israel.”
- “Joe Biden has sealed the Democrat Party’s move to the extreme left with the choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate,” Brooks said, making the following points.
- “Senator Harris wants to put the US back into the disastrous Obama-Biden nuclear deal with Iran.”
- “She does not stand with Israel and the Jewish community.”
- “She voted against an anti-BDS bill in the Senate that also extended an existing loan guarantee program with Israel.”
- “As Attorney General of California, she received numerous letters from Jewish organizations urging her to act against anti-Semitic activities on campuses in the California public university system, but she refused to answer those pleas.”
- Brooks added that “Harris is right up there with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party in supporting ‘Medicare for All’ and opposing fair trade deals like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In a 2016 California Senate candidate debate, then-Attorney General Harris said she had directed local law enforcement that they were not required to comply with ICE detainers for illegal immigrants who committed crimes. A Biden-Harris White House would push the Left’s agenda on the American people, weakening our national security, choking off our economic opportunities, endangering our allies, and weakening our relationship with Israel.”
- Ari Fleischer, a Jewish Republican who served as White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, was interviewed on Fox News by Laura Ingraham on Tuesday night. He, too, was sharply critical of Harris, but chose to focus on domestic matters, not Israel or foreign policy.
- “I think two political things are going to happen now that Harris is named,” Fleischer said. “One, this race is going to tighten up even more. The reason is because Biden naming her reminds people that Biden exists. He is so much better off hiding in his bunker and not making any news that he is making news….Secondly, I just question whether or not this is going to boost African-American turnout at all. I don’t think it will. She’s just not that historically exciting to African-Americans, she certainly wasn’t during the primary. And that was the one of the biggest reasons Biden picked her in order to win. I don’t see it.” (watch video clip via Mediaite)
[Note: I wrote this column in my capacity as a private citizen and commentator, not as Chairman of The Joshua Fund, which is a non-profit, non-political and non-partisan organization.]