California Sen. Kamala Harris called the shutdown of the federal government a “crisis of the President’s own making” in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday.
Harris, who published a new memoir this week ahead of likely 2020 presidential run, demurred on whether she will challenge President Donald Trump for the White House.
Harris said she would make a decision soon and she believes the country is ready for a woman of color as president.
“We have to give the American people more credit, and we have to understand that the American public and the people of our country are smart people, who will make decisions about who will be their leader, based on who they believe is capable, who they believe has an honest desire to lead, to represent, to see them, to be a voice for them even if they have no power,” Harris said. “Those are the kinds of people who we are as a country. And so the pundits can talk all day, and all night, and there’s a lot of chatter about which demographic will do this or that. It has been my life’s experience that the American people are smart and they make decisions about what’s in the best interest of their household, their family and their community. And I have faith that in 2020, and in any other election, that will be their motivation when they vote.”
But she argued that the American people deserve better leadership than they are seeing under this President, stating that the shutdown has thrown lives into chaos.
“It is a false choice to suggest that we’re going to hold 800,000 federal workers and all of the services that they provide hostage for this president’s vanity project,” Harris said on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
Later Wednesday night, Harris turned up the heat on Trump by blasting his insistence on holding out for funding for his border wall before reopening the government – comparing the President’s behavior to how her 11-year-old godson might have behaved with his toy train.
“Any good parenting would tell you that you don’t listen to those kinds of tantrums, and you don’t reward that behavior,” she said during her first formal event for her new memoir, which was held at Washington’s George Washington University.
Harris argued that Democrats should not cave to those sorts of tactics.
“We’ve had enough of these powerful voices that are trying to sow hate and division among us,” Harris said. “I’m done with that. I’m really done with it. Because it is not only wrong from a moral perspective, it is unproductive if we actually want to be on a trajectory that is about achieving success and progress. It is morally wrong.”
Answering questions before a receptive crowd in sold-out Lisner Auditorium, Harris went on to chide Trump for inserting race into his prime-time speech about the shutdown on Tuesday.
“Did you watch his speech last night?” Harris said.
“It was blatant. It was blatant. Talking about African-Americans and Latinos, don’t want this stuff happening,” Harris added, mocking Trump’s tone to laughter from the audience. “What was that supposed to be about? Tell me that – if not inserting race in a way that was intended to create fear and division.”
“That’s not what a leader does and that’s certainly not what the leader of the United States is supposed to do,” she said.
In her memoir, Harris wrote about how her mother taught her to trust her gut instincts.
On Wednesday night, she was questioned by the event’s moderator Jonathan Capehart, a writer for The Washington Post, about how she would compare her instincts to Trump’s gut.
“I would actually say that assumes facts, not evidence that he has a gut,” she said.
In the interview, the Democratic senator spoke about how her heritage as the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica has shaped her outlook on the plight of immigrants under the policies of the Trump administration.
In her new memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” Harris described her anger watching her mother become a target because she was “brown-skinned” and how that has driven her efforts to enhance the legal and humanitarian protections over immigrants coming into the US.
Harris said she was blessed with a nurturing, happy, healthy childhood, but has been dismayed by Trump’s vilification of immigrants.
“When we talk about the immigration debate, I think there is no question that there are powerful forces, including this president, that are attempting to vilify immigrants because they were born in another country,” Harris said, “and suggest that they are therefore any different in terms of their fundamental values or beliefs, or priorities.”
“I think all of us as Americans should all be insulted by that suggestion,” the Democratic senator said, “knowing that all of us are just a few generations, if not one generation away from immigrants who arrived in this country with the same hopes and dreams that we each have for our children.”
The former California attorney general also expressed regret that she was not informed by her staff that her former top aide in that previous office was accused of gender harassment, a lawsuit that the attorney general’soffice settled for nearly $400,000 after she had moved on to the US Senate.
Harris said that as a leader of the #MeToo movement, “it was a very painful experience to know that something could happen in one’s office of almost 5,000 people, granted, but that I didn’t know about it.”
“That being said, I take full responsibility for anything that has happened in my office,” she said. “I always do, and I always will. The buck stops with me.”
“Even in the office of someone who has been an advocate for women’s rights, and all people’s rights, there is no office that is immune from this kind of behavior, and that’s something that we are also going to have to deal with. That’s a sad statement,” she added.
Larry Wallace, who headed the Bureau of Law Enforcement at the California Attorney General’s office, was accused by his former assistant of forcing her to change the paper or the ink in a printer under his desk every day and refused to move the printer.
Wallace worked closely with Harris for many years, and she praised his efforts to help root out racial bias in the attorney general’s office in her recent memoir.