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Kamala Harris Shines, Biden Loses Luster in First Round of Democrat Debates

06-27-2019
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California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (Photo: AP)
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (Photo: AP)

The second night of the first Democrat presidential primary debate birthed a new star and knocked the luster off the frontrunner.

Over the course of two hours, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) distinguished herself by using her skills as a prosecutor to draw blood, targeting former Vice President Joe Biden's talk this week about his history of working across the aisle.

"It's personal and I was actually – it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country," Harris said solemnly while looking at Biden. 

"And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And you know there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day and that little girl was me," she recalled holding back emotion.
   
Biden responded defiantly, "That's a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That is not true."
   
"But Vice President Biden – do you agree today; do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America? Do you agree?" Harris asked.

"I did not oppose busing in America – what I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That's what I opposed," he said growing frustrated.

"But there was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America – I was part of the second class to integrate Berkley, California public schools almost two decades after Brown v Board of Education," Harris said.

"Because your city council made that decision," responded Biden.
 
"So that's where the federal government must step in. That's why we have the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act," said Harris to growing thunderous applause from the audience. 

Throughout the debate, Biden worked to maintain his blue-collar appeal and make clear who he sees as his chief opponent.

"Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America – ordinary middle-class Americans built America," he said early on.

However, his exchange with Harris demonstrates he's likely to spend much of the primary on the defense as his opponents pick away at the intricacies of his 40-year legislative career that are hard to explain in 30-second bursts.
 
Another frontrunner, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), also had some explaining to do when he was asked the first question that forced him to clarify how his policies would require tax hikes on the middle class.

"People who have healthcare under 'Medicare for All' will have no premiums, no deductibles, no out of pocket expenses – yes they will pay more in taxes, but less in healthcare for what they get," he said to applause.

In the one real mention of faith, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has attacked Christians like Vice President Mike Pence for their stance on LGBT issues, lectured Republicans about migrants at the border.

"We should call out hypocrisy when we see it, and for a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is ok – to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, the Republican Party has lost all claim to ever use religious language again," he said doubling down on the fact he's one of the few candidates who regularly invokes his faith.

All of the candidates stretched their time to answer questions as long as the moderators would allow, but Biden was all too quick to announce his time was up and stop talking, including at the end of his emotional exchange with Harris over busing.

There's no question this wasn't the kind of first debate Biden and his supporters wanted. Time will tell is he is indeed running out of time or this is just an early stumble in a long race.

    

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