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Kamala Harris: A political star is born

WASHINGTON — Just as Joe Biden was resurrected by a landslide primary victory in South Carolina, his choice for a running mate has been elevated by a startling debut on national television. Harris’ joint appearance with Biden was electric in its confident commitment to drive Donald Trump from office and to restore legality and vision to the presidency.

Kamala Harris, with polish and grit, served notice that she is ready and able to brush off Trump’s expected personal and political slurs, and counter with a full-throated defense of Biden’s 2020 agenda that already has moved in a more progressive direction.

Embracing Biden’s promise to deliver “an FDR-style presidency,” combatting the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Harris also testified to Biden’s personal empathy for working Americans in pointed contrast to the blind eye Trump has turned to them.

The president greeted the appearance of the 2020 Democratic ticket by calling Harris “nasty” and Biden’s campaign “phony” and “far-left radical.” He said of Harris’s early exit from the 2020 primaries: “She left angry, she left mad. There was nobody more insulting to Biden than she was. She said horrible things about him. . . . Now all of a sudden she’s running to be vice president, saying how wonderful he is.”

Biden responded: “Whining is what Donald Trump does best — better than any president in American history.” Harris chimed in: “America is crying out for leadership, yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him, a president who is making every challenge we face even more difficult to solve.”

Trump was mischaracterizing Harris, who in a primary debate did criticize Biden for once opposing school busing mandates, noting that she herself benefited from busing as a little girl in California. It was a damaging debate point, but Biden chose to ignore the attack, demonstrating his laudable disinclination to hold a grudge.

Harris now recalled her earlier friendship with Biden’s late son Beau, when she and he were serving as attorneys general of California and Delaware respectively.

“I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves,” she said. “And when I would ask him, ‘Where’d you get that? Where did it come from?’ He’d always talk about his dad. And I will tell you, the love they shared was incredible to watch. It was the most beautiful display of the love between a father and a son.”

As Harris spoke, Joe Biden standing a social distance away, could be seen visibly moved and close to tears. Theatrically or not, it was a telling moment testifying to the bond now existing between the prospective Democratic presidential nominee and his running mate. Biden later said he considered Harris and her family “honorary Bidens.”

It was reminiscent of the scene in 2015 when President Obama delivered the eulogy at Beau’s funeral, after his death from brain cancer. Obama told Joe Biden then that he considered him “my brother,” and in a well-known Joe Biden expression in Delaware, pledged his fidelity to the family, saying, “I give you my word as a Biden.”

The introduction of this formidable Democratic vice presidential nominee, and of the Biden-Harris team, to the American public could not have been more effectively crafted.

* Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books.

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