Tulsi Gabbard unsettles Kamala Harris on the criminal justice issue

Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard
Kamala Harris (left) and Tulsi Gabbard. Photo credits: https://www.tulsi2020.com and https://kamalaharris.org/

Gabbard goes after Harris’ record as a prosecutor.

Many Indian Americans watched Round 2 of the Second Democratic Presidential Debate held at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on Wednesday night with great interest.

It cannot be argued that many eyes were on California’s junior senator and one of the frontrunners in the Democratic presidential race, Kamala Harris.

Even though not all Indian Americans support Harris and many remain critical of her stance and policies as a lawmaker, she remains a point of great interest, as the first female presidential candidate ever with an Indian background.

ALSO READ: Second Democratic presidential debate: All Indian American eyes on Kamala Harris (July 30, 2019)

Another presidential hopeful who remains popular among the community is Tulsi Gabbard, mainly because of her shared identity of being a practicing Hinduism, a religion majority of Indian Americans follow.

On Wednesday night on stage, a clear and direct face-off between Harris and Gabbard kept Indian Americans, in fact a vast majority of viewers, engrossed to their screens.

The Hawaii congresswoman, who remained one of the top contribution receivers from the community, is not yet a front runner yet. But in the second debate, Gabbard very much showed that she is capable of firing verbal cannonades that can unsettle a frontrunner.

As the candidates stood on the podium to present their views, there was this face-off between the two Democrats that made everyone pause and take note of. While the topic of criminal justice reform was discussed, after exchanges between Harris and another front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden, the moderators turned toward Gabbard.

RELATED: Tulsi Gabbard outraises Kamala Harris among Indian American donors (April 20, 2019)

The congresswoman almost immediately fired as lethal argument: “Sen. Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president.

“But I’m deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

If that wasn’t enough, she added more: “She blocked evidence — she blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California.”

While Harris stood and smiled and shook her head, body language experts may agree that she was clearly unsettled. And her response did confirm her discomfiture.

It would be no exaggeration to say that Harris ended up losing the issue on Wednesday night. She argued and reasoned but did not actually come up with a pointed, or even a half-convincing answer to the charge.

And it is alright for a presidential candidate to be fired volleys of uncomfortable questions and occasionally stumble, perhaps made the matters worse was Harris’ response after the debate.

Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on her response to Gabbard’s allegations about her record as a prosecutor, Harris replied: “This is going to sound immodest, but I’m obviously a top-tier candidate,” she added. “And so, I did expect that I would be on the stage and take hits tonight, because there are a lot of people who trying to make the stage for the next debate.”

For many this must have been the first immodest thing to hear from Harris’ mouth but it also set the tone to the fact that the California senator was emotional, unsettled and perhaps did not take the allegations in the spirit that she should have.

When Cooper said, “For, many it’s do or die,” Harris still continued stressing her top position and said: “Well, yeah, and especially when people are at zero or 1 percent, or whatever she might be at, and so I did expect I might take hits tonight.”

And yes, Kamala did take a hit last night not just from Gabbard but from other candidates, too. But perhaps we didn’t need Kamala to tell us that she is a top-tier candidate.

But what the face-off also showcased is the increasing diversity in American politics. Even a few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine two women of color, belonging to different faiths, vying for the highest office in the land, engaging in such a high-octane argument.


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Seven things to know about Kamala Harris (January 21, 2019)

Under attack, Tulsi Gabbard apologizes for her past anti-LGBTQ stance (January 19, 2019)

Indian American community excited about a potential Kamala Harris run (January 14, 2019)

Tulsi Gabbard: I have been ‘a Hindu American leader in the truest sense’ (January 12, 2019)

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard marries videographer Abraham Williams(April 10, 2015)

Sen. Kamala Harris pays tribute to her Indian American mother (January 8, 2019)

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