Debates 2020

Calling Out Kamala Harris' Record as a Draconian Prosecutor Isn't a 'Distortion'

It's the truth.


Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) defended her criminal justice record against what she called "distortions" at Thursday's Democratic debate, but she once again avoided offering explanations for past positions that critics say undercut her claim that she was a progressive prosecutor.

ABC News correspondent and debate moderator Linsey Davis noted, quite pointedly, that Harris' recently released criminal justice plan contradicted many of her past positions as California's attorney general.

"It does contradict some of your prior positions. Among them, you used to oppose the legalization of marijuana, now you don't," Davis said. "You used to oppose outside investigations of police shootings, now you don't. You said that you've changed on these and other things because you were, quote, 'swimming against the current and thankfully, the currents have changed.' But when you had the power, why didn't you try to affect change then?"

"There have been many distortions of my record," Harris responded. "Let me be very clear. I made the decision to become a prosecutor for two reasons. One, I wanted to protect people and keep them safe. And second, I was born knowing how this criminal justice system in America has worked, in a way that has been informed by racial bias, and I can tell you extensively about the experiences I and my family have personally had."

"I made the decision that if I was going to have the ability to reform the system I'd do it from the inside," Harris continued.

She touted her work to divert people arrested for drugs into a job program, as well as a body camera initiative for police and police training on racial bias.

"Was I able to get enough done? Absolutely not," Harris said, "but my plan has been described by activists as a bold and comprehensive plan."

Harris' record on criminal justice has been a sore spot for her. As the Democratic Party has swung to the left on the issue of criminal justice, her actions as California's top prosecutor have come under scrutiny. As Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown summed it up in a recent cover story, echoing a persistent criticism and internet meme, "Kamala is a cop":

During her 28-year tenure as a county prosecutor, district attorney (D.A.), and state attorney general (A.G.), Harris proved quite willing to live up to the epithet. In the public eye, she spoke of racial justice and liberal values, bolstering her cred as one of the Democratic Party's rising stars. But behind closed doors, she repeatedly fought for more aggressive prosecution not just of violent criminals but of people who committed misdemeanors and "quality of life" crimes.

Every attorney general fights for state power and police prerogatives. It's part of the job. But over and over again, Harris went beyond the call of duty, fighting for harsher sentences, larger bail requirements, longer prison terms, more prosecution of petty crimes, greater criminal justice involvement in low-income and minority communities, less due process for people in the system, less transparency, and less accountability for bad cops.

Instead of apologizing or even acknowledging this, however, her campaign has glossed over these troubling parts of her record, as she did again on the debate stage.

As Reason wrote about her most recent memoir, The Truths We Hold, Harris paints herself as a progressive prosecutor while side-stepping explanations for why her office did things like defend egregious prosecutorial misconduct, or appeal the removal of the entire Orange County district attorney's office from a high-profile death penalty case after a bombshell report revealed an unconstitutional jailhouse snitch program.

See also: Reason TV's video "Kamala Harris Hopes You'll Forget Her Record as a Drug Warrior & Draconian Prosecutor."

NEXT: Andrew Yang Makes Pitch to, Uh, Libertarians? ’It’s Time To Trust Ourselves More Than Our Politicians'

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  1. You wanna see civil rights disappear? Go ahead and elect that cum-guzzling whore.
    I’d take Comrade Bernie over Harris, because nobody else would vote for his crazy schemes. But she’d get away with it because other lawmakers would be afraid to appear ”soft on crime” so they’d go along with her agenda.

    1. “cum-guzzling whore”

      Please stop the slut-shaming.

      1. How do you think *any* of the candidates are going to get their plans through Congress?

      2. Sorry OBL, there is no such thing as slut-shaming. Sluts have no shame.

  2. I’ve accepted that most of Reason’s staff doesn’t share my enthusiasm for Harris at this early stage. But surely you must admit that, if she gets the nomination, she’d be preferable to Orange Hitler? I mean, I doubt Harris put kids in cages, or built literal concentration camps, or forced people to drink from toilets.

    1. I wouldn’t doubt that.

    2. You really are a stupid and ignorant soy boy.
      The Photos of kids in cages was from the Obama era.
      There are no concentration camps on the borders. The Illegal aliens hosed there are free to leave at any time, just not into the interior of the country and they are treated better than they would be by their own governments if they broke the law. They are over crowded but that is mainly because they are being over whelmed by the masses of immigrants who have chosen to cross the border illegally instead of crossing are legitimate points or entry.
      As for the other stupid claim of drinking from toilets, that lie has been debunked many times. It was started by the idiot of congress AOC. I suppose it takes an idiot to believe an idiot’s ramblings.

  3. Watching a few minutes of this train wreck tonight, two things are apparent:

    Joe Biden is finished. The guy was a disconnected set of talking point fragments mixed into a word salad. He actually said “have them listening to the record player at night” in response to a question about slavery reparations.

    Second: As incoherent and erratic as Trump has been – he’s a better choice for president than any of these people. Not a single one of them should be involved in government in any way. Kamala Harris just proposed a 2% wealth tax to provide two trillion dollars to traditionally black colleges. Two Trillion Dollars – because she went to a black college and black colleges train black teachers. And a wealth tax. On top of her 4.5 trillion dollars annual increase in the federal budget.

    Yeah, go ahead and defend any one of these nutjobs as being better than Trump. That guy is a box of rabid cats, and he’s still better than any of the democrat field. And as much of a disaster as he is, his very worst is still better than these guys best ideas. And no, that is not a complement.

    1. Posted elsewhere.

      The Democrat party (like the Liberals up here in Canada under this remedial ideological douche with a piece of corn stuck in his brain) are a discombobulated and incoherent mess. They’re literally unprincipled whores bribing people left, right and centre with stupid schemes and policies rooted in faulty premises.

      And when you attempt to debate them (and their supporters) they just go straight for the appeal to emotion and authority laced with ad hominen poison wrapped up in a sea of stupid sophistry.

      They’re nut jobs. Full stop.

    2. eh, I agree with your second part 100%. Hell, Trump could die and he’d still be a more effective president as a corpse, and yeah, he is incredibly erratic and there’s quite a bit he’s doing I don’t like.

      About Biden being finished… Idk. He started off really strong, and he didn’t have any huge gaffs. Hell, Castro’s whole “did you forget” line blew up in his face, sounds like. I think Biden’s still in it at the moment.

      1. In the post-game analysis the pro and anti Biden factions of the DNC machine were so busy with talking points about the Castro fight that nobody noticed his incoherent answer to the reparations question.

        “Have them listen to the record player at night.”

        That was literally his prescription. That is out of touch on so many levels – I mean, “record player”??

        The fact that it didn’t get mentioned lets you know that they are not news reporters, but rather DNC propaganda operatives looking to navigate the difficult waters of making their own look good while ensuring that the right folk get the nod.

        Dude pulled out “record player” in 2019 in response to a question about reparations that he attempted to bend toward education of black kids. And nobody picks that line out?

        CD’s began replacing records over 35 years ago. CD’s got squeezed out of the market starting almost 20 years ago – definitely 15 years ago. And he pulls out “Record Player”.

        Nope. Not a thing, apparently.

        Go back and listen to that answer if it hasn’t been wiped from the interwebs. He sounded roughly as coherent as the beauty pageant “and such as the Iraq” girl.

        1. Got some bad news for ya – – –
          The wealthy elites have returned to analog vinyl for it’s sound quality. So he is probably listening to a record player in his mansion.

        2. That isn’t actually incoherent to people of a certain age. He was referring to an idiom, “sounds like a broken record”. A vinyl record, if damaged in a certain way, could get stuck in one groove and play the same few seconds of a song over and over. While I don’t agree with Joe Biden on much, he does have a point here. Those screaming for reparations do sound like a broken record.

    3. I think the “record player” comment has about as much significance as Trump accidentally referring to airports in 1775 or mispronouncing “origins”. Giving verbal stumbles the same level of significance as policy choices that actually affect people’s lives makes for great clickbait headlines but it also means less scrutiny of things that will tangibly affect our lives.

  4. Watching ABC news coverage, an interesting affectation surfaced:

    All of the ABC news analysts used “we” in reference to the democrat party and the democrat nominee. None talked about the democrats as a third person that they are covering objectively.

    1. MSM is not being objective? *Sigh* I’m too tired to go looking for my shocked face right now. Can I phone it in later?

    2. I noticed that too. These fuckers aren’t even being discrete anymore

  5. OK reason, here’s a nugget to dig up and explain. All of the candidates were singing from the same songbook about teachers.

    Apparently there is a $13,500 wage gap for teachers. Not sure what that meant. But they are all going to fix it by passing a $65k minimum wage for teachers.

    1. Don’t look for logic or facts in their statements, that way leads only to madness.

  6. No televisado en inglés en Sud Cali???

    1. Translation:
      Non télévisé en anglais à sud california???

      1. In case you were wondering:
        Non télévisé en français en Californie du Sud

        1. My hovercraft is full of eels.

          1. Welcome to my world.

          2. John has a long mustache.

  7. Her strategy is to make left-wing talking points about crime in public, while being into cages and handcuffs in private.

  8. Speaking of draconian, I looked up the original Draco on Wikipedia:

    “The laws were particularly harsh. For example, any debtor whose status was lower than that of his creditor was forced into slavery. The punishment was more lenient for those owing a debt to a member of a lower class. The death penalty was the punishment for even minor offences, such as stealing a cabbage. Concerning the liberal use of the death penalty in the Draconic code, Plutarch states: “It is said that Drakon himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones”.”

  9. Harris’ claims about but not really having much choice are seriously undermined by the fact that she refused to defend the death penalty, but was happy to defend all sorts of other abuses that obviously she could have also chosen to not defend because of legit disagreement.

    That was my favorite moment by far, the moderators question, Kamalas face hearing it, and the audience reaction… rofl get her!

    1. Still, asking why she didn’t do something about police abuse “when you had the chance to do something” doesn’t quite cut it in questioning Harris. Her assertion that she was trying really hard and just couldn’t swim against the current is patently and demonstrably false. When she was in charge, she didn’t merely fail to do anything to rein in abuse, she was an active perpetrator of said abuses. She didn’t just “do her best to stop the hobnailed boot stomping our faces”, she put the thing on and gave it her all, stomping her way through her period as top prosecutor.

      Until 5 minutes ago that was her badge of honor, being a “tough” prosecutor. And “tough” prosecutors defend the state and state actors, so she was plenty proud of it.

  10. While police misconduct is the biggest issue in justice reform today prosecutor misconduct is probably number two. It is an especially big issue in Kamala’s home state of California. Do a google for “Orange County informant scandal” if you want a small taste of what I’m talking about. When examining Harris’s record as state attorney general you will notice that she was frequently in the position of defending her fellow prosecutors who had done some shocking things. You need to realize something, almost every time someone is exonerated for a crime someone in law enforcement (frequently the prosecutor) takes a serious hit. They lose their career or credibility or social status in the community. Plus whatever division of law enforcement they worked for also gets a big hit. Why do you think Kamala Harris fought so hard to prevent Daniel Larsen from being released even though she admitted her self that Larsen was completely innocent? She did it to protect the corrupt prosecutor that originally set up Daniel Larsen for a crime he did not commit. Why do thing she vigorously fought and appealed the ruling that disqualified the Orange County DA’s office from the case in the Orange County Prosecutor scandal? The Orange County DA’s office was caught red handed paying both cash and freedom to a Mexican mod hit man that was coercing false confessions (or just plain making them up) when the Sheriff’s deliberately placed him in the same cell as the defendant. Not only that, they even had a secret sophisticated database that tracked them doing this for the past 25 years! Kamala Harris was behind the thin blue line.
    What has been discussed in the media doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of Kamala Harris’s record.

  11. Harris is a nasty piece of work, to be sure, as one might expect from a narcissist whose only thought is of herself and her overweening ambition. Since she has been in the Senate she has done nothing but pose and bloviate from day one in service of her presidential ambitions. Do something for the people of Calfornia who elected her? Naw, what’s the point of that?

    That such an unbalanced personality, with its distinctive authoritarian tendencies and mean-spiritedness, could ever get near the Oval Office is truly frightening. She, surprisingly for a lawyer who should know better, believes that the presidency is a quasi-monarchy, where she can mandate anything she wants, because, well, she wants to. Constitution? She must have missed that class in law school (she wasn’t, in fact, a top graduate of her class).
    I really can’t imagine why anyone would support such a creature, though at least one person who posted on this thread apparently does (delusional thinking abounds everywhere). But, fortunately, people are discovering what loser Harris is, and her crass, obvious attempts at portraying herself as likable have made her even more unlikable. I don’t see she ever getting beyond the single-digit holding pattern she has been in since Tulsi Gabbard tanked her about a month ago. She’ll be gone long before spring.

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