Reason Roundup

Kamala Harris 2020 Staffer Says She Never Saw Campaign Staff Treated 'So Poorly'

Plus: Trump tries to expand trade war, new findings on sexual harrassment and physical attraction, and more...


Things continue to go awry for Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris. In early November, the California senator's campaign announced a round of layoffs and pay cuts. Now state operations director Kelly Mehlenbacher has resignedand her farewell letter offers a scathing glimpse inside Harris' operation.

"This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly," Mehlenbacher wrote in the letter obtained by The New York Times. "With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win."

"We have refused to confront our mistakes, foster an environment of critical thinking and honest feedback, or trust the expertise of talented staff," Mehlenbacher's letter continued.

The Times interviewed "50 current and former campaign staff members and allies, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity." Their takeway? Harris' swift dropwhich the campaign and its allies have blamed on racism and sexismwas both predictable and largely divorced from larger cultural or political forces:

Many of her own advisers are now pointing a finger directly at Ms. Harris. In interviews several of them criticized her for going on the offensive against rivals, only to retreat, and for not firmly choosing a side in the party's ideological feud between liberals and moderates. She also created an organization with a campaign chairwoman, Maya Harris, who goes unchallenged in part because she is Ms. Harris's sister, and a manager, Mr. [Juan] Rodriguez, who could not be replaced without likely triggering the resignations of the candidate's consulting team. Even at this late date, aides said it's unclear who's in charge of the campaign.

Harris donors were reportedly alarmed by how the candidate handled the criminal justice–based critiques from another candidate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii):

In the July debate, Ms. Harris did not respond sharply to an attack on her prosecutorial record from Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, even after Ms. Harris had been prepped for the topic.

On a conference call after the debate, several of Ms. Harris's donors were alarmed and urged the campaign to strike back at Ms. Gabbard more aggressively, two people on the call said.

Ms. Harris also knew her response had been insufficient, a view quickly reinforced by her advisers. In interviews, many of them point to that debate moment as accelerating Ms. Harris's decline and are so exasperated that they bluntly acknowledge in private that Ms. Harris struggles to carry a message beyond the initial script.

What she does seem more comfortable with, on the campaign trail and at the November debate, is making the case against Mr. Trump, which is now her core campaign message. After months of uncertainty, she's back to embracing her role as a prosecutor.

The Mehlenbacher resignation letter and the Times article are only the latest bad publicity for Harris. Last week The Washington Post profiled a Harris candidacy "now teetering, weighed down by indecision within her campaign, her limits as a candidate and dwindling funds that have forced her to retreat in some places at a moment she expected to be surging."

Democratic pollster Paul Maslin told the Post that Harris has "been the biggest, I think, negative surprise of the campaign."


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Trump wants to expand his trade wars. This morning, the president tweeted:

It's unclear whether the president actually has the authority to do this unilaterally without the Department of Commerce finding a sufficient "national security" risks posed by the targeted Brazilian and Argentinian goods.


Some potentially interesting new research on sexual harassment:


Make American Corny Again: 


  • New Yorkers came together over the weekend to remember migrant sex worker Yang Song and protest police raids on Asian massage parlors: