Sen. Kamala Harris on Thursday issued a forceful rebuke of President Donald Trump, hammering the president for his response to the coronavirus pandemic and racial unrest — and what she said was a lack of meaningful attention paid to both at the Republican National Convention. Her address was designed to preemptively rebut Trump’s nomination acceptance speech later in the evening.
The Democratic vice presidential nominee began her speech by addressing the “pain, hurt and destruction” caused by wildfires raging in California and Hurricane Laura in the Gulf of Mexico, and also by this week’s police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., which has prompted at-times-violent protests.
Harris spoke emotionally about Blake, who she emphasized was “shot seven times in the back in broad daylight in front of his three young sons.”
The California senator painted a contrast between Trump and Democratic ticket of herself and Joe Biden, expressing support for peaceful protesters and the Blake family, and calling their experience “tragically common in our country.”
Hours earlier, Trump had refused to tell reporters whether he had seen the video of Blake’s shooting. Harris called the video of episode “sickening.”
She mentioned by name the Black men and women whose deaths this year have fueled mass protests across the globe and demands for change, saying that “it’s no wonder people are taking to the streets,” and pledged that activists fighting for racial justice “will have a seat at the table” in a Biden-Harris administration.
“We must always defend peaceful protests and peaceful protesters,” she said. “We should not confuse them with those looting and committing acts of violence, including the shooter who was arrested for murder.And make no mistake, we will not let these vigilantes and extremists derail the path to justice.”
Harris also skewered the president for initially downplaying the coronavirus earlier this year, drawing on her prosecutorial background as she accused the president of deadly incompetence and “a reckless disregard for the well-being of the American people.”
She painted Trump as egotistical and consumed by his reelection chances at the expense of American lives, dithering instead of taking action on the virus for fear it could tank the stock market.
“Donald Trump stood idly by and, folks, it was a deadly decision,” Harris complained. “Instead of rising to meet the most difficult moment of his presidency, Donald Trump froze.”
She slammed this week’s Republican National Convention, asserting that the reality of the pandemic, and the pain and uncertainty it has caused, were “completely absent” from the GOP’s event. In fact, the convention has featured small-business owners hit hard by the recession and helped by the bipartisan rescue package, along with health care workers and other first responders. But speakers largely treated the pandemic as a thing of the past rather than an ongoing crisis that’s still killing about 1,000 people a day in the U.S.
“Unlike the Democratic convention,” Harris argued, “which was very clear-eyed about the challenges we are facing and how we will tackle them, the Republican convention is designed for one purpose: to soothe Donald Trump’s ego.”
“But here’s the thing — he’s the president of the United States,” Harris continued. “And it’s not supposed to be about him.”
Harris’ speech came hours before Trump is set to deliver his own scathing indictment of Joe Biden from the White House to close out the GOP convention.
“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” Trump is expected to say.