[ Forgive me for using the above clip in the jokey context in which it was presented: It was the best I could find on YouTube, meaning that I could embed it easily. ]
During remarks she made in Sunset, Louisiana this week on a stop to highlight the value of bringing high-speed broadband internet to communities, Harris got herself stuck on the phrase “the importance of the passage of time” in between her usual inappropriate giggles. Then, today, yet another Harris staffer fled the coop, moving former Speaker Newt Gingrich to say,
“You know, he [Biden] may or may not have cognitive decline problems at his age, but at her age, she’s just dumb. Let’s be clear, Kamala Harris may be the dumbest person ever elected vice president in American history and that’s why people keep resigning.If you were her national security advisor, and you were competent, and you’d worked hard, and you knew what you were doing, and you watched her in Poland break up laughing when she’s asked about Ukrainian refugees, you had to feel a sense of total humiliation. So I’m not surprised that that particular advisor resigned because it’s very clear that Kamala Harris should never, ever be allowed to leave the country.”
Is that a fair thing to say?
The first question to be answered is whether it is an ad hominem attack rather than a substantive criticism. A lot of people would think it was, but as has been hashed out here repeatedly, this is not what constitutes that category of an invalid and unethical attack. Ad hominem occurs when someone attempts to rebut an argument by stating that the speaker is an idiot, or something else less than admirable. Concluding, however, that a particularly stupid statement indicates that the speaker is a few burgers short of a cookout is something very different: an assertion of signature significance, meaning that an intelligent public official never delivers cackling gibberish like Harris’s “”the importance of the passage of time” mantra even once without being under the influence of mind-altering drugs.
The second question is whether Gingrich protected himself by using the qualifier, “may.” He did. Stating for the record that Kamala Harris is the dumbest VP in our history would be unsupportable based on the existing historical record. Is “may” fair? I think it is, but it is also impossible to say for certain. I’d estimate that at least 15 of the 49 VPs are sufficiently obscure that we don’t have sufficient information regarding their intellectual limits. The advent of mass media and the 24 hour news cycle means that Harris’s statements and conduct are under far more scrutiny than all but her most recent peers as occupants of the office.
Who knows what idiocy Richard Mentor Johnson (October 17, 1780 – November 19, 1850) may have uttered, for example, in his forgettable career as a Kentucky Congressman and, briefly, Senator, interrupted by a stint as Martin Van Buren’s VP? Then again, he must have impressed somebody: counties in four U.S. states are named for Johnson.
Reviewing the full list, it is clear that Harris has a thinner resume than any other Vice-President. She alone was chosen as a Presidential running mate based on factors that had nothing to do with her ability, experience or demonstrated success, and definitely not because of her brilliance. Harris, like the SCOTUS nominee currently being vetted in the Senate, was chosen purely because of her skin color and sex organs. That’s no way to ensure reliable intelligence.
There also remains the reasonable question of whether Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush’s ill-starred #2, was at least as dumb as Harris, if not more. It has to be close: Quayle had that dead-eyed look that only the truly dumb and taxidermy subjects can muster. Bush, however, had the sense not to keep putting Quayle in the public eye and the cross-hairs of journalists.
Finally, we must ask the question, “Is Gingrich’s statement just mean, with no positive contribution to public knowledge, and a pure Golden Rule breach?”
The answer to this has to be a reluctant “no.” Denial in politics and public policy is destructive, and there is too much of it flying around already as “It isn’t what it is” has become something of a Democratic party motto.” Harris is an embarrassment, and pretending she isn’t only makes it more likely that she will do maximum damage before her incompetence decisively catches up with her.