After the first Democratic presidential debate in June, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became a top contender. She successfully broadsided frontrunner Joe Biden over his remarks about busing and working with segregationist Senators in a moment that was clearly staged, and landed a body blow that helped her campaign funding and poll numbers rise.

But while we political junkies were anxious to find out if we’d see more fireworks between Harris and Biden in Round Two Wednesday night, something unexpected happened.

The unstoppable Kamala Harris got flattened. And not by Joe Biden, who managed to survive last night’s debate simply thanks to the fact that no one delivered a knockout punch against him.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI), whose polling numbers have never been higher than 1%, took down the seemingly untouchable Harris.

Trouble began for Harris after debate moderator Jake Tapper began asked them about the race issue as it related to busing. After saying their positions were not the same, Harris again attacked Biden’s position:

HARRIS: That is simply false. And let’s be very clear about this. When Vice President Biden was in the United States Senate, working with segregationists to oppose busing, which was the vehicle by which we would integrate America’s public schools, had I been in the United States Senate at that time, I would have been completely on the other side of the aisle.

And let’s be clear about this. Had those segregationists their way, I would not be a member of the United States Senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States Senate, and Barack Obama would not have been in the position to nominate him to the title he now holds.

Biden brought up Harris’s problematic record as California’s state attorney general. The back and forth exchange between the two over race and her prosecutorial record set the stage for Tapper’s next question directed at Gabbard:

TAPPER: I want to bring in Congresswoman Gabbard. Congresswoman Gabbard, you took issue with Senator Harris confronting Vice President Biden at the last debate. You called it a quote, false accusation that Joe Biden is a racist. What’s your response?

GABBARD: I want to bring the conversation back to the broken criminal justice system that is disproportionately negatively impacting black and brown people all across this country today. Now Senator 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.


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.


And she fought to keep …

TAPPER: Thank you, Congresswoman.

GABBARD: Bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.

Here’s how Harris responded:

HARRIS: As the elected attorney general of California, I did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people, which became a national model for the work that needs to be done.

And I am proud of that work. And I am proud of making a decision to not just give fancy speeches or be in a legislative body and give speeches on the floor, but actually doing the work of being in the position to use the power that I had to reform a system that is badly in need of reform.

That is why we created initiatives that were about reentering former offenders and getting them counseling.

TAPPER: Thank you.

HARRIS: It is why (ph) and because I know that criminal justice system is so broken …

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

HARRIS: That I am an advocate for what we need to do to not only decriminalize, but legalize marijuana in the United States.

Notice what Harris did there. She didn’t refute a single thing Gabbard said. She couldn’t because Gabbard spoke the truth and Harris knows it.

Also take note of Harris’s veiled insult at Gabbard’s standing as a Congresswoman. Instead of tackling her record, which is what Gabbard did, Harris took the low road. “I am proud of making a decision to not just give fancy speeches or be in a legislative body and give speeches on the floor …”

Really? If a male candidate had dared to diminish a female Congresswoman in such a way feminists would have read him the riot act for days on end. Don’t forget that Gabbard is also an Iraq war veteran. So her service to her country hasn’t just been confined to standing in the U.S. House and on debate stages making “fancy speeches,” as Harris snidely insinuated.

Just as her cheap shot against Biden at the first debate demonstrated, Harris’s condescension towards Gabbard spoke volumes about her character. It revealed how she will go for the jugular in order to get ahead even if it means stabbing an ally in the back by dishonestly playing the race card or treating another woman of color like an empty suit for daring to criticize her record.

Gabbard was given the chance to respond to Harris’s comments:

GABBARD: The bottom line is, Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a difference and an impact in these people’s lives, you did not. And worse yet, in the case of those who were on death row, innocent people, you actually blocked evidence from being revealed that would have freed them until you were forced to do so.


There is no excuse for that and the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor owe — you owe them an apology.

In turn, Harris gave another defensive answer that did not refute any of what Gabbard noted, but which included another dig at Gabbard for giving a “fancy opinion:”

HARRIS: My entire career I have been opposed — personally opposed to the death penalty and that has never changed. And I dare anybody who is in a position to make that decision, to face the people I have faced to say I will not seek the death penalty. That is my background, that is my work.

I am proud of it. I think you can judge people by when they are under fire and it’s not about some fancy opinion on a stage but when they’re in the position to actually make a decision, what do they do.

When I was in the position of having to decide whether or not to seek a death penalty on cases I prosecuted, I made a very difficult decision that was not popular to not seek the death penalty. History shows that and I am proud of those decisions.

Watch the exchange below:

I have to admit that when I watched this segment it was like watching that scene from Rocky IV when Rocky landed the first direct hit on Ivan Drago. “He’s cut!” you can hear exclaimed in the background.

It was like the shot heard round the world. The mainstream media and Democratic commentators had been treating Harris as invincible for weeks. In the end, it took just two minutes for a candidate who few people believed was in Harris’s league to prove them wrong.

Harris did not take it well. She and Gabbard reportedly did not shake hands after the debate was over, and when questioned about the exchange in the spin room afterwards, here’s how the California Senator responded:


Her comms team embarrassed themselves, too. Harris’s national press secretary wrote this:

When all else fails, blame Russia? Not a good look, said NRSC senior advisor Matt Whitlock:

A CNN panel of Democrats weren’t impressed with Harris’s performance at all:

If Google Trends are any indication, Gabbard had the best night of any of the candidates in terms of exposure and voters wanting to know more about her:

To rub salt in the wound, at the time of this writing #KamalaHarrisDestroyed trended on Twitter.

In summary, this is probably the best take on Harris’s debate night disaster:


— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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