“She was extraordinarily nasty to Kavanaugh — Judge Kavanaugh, then; now Justice Kavanaugh. She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing,” Trump offered when asked about the pick.
Later in the briefing, Trump marveled that Biden could withstand picking a woman who had challenged him during the Democratic debates. “She was very, very nasty to — one of the reasons it surprised me, she was very — she was probably nastier than even Pocahontas to Joe Biden,” Trump said, supercharging his sexism with a racial slur aimed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden. And it’s hard to pick somebody that’s that disrespectful,” he added.
Speak for yourself, Trump. It wasn’t hard for Biden. But okay, Trump reflexively grabbed the “nasty woman” caricature off the shelf and dusted it off. That was to be expected—we all knew it was coming. Still, when he was asked about the campaign ad he had just tweeted out accusing Harris of being “phony,” Trump either wasn’t familiar with its content or, quite possibly, had forgotten about being briefed on it.
“You had an ad out that said she was phony and I wanted to drill down,” a reporter asked as Trump interrupted, asking: “That she was a what?”
But Trump wasn’t the only one who wasn’t clear about the lines of attack. A statement released by campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson accused Harris of trying to both “bury her record as a prosecutor” and “appease anti-police extremists.” At some point, they’ll have to choose: Is she a pro-police prosecutor or a “defund the police” radical? Or better put: Are they trying to depress turnout by turning the Democratic base—African Americans, in particular—against her, or are they trying to scare conservatives into believing she’s an antifa radical? Neither attack line seems particularly plausible given Harris’ personal and professional biography.
As MSNBC’s Joy Reid observed Tuesday night of Democrats’ most loyal voters: “Black women will be in formation for this ticket.”
But the lack of a cohesive line of attack wasn’t just a failure of execution. The campaign hadn’t actually pre-scripted a response, according to The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker. When Parker reached out to Trump campaign officials following Biden’s announcement, they really didn’t have a set direction or opposition research lined up to deploy, she told MSNBC on Wednesday. When she asked what angles they planned to take, “[n]o one really knew,” Parker recalled. Stunning.
That lack of preparation also trickled down to GOP lawmakers on the Hill. Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership team, didn’t even try to take a shot at Harris when asked about the pick on Wednesday.
“I don’t vote with her very often, we don’t agree on our votes, but I served with her, I like her,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju, noting that they serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee together. “She has normally stayed very well within the standards of that committee, which in the Senate is the least political of all committees. And she’s smart and she’s tough.”
That sounds like someone who didn’t get the memo because there wasn’t one.