Remembering Kamala Harris vs. Neomi Rao


Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) speaks during a hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on June 25, 2020. (Al Drago / Pool via Reuters)

Harris v. Rao; Harvard and China; the GOP and QAnon; the Russia report; Christopher Columbus; and more

One of my first tastes of Senator Kamala Harris came in February 2019. It was not a good one. The occasion was the nomination hearing of Neomi Rao, who in due course became a judge: a judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Judge Rao and I worked together at The Weekly Standard in the ’90s. Lovely, lively woman.

At Neomi’s hearing, Senator Harris questioned her as follows:

Harris: “You said when having a conversation with Senator Ernst — you said, ‘Women should take certain steps to avoid becoming a victim.’ What steps do you have in mind that women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?”

Rao: “Senator, it’s just sort of a commonsense idea about, for instance, excessive drinking. You know, that was advice that was given to me by my mother, it’s the advice that I . . .”

Harris: “So that’s one step you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?”

Rao: “It is just a way to make it less likely. It’s not to blame the victim. Rape and sexual assault are horrible crimes, but we’re talking about, What can you do to keep yourself safe?”

The exchange went on for a bit longer, and then:

Harris: “Do you believe if a woman does not take those steps that she is at fault, or partially at fault, for what happens to her?”

Rao: “Uh, no.”

Harris: “So what is the significance of taking those steps?”

Rao: “Well, I think it’s just the significance of trying to avoid becoming a victim of any crime, right? We take different steps to try to protect ourselves from horrible crimes, such as rape. And I think what we want is for women to not be victims.”

Thereafter, Harris took to Twitter, saying, “Here’s the bottom line: survivors of sexual assault should not be blamed for the trauma they’ve experienced.” “Deeply troubling,” etc.

I burned at the injustice of this. I thought of the lefty ladies I knew (and sometimes loved) in Ann Arbor, my hometown. (Neomi, too, is a Michigander, incidentally. She went to Detroit Country Day at the same time as Chris Webber, the basketball great.)

Should I have to lock my doors at night? No. But I do. What if I left my doors unlocked — even open? Wide open?

Say I owned a little convertible. (I was driving one just yesterday — not mine.) Say I parked it somewhere and left the Hope Diamond on the front seat, sparkling away.

Robbery is a crime, period. Crime is crime. The criminal is responsible for crime. But, as Neomi said, there are commonsense measures we can take to make it less likely we’ll be victimized.

Come on!

Sexual assault is about the worst crime there is. I’m not sure that rape is less evil than murder. I’m against capital punishment (in theory) — but it would be tempting to pull the lever on rapists. Neomi Rao has never said, They had it comin’.

Once more: Come on!

Does anyone understand what I’m saying?

• Harvard has done a really stand-up thing. You can read about it here. The article is from the Voice of America and its headline is, “Chinese Law Professor Fired for Views Receives Harvard Job Offer.”

The professor in question, Xu Zhangrun, has written articles critical of the Communist Party boss Xi Jinping. He must be a terribly brave man. A Harvard official told the VOA, “We have much respect for Professor Xu’s academic work. We thought it appropriate to make a gesture of support in light of recent developments . . .”

Again, stand-up. Maybe this affords Xu Zhangrun a layer, however thin, of protection.

The VOA quotes Jerome A. Cohen, the dean of China scholars in the United States. I wrote about him two years ago, here.

Cohen told the VOA, “I have long thought that I should limit my contacts with distinguished human-rights people in China, because it might add to their problems.” But he has come to believe that “perhaps we should take the opposite approach.” He says that Harvard’s gesture has given Xu Zhangrun “greater resistance and greater strides in his struggle against oppression.”

In addition to terminating Xu’s employment, the authorities charged him with soliciting prostitution. That is a common ploy, on the part of dictatorships. The more common one, however, is child-rape: a charge of pedophilia.

The Soviets did it for years, and Putin’s government does it too. (I addressed this subject here, in a series about Vladimir Bukovsky.) North Korea does it too. Thae Yong-ho, the diplomat who defected? (I wrote about him here.) The North Korean dictatorship, of course, accused him of child-rape.

Standard.

• This leads me to an uncomfortable subject here at home — in the United States: QAnon. The movement is growing, becoming an influence in the Republican Party, as National Review’s John McCormack wrote about here.

President Trump does not disavow them. On the contrary, he defends them as people concerned about rioting in Portland and such.

In brief, the QAnon people believe that there is a vast pedophile cult, led by prominent Democrats. President Trump and the military are engaged in a shadow war against this cult, which will all come out in the open one day.

It seems clear to me that Team Trump has played footsie with this movement, or winked at it. Let me quote a report in the New York Times by Jonathan Martin (formerly of National Review), published in May:

President Trump’s eldest son on Saturday posted a social media message suggesting Joseph R. Biden Jr. was a pedophile, an incendiary and baseless charge that illustrates the tactics the president is turning to as he attempts to erase Mr. Biden’s early advantage in key state polls.

Donald Trump Jr., who is one of his father’s most prominent campaign surrogates, put on Instagram a picture of Mr. Biden saying: “See you later, alligator” alongside an image of an alligator saying: “In a while, pedophile.”

When a reporter shared the Instagram post online, the younger Mr. Trump, echoing one of his father’s tactics, wrote on Twitter that he was only “joking around” and noted that he had included emojis of a laughing face.

Yet in the same Twitter post, he also reprised his original insinuation. He accused the former vice president of “unwanted touching” alongside a collage of photographs of Mr. Biden showing affection for children. The misleading images were mostly taken from public swearing-in ceremonies at the Capitol, where the former vice president warmly greeted lawmakers and their families.

Uh-huh.

At the same time, the president’s other adult son, Eric, conducted a “Twitter poll,” asking, “Would you trust Joe Biden to drive your child to school?”

Uh-huh. Let’s not play dumb. We all know what’s going on.

• The Republican Party, as you know, is presenting no platform this year. It’s just “Rah, Trump.” Which is fine. But I was wondering: What if conservatives crafted a platform of their own, just for fun? An alternative to Trump and the Democrats? In other words: If there were a conservative party in this country — “conservative” in the traditional American sense, not in the Continental one (Orban, Salvini, the Le Pens, et al.) — what would its platform look like?

• Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report (bipartisan) on Russian interference in our 2016 election. It made barely a ripple, as how could it? Everyone’s “priors” are in cement. At first, I found this discouraging — because the report should have been explosive news. But then it occurred to me: At least this report will be around, for posterity. At least it is thorough and well documented. In the future, in case someone cares, he can consult this report, among other things.

The report is about a thousand pages long, and there have been a number of fine summaries and analyses of it — David French’s, outstandingly. I would like to focus on a single issue.

It was Russian intelligence, the report makes clear, that put out the word — the lie — that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in our election. This lie has been repeated by President Trump and other prominent Republicans.

On November 20, 2019, Vladimir Putin sounded a triumphant, satisfied note. Speaking to a forum in Moscow, he said, “Thank God, no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

The next day, Fiona Hill testified before Congress. She had been a Russianist on the White House National Security Council staff.

“Based on questions and statements I have heard,” she said, “some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

She continued, “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they’re deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”

Damn right. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (That was the Bible, not Fiona Hill.)

• In recent days, I’ve been thinking about Christopher Columbus — statues of whom are under attack, once more, in our country. I thought Garry Kasparov was very interesting on the subject. He tweeted,

. . . going after statues of great explorers to apply modern purity tests is wrong. You can tell the whole story of Columbus without losing the plot of why he is important.

And,

Along with politicians & explorers, there are many monuments to scientists, authors, and composers to honor their achievements. Should they all come down if they would be canceled on Twitter today for other things?

And,

The “achievements” of the Confederacy — treason, slavery, racism — are themselves the problem. Conflating them with the flawed humanity of those who achieved great things is intellectual capitulation, not moral righteousness.

Yes.

I also appreciate Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who writes in The Disuniting of America (1991), “Let our children try to imagine the arrival of Columbus from the viewpoint of those who met him and also from the viewpoint of those who sent him.”

Yes. Wise.

• Well, I have lots more for you, but I have gone on. Must knock off. Give you a little vignette.

A little boy is with his family at an Italian restaurant. The waitress asks him, “What would you like to drink?” He says, “Apple juice, please.” The lady kindly explains that they don’t have juice — but they have lemonade. The child, politely, says, “I’ll just have water.”

Well, the man was asked what he wanted to drink — Italian restaurant or no Italian restaurant. And he said apple juice.

Loved it.

Good enough to end on? I hope so. Thanks for joining me, sports fans. See you soon.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.





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