Kamala Harris has begun her trip to Asia, and no sooner had she gotten off the airplane than she was asked a question about Afghanistan.
I don’t know that the social media criticism of this moment is particularly justified. Harris laughs when she is nervous, a trait that she likely would have grown out of if she had followed a normal political path. But because her rise to power in California was greased by being Willie Brown’s mistress, she didn’t acquire the skills that less privileged politicians have to master.
After her meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister, the two did a joint press conference of the sort that is familiar. They began by giving short speeches about cooperation between the two nations on trade and so on, but the reporters’ questions were almost all about Afghanistan. This is the first of those exchanges; a reporter asks her what went wrong with the withdrawal. You can judge the effectiveness of Harris’s response for yourself:
In other words, the administration is 1) refusing to admit, while at the same time not really denying, that the withdrawal has been a fiasco, and 2) hoping anger over the disaster will die down before there is any need for an accounting.
Another reporter asked a question about Afghanistan later in the press conference, and Harris more or less repeated her answer. That occurs at around the 29 minute mark:
Harris refers insistently to the “successful drawdown of the embassy” as the administration’s main achievement so far. I assume she means that to date, no embassy employees have been reported as murdered. Whether the “drawdown” was successful, many embassy employees have disputed, as reflected in a State Department diplomatic cable.
PAUL ADDS: If you want to see what the difference between an intelligent head of state and a stumbling lightweight looks like, watch the first video of Harris and the leader of Singapore (the one that lasts a little less than 5 minutes).