The Preamble

My conversation with Kamala Harris

She's the first vice president to ever visit an abortion clinic, and she did it in Minnesota, an important state that went Biden's way in 2020 but could prove tougher in 2024.

Date

Mar 29, 2024

Length

15 min


Kamala Harris visits an abortion clinic in Minnesota.

Nicole Neri/Reuters

Sharon: You were the first president or vice president to visit an abortion clinic earlier today-

VP Harris: Yes.

Sharon: And I'm wondering, I know a lot of Minnesotans are pro-choice, but there are still a large number that are anti-abortion. And they are just not going to change their mind on that topic, but yet they don't support President Trump. Knowing that you're not going to change their mind on abortion, what would you do to win their votes?

VP Harris: So first of all, it's wonderful to be with you and thank you.

Sharon: Thank you for being here.

VP Harris: And thank you. I will say this, I think that there so much about this issue that does not require an individual to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs. As much as anything, this issue is about the fact that the government shouldn't be telling people what to do with their body and it's freedom.

So the freedom to make a decision for yourself that you don't believe in it and you wouldn't do it, to advocate in the context of your family, but to agree that the government should not be telling women what to do with their body.

And the other point I'd make is that I think a lot of people are realizing that, those who've had a longstanding opposition to abortion, are also realizing that things have started to happen that they did not intend, like women having miscarriages in toilets, like women being denied emergency care because the hospital staff are afraid that they could go to jail for administering care.

What happened we saw with IVF and the fact that that can happen now because of the case that took away these freedoms. So I would ask people to consider that there are many issues that play on this issue right now, including the taking of freedoms and individual rights.

The Vice President with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

But the other issues that are at play are really about a fight for our democracy. The former president has openly admired dictators and said he would be a dictator on day one. The former president has stated an intention to weaponize the Department of Justice against his enemies.

We look at what America stands for and our pride as Americans include, I think for most of us, knowing that we are a world leader with the authority to talk about the importance of democracy and rule of law.

As vice president, I've now met with over 150 world leaders, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors and kings, and they look to us. I mean we still have the earned and self-appointed authority to walk in those rooms and talk about the strength of democracy, the need to fight corruption, importance of rule of law, and all of that is at stake in this election in a way we've never seen.

This election is not about a debate between are you for or against a trickle down theory for the economy. This election is so much bigger than how do you feel about regulation or deregulation.

This election is really about, on the one hand, Joe Biden who stands for rule of law, who stands for America standing by our friends, who stands for the importance of holding an office with dignity and respect for other people. And on the other side someone who is openly rejecting many of those principles.

I mean, I'll share with you, I think that something really kind of perverse has taken on over the last few years that suggests that the measure of the strength of a leader is based on who you beat down instead of who you lift up. That somehow it's a sign of weakness to have empathy.

And I think most of us would agree that the strength of character of a leader is someone who has some level of concern and care for the suffering of other people and then does something about that.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Sharon: Chuck Schumer gave a speech on the floor of the Senate and he talked about how it is time for Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to go essentially. He said he is concerned that Israel will become a pariah if it continues on the path that it's on.

And as I know you know, Chuck Schumer is a very high ranking Jewish man in the United States government and so these are exceptionally strong words from him. You've been a leader in the Biden administration about this topic, the war in Israel and Gaza. And I wonder, does the Biden administration agree with Chuck Schumer's statements that it's time to have new elections in Israel?

VP Harris: I would not and we would not tell the people of any other country who they should vote for and when they should hold elections. We believe that it is up to the people, and in this case the people of Israel, the Israelis, to make a decision about who leads their government and how that happens.

Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune

Sharon: Super Tuesday, we just had that here in Minnesota, and of course President Biden won. 19% of Democratic voters on Super Tuesday in Minnesota voted uncommitted. And I know that has to be something that your administration is keeping an eye on. And I'm wondering what might the Biden-Harris administration be prepared to do in terms of potential policy changes or outreach to win back those 19% of uncommitted voters because you need them to show up?

VP Harris: And they matter and we care about them. This is one of the reasons that I'm in Minnesota today, is to make and that clear and reinforce the point, that the people of Minnesota matter and that we respect the fact that people feel very strongly about what we are witnessing and I understand that. I understand it.

And so we're here to talk about a variety of issues, that in addition to that include for example, again today in honor of Women's History month, talking about issues that directly impact women, including choice, to talk about the economy, to talk about what we are doing in terms of addressing issues like climate crisis and many other issues, including strengthening the economy around supporting small businesses, something I care deeply about.

So we'll continue to talk to them and talk to everyone.

Kamala Harris sworn in as Vice President.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sharon: There's a new poll out from USA Today and Suffolk University that suggests that perhaps independent voters have not yet been convinced that you are capable of being the president, which you have said that you are.

You have said that there's no question about that, that you are prepared and ready to lead if the worst should happen. And you know, and President Biden knows because he's spoken about this many times that he's not a young man, and I know this is something that voters think about.

They have to think about what would happen if the worst came to pass. So I'm wondering, first of all, do you still agree that you're ready to lead? And secondly-

VP Harris: Of course.

Sharon: What misconceptions do you think voters might have about you?

VP Harris: Every vice president, when they take the oath of office to become vice president understands that they're taking an oath to be prepared to lead if something should happen to the president.

And there have been 48 vice presidents before me, I'm the 49th. Each one of us at some time or another has been presented with this question, and I believe each one of us has had the same answer.

I'm no different. The work of vice president includes the work that I have done for the last three years, now traveling to over 20 countries in all four hemispheres. It includes the work of having met directly with over 150 world leaders.

It includes heading up a number of initiatives that directly impact the American people. And there is the work that is about doing what we must do to understand the role that the United States of America plays in the context of the world.

Kamala Harris as Deputy Attorney General of California.

Mary F. Calvert / MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Sharon: Do you think voters perhaps don't understand the level of experience you have? Do these poll results, what do these poll results say to you?

VP Harris: Well, listen, if I listened to polls, I would've never run for my first or second office. I was the first woman district attorney of San Francisco and reelected, the first attorney general of the state of California and reelected, ran the second largest Department of Justice in the United States, second only to the United States Department of Justice.

I was a United States Senator, I represented one in eight Americans. So it is about people having information to be able to form their opinions, and I think that's important.

Sharon: I would love to hear you tell voters what is at stake in this election. There's been a lot of talk about voting for a third party candidate. RFK Junior this week announced that he might be considering a couple of VP options like Aaron Rogers or former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, who is also a former professional wrestler.

What actually is at stake and what would you say to somebody who's thinking about voting third party in this election?

VP Harris: Well, first of all, everything's at stake. And as we discussed earlier, we are looking at two major wars that are occurring in the world. It is our administration, Joe Biden, myself, and others, who have stood firm and strong around our position on standing with our friend Ukraine while an adversary, Russia has violated longstanding international rules and norms around sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It is very important that right now, when the first war in Europe in 70 years, that there be leadership of the United States government who understands the importance of standing with our allies and continuing to strengthen the military alliances that we have in the context of NATO.

President Biden visits Wisconsin to talk about funding repairs for the Blatnik Bridge.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

When we look at where we are in terms of the importance of having leadership that addresses longstanding issues that many presidents before and administrations said they would tackle but did not such as infrastructure. Remember infrastructure week, it never happened, we got it done.

So here in Minnesota and around the country, 50 states you see projects, many of them being run and carried out by members of organized labor, IBEW and others to do the work of upgrading America's infrastructure, whether it be sidewalks or airports.

So the reality is that in this election, everything is at stake in terms of one, having capable, competent leadership, but also what is at stake in terms of the risk on the other side of that split screen, of having chaos and the potential destruction of our democracy. As it relates to these third party candidates, I don't know how far that's going to go.

Evan Vucci/AP

Sharon: Talking a little bit more about what's at stake, I would love to hear your take on what is at stake with the Supreme Court.

VP Harris: Well, the Supreme Court is always at stake in every election. And as we saw, we talked about it back in 2016, that presidential elections can determine the future course of the United States Supreme Court. When Donald Trump ran, he stated his intention to select members of the United States Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

He was elected, that's what he did, and now we are experiencing a healthcare crisis in America because of it. So there is a direct connection between presidential elections and who sits on the court.

That is one of the many consequences of an election, and the reason therefore that people who care about issues like that, that they vote because they can make a difference.

Sharon: Do you think that if Donald Trump gets elected that they will try to pass a national abortion ban?

VP Harris: I do, yes.

Sharon: And do you think that they will be successful at that?

VP Harris: We'll see. But as I've been very clear, Joe Biden is very clear that on our watch he would veto any attempt by the United States Congress to pass a national abortion ban.

Sharon: I want to talk very briefly about character. Do you think character matters more in a leader or do policies matter more?

VP Harris: Both. And I think that they're also in many ways inextricably linked.

The character of a leader that cares about the condition and wellbeing of other people produces the kinds of policies that we have implemented, where we have capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for seniors because we know that our seniors for years so many have otherwise had to make a decision about whether they can afford their insulin prescription or afford to put food in their refrigerator.

The kinds of policies that care about student loan debt, understanding that so many of our young people come out of school and are unable to even think about starting a family or buying a home because they're carrying so much debt.

And we have now forgiven over 138 billion of student loan debt for over 4 million people, including for our teachers and firefighters and public servants erasing their debt completely.

So these are just but a few examples of what leadership that cares, actually accomplishes by way of policy.

And I do believe that the American people want leaders who care, and that is not just about themselves, it's about the people. That's the kind of administration we are. You look at the split screen on the other side, this guy, he'll fight all day long for himself, but is he fighting for the people?

Susan Walsh/AP

Sharon: Final question. What message would you send to somebody who is as of this moment undecided about who they should vote for in November?

VP Harris: I would ask that person to take a look at the records. Take a look at do you care about insulin costing $35 a month for our seniors, knowing how many of our seniors have suffered, and the fact that we capped it at $35 a month.

Take a look at the fact that before we came in, Medicare could not negotiate drug prices for seniors and we are now making that happen so that we're going to cap the annual cost of prescription medication at $2,000 a year.

I'd ask folks to take a look at whether you care about the fact that we are bringing manufacturing back to America. We have created over 800,000 new manufacturing jobs and we are making a lot of the work that otherwise we were outsourcing and buying from other countries, we're making it now here in America.

And that means the 15 million jobs that we have created, and it also means dealing with supply chain issues, which we all experienced during the pandemic, and it means strengthening our ability to be a leader around the globe.

So I'd ask people to think about it ranging from something like access to capital for small businesses. Think about your favorite small business and what it means for them to be able to have more access to the money they need to stay open and grow.

Look at it, if you have anyone in your family who went to college and has student loan debt, look at it in terms of anybody who has diabetes and is a senior, and what our administration and what the people who voted in 2020 for us actually helped accomplish.

Sharon: Thank you. Thank you so much for your time.

VP Harris: You're welcome. Thank you.