This has been an odd week for the Biden administration’s attempts at public relations.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden made an appearance by telephone during NBC’s live coverage of the Thanksgiving Day Parade that can only be described as awkward.
But Vice President Kamala Harris’ presence in the Philippines Tuesday in support of the American Fish Right Program — I’m not making that up — might have been even cringier.
The U.S. has funded Fish Right to the tune of $33 million through the Agency for International Development, according to the University of Rhode Island. The project’s goal is to “create sustainable fisheries in the Philippines.”
So, making Harris look sort of silly is just a side effect, I guess.
It probably looked good in writing: Harris would stand on a sidewalk at the shore and Philippino fisherman would walk by, each carrying what was presumably the day’s catch, or what viewers would assume was the day’s catch, anyway, and she would greet them pleasantly as they walk by.
OK, I take it back. That doesn’t look any better in writing than it did in real life.
At any rate, the end result was this silly 11-second video that the GOP clipped from C-SPAN and published to YouTube:
I mean, it’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s probably in the top 10, though.
But in Harris’ defense, what else was she going to do? Punch them on the shoulder as they passed? Steal a fish and run away laughing? Try to trip one of them? Her options were limited.
But it could have been worse, right? I mean, she could have given a speech full of rhetorical nonsense and … what? Oh, she did? And it was just as bad? Swell.
“The United States is proud of our longstanding ties with the people of the Philippines,” Harris said, according to the official White House transcript of the event. “I am here in Palawan to underscore the importance of our partnership in order to create economic opportunities, protect coastal ecosystems, maintain peace and stability, and uphold international rules and norms here in the South China Sea and around the world.
“To uphold international rules and norms is to support the lives and the livelihoods of people throughout the region,” she added. She was doing OK until then; I’ve read that sentence six times and I’m still not sure it says anything.
She was emphatic about the whole “international rules and norms” thing, though, I can tell you that.
“So this is how I see it: To protect the economic vitality of these communities, to protect the ecosystems they rely on, and to protect lives and livelihoods, we must uphold international rules and norms,” she said later in the speech. “And that is why our work here is so very important.”
And later: “To the Philippine Coast Guard, you are on the frontlines of standing up for the international rules-based order. Each and every day, as you patrol these waters, you uphold the rules and norms that are vital to the prosperity of the Filipino people and people around the world.”
Look, nothing against the Philippine Coast Guard, but I’m not sure they’re on the front line of anything. I’m not even sure I understand what Harris means by “international rules-based order” — which I suspect puts me in good company, because I doubt she does, either — but I’m relatively certain the Philippine Coast Guard isn’t on the front line of standing up for it.
Will Kamala Harris run for the White House in 2024?
Yes: 20% (7 Votes)
No: 80% (28 Votes)
And I’m dead certain that the PCG (I don’t know if anyone but me calls them that) isn’t “vital to the prosperity of … people around the world.” Again — no offense.
“When the international rules-based order is threatened somewhere, it is threatened everywhere,” the vice president concluded. “So the rules and norms that I have discussed today, they matter to the United States, to the Philippines, and to communities around the world.”
I’m sure that Harris was trying to send a message to China about complying with international law or something, but this felt more like she was assigned a freshman book report and an upperclassman told her to throw in some references to “rules and norms” because the teacher really likes that.
According to the transcript, though, her speech was greeted with “(Applause.)”. So there’s that, I guess.