It’s Tuesday, December 3. Four constitutional scholars—three called by Democrats and one by Republicans—will testify on impeachment before the House Judiciary Committee starting tomorrow morning.

In today’s newsletter: Kamala Harris 2020. Plus, the surreal story of Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky.



(The Atlantic)

In hindsight, the Kamala Harris campaign wasn’t a fit for 2020.

When Kamala Harris entered the 2020 race in January, she drew 20,000 rally-goers to her Oakland campaign launch, lofty comparisons to Barack Obama, and immediate frontrunner chatter.

Not a full year later, polling alongside longshots such as political newbie Andrew Yang, the California senator has dropped out.

What went wrong? In hindsight it seems like just about everything, minus a boost from her first debate performance.

1. Harris was ideologically slippery on issues that got a lot of attention.

The 2020 Democratic primary broke down fairly neatly into two camps: left-wing idealogues and compromise-seeking moderates. And then there was Harris.

Her messaging straddled both camps, ultimately succeeding in neither.

Take busing. In the first Democratic debate, Harris delivered a memorable attack on Joe Biden for his past opposition to federally mandated busing. But her position on the issue? Not so different from Biden’s.

Health care tripped Harris up perhaps more than any other issue. As support for Medicare for All turned into a kind of litmus test, Harris indicated openness to joining her more left-wing rivals in abolishing private insurance—before quickly backtracking.

When she released her own health-care plan this summer, she tried to bridge the gap between the two health-care camps. Matt Breunig skewered Harris’s health-care plan earlier this year:

If Biden’s plan is Obamacare 2.0 and the Sanders/Warren plan is wonky universalism, then Harris’s plan is a bizarre and confusing muddle that also has come to typify her campaign.

2. Harris faced scrutiny over her prosecutorial past.

“Kamala Harris for the People”: the official name for Harris’s own presidential campaign is callback to her roots as a prosecutor, first as San Francisco’s district attorney, and then as California’s attorney general.

That background was supposed to give her campaign a leg up, an opportunity to showcase her legal chops in the event of an impeachment trial in the Senate. But her criminal-justice record didn’t do her favors with a certain sect of Democratic primary voters.

In her January review of Harris’s book Truths We Hold, our culture writer Hannah Giorgis noted:

Harris doesn’t meaningfully reconcile her punitive track record as a California prosecutor with her more recent activist-adjacent positioning as a national Democratic darling.

When my colleague wrote those words, Harris hadn’t yet declared her candidacy.

—Saahil Desai



(Delil Souleiman / AFP / Getty)

Looking Back on a Year of Unrest

For the final month of 2019, our photo editor Alan Taylor reviews some of the major news events and moments of 2019. The collection stunned us—all that happened this year?

In the photograph above, a Syrian boy on his bicycle looks at a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles patrolling fields near the northeastern town of Qahtaniyah at the border with Turkey, on the last day of October.

See more of 2019’s major moments in images.



Former White House Counsel Don McGahn (Jim Bourg / Reuters)

What House Democrats Talk About When They Talk About a Cover-Up

President Donald Trump has made a big impeachment mistake. Russell Berman writes, after scanning through 300 pages of the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report, released today.

In detailing Trump’s flat-out refusal to comply with their investigation, Democrats effectively accused him of the worst case of presidential obstruction of Congress in the country’s history.

Read the rest.



(Nicole Rifkin)

Servant of the People

He’s a famous comedian well-known for his sitcom role as a man who unexpectedly ascends to the Ukrainian presidency. He’s also the president of Ukraine, a Jewish and pro-Europe populist who now plays a very real role as the other man in the center of the U.S. impeachment story.

Franklin Foer traveled to Ukraine for this definitive story of Volodymyr Zelensky, one that is as surreal as it is clarifying.

Even before he entered office, Zelensky exhibited tremendous insecurity about his relationship with the Trump administration. He desperately wanted Vice President Mike Pence to attend his inauguration, because Joe Biden had graced his predecessor’s ceremony.

That was a desire Trump thwarted, sending Energy Secretary Rick Perry instead. To get on better terms with Trump, Zelensky kept hoping for a face-to-face meeting. Given the chance, he believed that he could charm Trump out of his negative view of Ukraine. This created a cycle of desperation.

Read the rest.


Today’s edition of our daily newsletter of political ideas and arguments was written by Saahil Desai, an editor on our politics desk, and edited by Shan Wang.

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