Pundits seem to agree that California Sen. Kamala Harris won the Democrat debate Thursday night. Yet she also imposed upon herself one of the biggest blunders of the night.
During the debate, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt asked the 10 candidates the following question:
We asked a question about health care last night that spurred a lot of discussion, as you know. We’re going to do it again now. Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favorite of a government-run plan?
Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were the only two candidates to raise their hands.
This seemed to confirm that Harris would abolish private insurance — an issue she has wavered on in recent months. After the debate, however, her team tried to walk back her response, saying she misunderstood the question and thought she was being asked if she would give up her own insurance for a government-run plan. And that has been her answer all morning.
NBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard asked Harris after the debate about her response to the question, to which she responded by saying she interpreted the question to mean her own insurance plan.
Harris has since made the rounds on morning shows, where she has given the same answer. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Harris said she does not want to abolish private health insurance. On “CBS This Morning,” host Tony Dokoupil pushed back on Harris, saying: “That’s not what was asked. That’s what you heard.”
Harris agreed that is what she heard, and added, “I am supportive of a Medicare for All policy, and under a Medicare for All policy, private insurance would certainly exist for supplemental coverage.”
In January, Harris participated in a televised town hall for CNN. During a discussion of health insurance, Harris said Medicare for all was the solution.
“I believe the solution — and I actually feel very strongly about this — is that we need to have Medicare for all,” she said.
Tapper followed up by asking, “So for people out there who like their insurance, they don’t get to keep it?” Harris responded:
Well, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require. Who of us has not had that situation, where you’ve got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this? Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.
The response was taken to mean that Harris wanted to “eliminate” private health insurance because of this alleged hassle, even though the idea that putting the entire country on Medicare would solve that problem is absurd.
In May, Harris walked her statement back, telling Tapper “That’s not what I meant!”
“I support Medicare for all but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage,” she added. “It was in the context of saying let’s get rid of all the bureaucracy.”
Add in what happened Thursday night and Harris morning backtrack and Harris either looks like she’s unsure of her position or she can’t understand basic questions.