VP Harris’ ill-timed laughter at war refugee question revives doubts about fitness for world stage

Kamala Harris' incongruous burst of laughter in Poland is the latest in a string of akward missteps on the global stage, stumbles compounded by a widespread perception that she is substantively ill-prepared for challenging diplomatic assignments.

Vice president's strange laughing fit in Poland is the latest such episode on the world stage — and the latest cause for concern among critics about her foreign policy chops

Updated: March 11, 2022 - 11:37pm

Vice President Kamala Harris' performance on her just-concluded diplomatic trip to Europe has reignited recurring criticism that she's unprepared to conduct foreign policy on the world stage.

Harris was in Poland on Thursday and Romania on Friday to meet with the two NATO allies about Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The trip presented an opportunity for Harris to test her skills in foreign policy, an arena in which she has not won high marks as vice president.

One reason for the criticism has been the vice president's curious habit of breaking into laughter at inappropriate times while discussing global issues.

Harris continued this pattern during a press conference alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda addressing the Russia-Ukraine war.

When asked what the U.S. will do to help Poland handle the influx of Ukrainian refugees and whether the U.S. will accept a specific number of refugees itself, Harris looked at Duda, apparently expecting him to respond first. Both leaders appeared hesitant about who would answer the reporter's question.

"OK," Harris said while chuckling. "A friend in need is a friend indeed."

She then burst out laughing for several seconds until Duda offered to respond first and began speaking. 

Critics lambasted Harris following the awkward exchange, slamming her for laughing after being asked about the Ukrainian people's suffering.

"VP Harris, this is a very serious situation requiring action, not a laughing matter," said Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who was born in Ukraine.

More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have now fled the country, the United Nations said Thursday, just two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. The majority of the refugees, some 1.5 million people, have headed to Poland.

The U.N. also estimated that about 1.9 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced while nearly 13 million have been "directly impacted by the conflict."

Some observers faulted Harris for apparently looking to Duda for help answering the question. It wasn't the only time.

At another point in the press conference, a reporter asked Harris directly how long Americans should expect inflation and high gas prices to last. She immediately looked to Duda, appearing as if she hoped or expected him to answer first, before answering herself. She didn't address the reporter's question in her response.

Harris also received backlash for deflecting questions and providing wordy, unclear answers, including when asked whether the U.S. will support an international probe into alleged war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.

"We all watched the television coverage of just yesterday," she said in an apparent reference to Russian military strikes on civilian targets. "That's on top of everything else that we know and don't know yet, based on what we've just been able to see. And because we've seen it or not doesn't mean it hasn't happened."

Harris' performance didn't just receive criticism from American conservatives.

"It would be a tragedy if this woman won the presidency," tweeted Iuliia Mendel, former press secretary to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. She soon deleted the post, which was in response to a clip of Harris laughing at the press conference.

"I deleted that tweet because I was explained that Kamala Harris had this kind of peculiarity of communication when she feels uncomfortable," Mendel said on CNN's "New Day" on Friday. "But for us, and for Ukrainians ... it was a very bad experience to see this type of reaction — a laugh — when we're listening about one of the biggest tragedies of Ukraine right now, when so many millions of Ukrainians are turned into refugees."

Mendel alluded to a common criticism of Harris: that her laughing fits aren't small moments to write off but rather signs of a nervous public official unsure of how to handle the moment.

Harris' strange outbursts of laughter date back to the early months of the Biden administration — as does the perception that she's unprepared to handle foreign policy matters.

Last March, Harris laughed when asked if she planned to visit the U.S.-Mexico border. President Biden had appointed Harris as his point person to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border.

"Not today," Harris said. "But I have before, and I'm sure I will again."

Harris didn't travel to the border until three months after her appointment as border czar. Asked by NBC's Lester Holt why it had taken so long to make the trip, she again nervously laughed.

"And I haven't been to Europe," Harris said, chuckling. "I mean, I don't understand the point you are making."

At the time, Biden administration officials were reportedly "quietly perplexed" by her fumbling questions about the border and concerned her errors would undermine her visit to Central America, her first international trip as VP.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador publicly criticized the U.S. just before meeting virtually with Harris last May in a move that many observers described as embarrassing for the vice president.

The following month, Harris went on her first foreign diplomatic trip as vice president, receiving criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for her performance.

Harris was also laughing in November when she met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, where she got some bad press for spending over $500 on cookware and appearing to mimic a French accent.

More recently, Harris was mocked for giving a "child-like" explanation of the Russia-Ukraine war earlier this month.

That explanation came just over a week after Harris traveled to Munich to meet with European allies and establish a united front in the event that Russia invaded Ukraine (the invasion had not yet occurred). Observers ripped Harris for her performance, accusing her of being "perpetually unprepared" for this high-stakes foreign policy moment.

Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard slammed Harris for her remarks at Munich.

"This is embarrassing," Gabbard said. "It's hard to keep track of all of those jumbles of words. It's clear she [Harris] was sent there to be the voice of the United States as a purely political calculation."

Harris "has no foreign policy background or understanding," Gabbard continued. "She has no concept of the cost of war nor does she have the temperament necessary to be the voice of the United States on the global stage. It's embarrassing to see this play out."

 

 

 

 

Vice President Kamala Harris' performance on her just-concluded diplomatic trip to Europe has reignited criticism that she's unprepared to conduct foreign policy on the world stage.

Harris was in Poland on Thursday and Romania on Friday to meet with the two NATO allies about Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The trip presented an opportunity for Harris to test her skills in foreign policy, an arena in which she has not won high marks as vice president.

One reason for the criticism has been the vice president's curious habit of breaking into laughter at inappropriate times while discussing global issues.

Harris continued this pattern during a press conference alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda addressing the Russia-Ukraine war.

When asked what the U.S. will do to help Poland handle the influx of Ukrainian refugees and whether the U.S. will accept a specific number of refugees itself, Harris looked at Duda, apparently expecting him to respond first. Both leaders appeared hesitant about who would answer the reporter's question.

"OK," Harris said while chuckling. "A friend in need is a friend indeed."

She then burst out laughing for several seconds until Duda offered to respond first and began speaking. 

Critics lambasted Harris following the awkward exchange, slamming her for laughing after being asked about the Ukrainian people's suffering.

"VP Harris, this is a very serious situation requiring action, not a laughing matter," said Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who was born in Ukraine.

More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have now fled the country, the United Nations said Thursday, just two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. The majority of the refugees, some 1.5 million people, have headed to Poland.

The U.N. also estimated that about 1.9 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced while nearly 13 million have been "directly impacted by the conflict."

Some observers faulted Harris for apparently looking to Duda for help answering the question. It wasn't the only time.

At another point in the press conference, a reporter asked Harris directly how long Americans should expect inflation and high gas prices to last. She immediately looked to Duda, appearing as if she hoped or expected him to answer first, before answering herself. She didn't address the reporter's question in her response.

Harris also received backlash for deflecting questions and providing wordy, unclear answers, including when asked whether the U.S. will support an international probe into alleged war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine.

"We all watched the television coverage of just yesterday," she said in an apparent reference to Russian military strikes on civilian targets. "That's on top of everything else that we know and don't know yet, based on what we've just been able to see. And because we've seen it or not doesn't mean it hasn't happened."

Harris' performance didn't just receive criticism from American conservatives.

"It would be a tragedy if this woman won the presidency," tweeted Iuliia Mendel, former press secretary to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. She soon deleted the post, which was in response to a clip of Harris laughing at the press conference.

"I deleted that tweet because I was explained that Kamala Harris had this kind of peculiarity of communication when she feels uncomfortable," Mendel said on CNN's "New Day" on Friday. "But for us, and for Ukrainians ... it was a very bad experience to see this type of reaction — a laugh — when we're listening about one of the biggest tragedies of Ukraine right now, when so many millions of Ukrainians are turned into refugees."

Mendel alluded to a common criticism of Harris: that her laughing fits aren't small moments to write off but rather signs of a nervous public official unsure of how to handle the moment.

Harris's strange outbursts of laughter date back to the early months of the Biden administration — as does the perception that she's unprepared to handle foreign policy matters.

Last March, Harris laughed when asked if she planned to visit the U.S.-Mexico border. President Biden had appointed Harris as his point person to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border.

"Not today," Harris said. "But I have before, and I'm sure I will again.

Harris didn't travel to the border until three months after her appointment to the role. Asked by NBC's Lester Holt why it had taken so long to make the trip, she again nervously laughed.

"And I haven't been to Europe. I mean, I don't understand the point you are making," Harris said, chuckling.

At the time, Biden administration officials were reportedly "quietly perplexed" about her fumbling questions about the border and concerned her errors would undermine her first international trip to Central America.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador publicly criticized the U.S. just before meeting virtually with Harris last May in a move that many observers described as embarrassing for the vice president.

The following month, Harris went on her first foreign trip as vice president, receiving criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for her performance.

Harris was also laughing in November when she met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, where she got some bad press for spending over $500 on cookware and appearing to mimic a French accent.

More recently, Harris was mocked for giving a "child-like" explanation of the Russia-Ukraine war earlier this month.

That explanation came just over a week after Harris traveled to Munich to meet with European allies and establish a united front in the event that Russia invaded Ukraine (the invasion had not yet occurred). Observers ripped Harris for her performance, accusing her of being "perpetually unprepared" for this high-stakes foreign policy moment.

Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard slammed Harris for her remarks at Munch.

"This is embarrassing," Gabbard said. "It's hard to keep track of all of those jumbles of words. It's clear she [Harris] was sent there to be the voice of the United States as a purely political calculation."

Harris "has no foreign policy background or understanding," Gabbard continued. "She has no concept of the cost of war nor does she have the temperament necessary to be the voice of the United States on the global stage. It's embarrassing to see this play out."