Aug. 12 (UPI) — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris criticized the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday while pledging to deliver a “comprehensive” virus response if elected.
Appearing in their first event together since Biden selected Harris as his running mate, the senator from California said the United States leads the world with more than 5 million cases and more than 165,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus as a result of President Donald Trump’s “failure to take it seriously from the start.”
“His refusal to get testing up and running, his flip-flopping on social distancing and wearing masks. His delusional belief that he knows better than the experts. All of that is … the reason that an American dies of COVID-19 every 80 seconds,” Harris said.
Harris also praised Biden for his response to the Ebola outbreak while he served alongside former President Barack Obama. Biden said he would “lead and take responsibility” in his plans for virus response if elected.
“The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris administration will have a comprehensive plan to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and turn the corner on this pandemic, masking, clear science-based guidance, dramatically scaling up testing, getting states and local governments the resources they need to pen the schools and businesses safely. We can do this,” Biden said.
Harris also released a campaign ad Wednesday showing the moment she accepted former Biden’s request for her to be his running mate.
The video shows Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, announcing the news to Harris via video chat.
After offering her the job, Biden asks, “First of all, is the answer yes?”
“The answer is absolutely yes, Joe, and I am ready to work,” Harris can be heard replying. “I am ready to do this with you, for you. I am just deeply honored and I’m very excited.”
The video includes photos and clips from Harris’ childhood and her career as California attorney general and senator. She narrates the video, speaking of her mother and her own record.
“Right now America needs action,” she says. “America is in a crisis and I know Joe Biden will lead us out of it.
“As Joe says, we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation, but together it’s a battle we can win. We just have to take action.”
Biden’s selection of Harris as his running mate Tuesday has been met largely with praise in many political and economic circles.
Harris was long believed to be a top contender for the slot, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and former Ambassador Susan Rice, all of whom reacted enthusiastically to the announcement.
“Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now,” Bass tweeted. “Now all Americans will benefit from her work as vice president. I will do everything I can to help her and Joe Biden win in November.”
“Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail,” Rice said in a statement. “I will do my utmost to assist Joe Biden to become the next president of the United States and to help him govern successfully.”
“I’ve known Kamala Harris for a long time,” Warren said. “She will be a great partner … in making our government a force for good in the fight for social, racial and economic justice.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to President Donald Trump four years ago, said she’s “thrilled to welcome” the 55-year-old Harris to the ticket.
“She’s already proven herself to be an incredible public servant and leader.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who competed for the Democratic presidential nomination, called Harris “a good friend and incredibly strong public servant.”
“Sometimes campaigns can tear friendships apart but we grew closer — and I know she has what it takes to lead side-by-side with Joe Biden,” she added.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who at one point in the spring appeared to be the eventual Democratic nominee, lauded Biden’s selection and urged his followers to support the party in November.
“[Harris] will make history as our next vice president,” he tweeted. “She understands what it takes to stand up for working people, fight for health care for all, and take down the most corrupt administration in history. Let’s get to work and win.”
Harris’ inclusion on the ticket also spurred some excitement on Wall Street — which, until March, represented one of Trump’s strongest arguments for re-election.
“I think it’s great,” said Marc Lasry, CEO of investment firm Avenue Capital Group and part owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. “She’s going to help Joe immensely. He picked the perfect partner.”
“Vice President Biden’s first decision is the perfect one and demonstrates his excellent judgment,” Jon Henes, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis and former finance chairman of Harris’ campaign, told CNBC. “Kamala’s supporters will follow her lead and work non-stop to help Biden and Harris win this historic and critical election.”
A daughter of Jamaican and Indian parents, Harris succeeded longtime Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016 and serves on the homeland security, intelligence, judiciary and budget committees.
Biden’s choice has been less well-received among Republicans. Trump, as he’s done with just about all of his political enemies, whipped up a derogatory nickname for her — “Phony Kamala.”
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Harris, as California attorney general, “used her office’s prosecutorial powers for political purposes.”
“She led assaults against conservative non-profits, energy companies, and parents, but not violent gang members or criminal illegal aliens,” he said.
“Now, she wants to turn America into San Francisco.”
“Joe Biden failed his first major test as a presidential candidate by picking extreme leftist Kamala Harris, who embraces the radical defund police movement, and actually wants to slash funding for our men and women in uniform, as his running mate,” House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said in statement.