Washington

Does Kamala Harris have aphasia? Just kidding (or not?)

Sadly, we all learned the meaning of “aphasia” last week after Bruce Willis’ daughter announced her father would be stepping away from acting because of the cognitive disorder.

“Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension,” the Johns Hopkins website says. “Aphasia leaves a person unable to communicate effectively with others. Many people have aphasia as a result of stroke.”

It didn’t take long for the wags on social media to turn Mr. Willis’ departure into a political hot potato. “Could it be that both Biden and Kamala Harris have cognitive issues? Wernicke’s aphasia does not have difficulty producing connected speech. However, what they say may not make a lot of sense and they’ll use nonsense or irrelevant words in their sentences,” one person wrote on Twitter.

Now, President Biden is 79, and, just as Mr. Willis, 67, is finding out, we’ll all lose our faculties eventually, some sooner than others. And as someone who has covered Mr. Biden all the way back to the 1980s in the Senate, there’s no question he’s lost a step (again, we all will). 

Yet there are some questions about his vice president, Kamala Harris. She’s just 57, but more and more, she throws out bizarre word salads that make no sense — and some are seriously concerned. 

Her latest came last week following a meeting with the prime minister of Jamaica. The two talked about COVID-19 before Ms. Harris addressed the media.

“For Jamaica, one of the issues that has been presented as an issue that is economic in the way its impact has been the pandemic. … We will assist Jamaica in COVID recovery by assisting in terms of the recovery efforts in Jamaica that have been essential,” she told reporters after the meeting.

Say what now?

Ms. Harris, whose communications team has been bailing out of her office in droves — her 11th top aide announced last week that he’s leaving — had much the same head-scratching mishmash of garbled words with a bizarre speech in Louisiana.

“We were all doing a tour of the library here and talking about the significance of the passage of time, right?” Ms. Harris said while promoting internet access in rural areas. “The significance of the passage of time. So when you think about it, there is great significance to passage of time. There is such great significance to the passage of time when you think of a day in the life of our children.”

So wait, you’re saying there’s a passage of time, right?

It’s not just the word salads. Ms. Harris is prone to drop into baby talk when asked a question, as she did on a radio show called “The Morning Hustle” last month. She was asked to put the war in Ukraine in “layman’s terms,” which prompted her to say: “Ukraine is a country in Europe. It exists next to another country called Russia. Russia is a bigger country. Russia is a powerful country. Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine so, basically, that’s wrong.”

And who can forget this great answer: “It is time for us to do what we have been doing and that time is every day. Every day it is time for us to agree.”

Or this one: “We must, together, work together to see where we are, where we are headed, where we are going and our vision for where we should be, but also see it as a moment, yes, to, together, address the challenges.”

Or another, when the vice president was asked about a plan to cut off oil imports from Russia.

“As you know, on this issue, for example, we applaud Germany in terms of what it has done as it relates to Nord Stream 2,” Ms. Harris said. “As it relates to what we need to do domestically as well as what we need to do in terms of this issue generally, we have, as the president said, to reevaluate what we’re doing in terms of strategic oil reserves here in the United States to make sure that it will not have an impact, or we can mitigate the impact on the American consumer.”

OK, gotcha. 

The whole thing is reminiscent of Michael Scott, the boss in “The Office,” who once famously said, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”

But Scott, played by Steve Carrell, also had this great line that could’ve been uttered by Ms. Harris herself.

“Don’t ever, for any reason, do anything to anyone for any reason ever, no matter what, no matter where, or who, or who you are with, or where you are going, or where you’ve been … ever, for any reason whatsoever …” he says before trailing off.

Spoken like the vice president of the United States. 

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.



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