News and Commentary

In Singapore, Harris Urges The World To Buy Christmas Presents Now
Santa Claus carrying sack of gifts, portrait, close-up
Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images

With Afghanistan in full meltdown, Vice President Kamala Harris flew halfway around the world to talk about … Christmas presents?

More than 7,000 miles away from Washington, D.C., in Singapore, Harris said it’s “time to start buying” toys. Addressing a roundtable of business leaders after delivering a speech, the vice president cited climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic as adverse effects on the supply chain.

“The stories that we are now hearing about the caution that if you want to have Christmas toys for your children, it might now be might be the time to start buying them, because the delay may be many, many months,” she said.

“So across the board, people are experiencing the issue. And, of course, the climate crisis is fueling a lot of this. When we look at the stronger typhoons that have disrupted shipping lanes and sea-level rise, which threatens port infrastructure as an example. So these are the many issues that are causing these disruptions,” Harris said.

The vice president on Sunday high-tailed it out of D.C. for a week-long Asia tour. While she has so far mostly dodged the topic of Afghanistan in her comments, her first stop brought mild criticism from a foreign leader.

During an appearance alongside Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, both leaders were asked about the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“I understand and appreciate why you asked the question. And I think there’s going to be plenty of time to analyze what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” the vice president said. “But right now, we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children.”

Harris added that “we have a responsibility and we feel a deep commitment to making sure that folks who helped us are safe.”

Lee was blunt. “Countries make calculations and take positions, and they have to make recalculations and adjust their positions from time to time,” the prime minister said. “Sometimes it can be done smoothly; sometimes there are hiccups.  Sometimes things go awry and take time to put right.”

The leader also said, “what will influence perceptions of U.S. resolve and commitment to the region will be what the U.S. does going forward: how it repositions itself in the region, how it engages its broad range of friends and partners and allies in the region, and how it continues the fight against terrorism.”

On Tuesday, in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech, Harris again failed to mention Afghanistan, instead taking aim at China. “We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate, and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” she said.

Harris on Tuesday will travel on to Vietnam. With the Taliban takeover of Kabul, which prompted emergency flights out of Afghanistan, critics have compared the situation to the fall of Saigon and Harris to a prominent anti-war activist. “The prospect of Harris visiting Vietnam at this particular moment raised the possibility of the worst photo op for an American in that country since Jane Fonda donned a helmet there in 1972,” Fox News wrote last week.

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