'America is crying out for leadership': Harris gives first speech as VP candidate

Their first public appearance as a ticket is taking place in Wilmington, Delaware.
/ Source: NBC News

Former Vice President Joe Biden described Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as "experienced," a "proven fighter" and ready to handle the presidency on day one of a Biden administration in their first joint appearance as a presidential ticket in Wilmington, Delaware, Wednesday evening.

Introducing Harris, Biden praised the senator's bonafides and and took aim at President Donald Trump a day after the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee announced his selection of Harris as his running mate.

Biden said Harris "knows how to govern, she knows how to make the hard calls" and is "ready to do this job" from the onset.

When she stood to speak, Harris said she was "incredibly honored by this responsibility" and said the Democratic primary provided the country a "resounding message — that Joe was the person to lead us forward."

She thanked "ambitious women before me" who helped to pave the path for her and called the present moment one "of real consequence for America," pointing to the coronavirus crisis and social justice efforts.

Blasting Trump and his administration, Harris said the case against a second Trump term is "open and shut."

"In just 83 days, we have a chance to choose a better future for our country," she said.

"America is crying out for leadership," Harris added. "Yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him, a president who is making every challenge we face more difficult to solve."

Harris blasted Trump's handling of the pandemic and resulting economic crisis, saying, "This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up to the job."

"Our country ends up in tatters," she said. "And so does our reputation around the world. But let's be clear, this election isn’t just about defeating Donald Trump and Mike Pence. It’s about building this country back better."

Biden pointed to Harris' record on guns, the environment, banking and LGBTQ issues, and said she went "toe to toe" with Trump officials who were "trying to hide the truth" in congressional hearings.

Noting Harris' membership on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Biden said "she's been in the middle of the most critical national security challenges our country faces."

As a result, Harris is "well aware of the threats to this nation and how to respond to them," he added.

Harris is the first Black or Asian American woman to appear on a major party presidential ticket. Biden said that Harris' experience growing up was different from his, but "not so different in the essentials."

"She's worked hard, never backed down from a challenge and earned each and every accolades and achievements she's gained," Biden said.

Biden said he asked Harris "to always be the last voice in the room" with him on major decisions.

Both Biden and Harris spoke at length about their families and also discussed the senator's relationship with Biden's eldest son Beau, the former Delaware attorney general who died in 2015 of brain cancer. Biden said he first got to know Harris through his son.

"I know how much Beau respected Kamala and her work," he said. "And that meant a lot to me, to be honest with you."

Harris spoke of her work with Biden's son during the financial crisis while both were state attorneys general, saying, "I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves."

Biden chose Harris after a lengthy deliberation that featured a number of prominent contenders, like former national security adviser Susan Rice, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., and Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The former vice president said those under consideration are "talented women leaders, all of them qualified to be president," and he thanked them for being part of the process.

Trump has already taken swipes at Harris after the announcement and said he was "a little surprised" Biden chose her, calling her "nasty" for going after Biden during an earlier Democratic primary debate when both were rivals seeking the party's presidential nomination.

In his speech, Biden hit back at Trump, saying "whining" is his greatest skill.

"Whining is what Donald Trump does best, better than any president in history," Biden said.

"Is anyone surprised Donald Trump has a problem with a strong woman?" he added.

Biden's selection of Harris as his running mate was praised by prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, who said in a statement that Biden "nailed this decision."

"By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character," Obama said. "Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job. And now Joe has an ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead."