Kamala Harris’ vice presidency has not gotten off on the right foot, and the unrest surrounding her tenure continues. A new report is out that paints Harris and her staff as feeling isolated and undefended by the administration she serves in.
But the report also shares the view from the other side of the equation, with Biden staffers showing frustration and anger with how the Vice President conducts herself and her affairs.
The long knives are out, according to CNN.
Worn out by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and lack of focus, key West Wing aides have largely thrown up their hands at Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff — deciding there simply isn’t time to deal with them right now, especially at a moment when President Joe Biden faces quickly multiplying legislative and political concerns. The exasperation runs both ways. Interviews with nearly three dozen former and current Harris aides, administration officials, Democratic operatives, donors and outside advisers — who spoke extensively to CNN — reveal a complex reality inside the White House.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but the general conclusion is simple for all sides involved: Harris is an ineffective, unlikable vice president who is languishing in the court of public opinion.
But the disagreements emerge when it’s time to assign blame for that reality. Harris’ staffers, in typical fashion, blame Biden for not defending her forcefully enough instead of the fact that she’s an awful politician and incredibly inauthentic. Meanwhile, Biden’s staffers note that Harris is unfocused and shows no competency to handle the problems she’s been given to tackle.
Can we just agree that both sides are right?
To be sure, the White House, in an effort to protect a senile, incapable Joe Biden, has sandbagged Harris at times. Dumping the border crisis and the left’s “voting rights” fight in her lap was a way to insulate Biden from two issues that have become toxic. The administration won’t allow the necessary changes to fix the former, and the latter simply will never pass the Senate. Thus, Harris has two major failures hung around her neck that she never really had a shot at rectifying.
Still, Harris does nothing to help herself. She’s naked ambitious and deeply uncharismatic, with a penchant for laughing at awkward times and repeating ridiculous, far-left platitudes when people just want straight answers.
Of course, you’ll be less than shocked to learn that Harris loyalists are also blaming racism for her woes.
Suspicion has sprouted out of the bitterness. Last month, White House aides leapt to the defense of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who was being hammered with outrage by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and like-minded online pundits for taking paternity leave after the adoption of his twins in September. Harris loyalists tell CNN they see in that yet another example of an unfair standard at play, wondering why she didn’t get similar cover any of the times she’s been attacked by the right. “It’s hard to miss the specific energy that the White House brings to defend a White man, knowing that Kamala Harris has spent almost a year taking a lot of the hits that the West Wing didn’t want to take themselves,” said a former Harris aide, reflecting conversations last month among several former aides and current allies.
Perhaps there’s some truth to that assertion? After all, far be it from me to tell Democrats that other Democrats aren’t racist, and Pete Buttigieg did not deserve the full-court defense he got. Yet, I also think blaming racism completely misses the point of why Harris is so unpopular. No amount of defensive support from the White House or better messaging is going to make her more likable. She is the reason people don’t like her. It’s really not any more complicated than that.
The problem for Harris, though, is that she appeals to hardcore Democrats in such a visceral way. That means her real issues are never admitted to, and by virtue of that, are never addressed. When you don’t admit to the problems as they exist, you can’t do the things necessary to mitigate them. There’s a reason Harris dropped out of the 2020 presidential race before the first primary, and it’s not because she’s an appealing, galvanizing figure. Yet, quotes from her staff and figures like Donna Brazile praise her ability to lead and be a “wonderful messenger.” There is no introspection about why so many Americans are turned off by the vice president.
That’s not a recipe for a rebound. Rather, it’s a recipe for sticking one’s head in the sand and facilitating the continued collapse of her future ambitions. The tensions are clearly running high in the administration, and there’s no reason to believe things are going to cool down any time soon.