In terms of an understatedly savage insult, it’s hard to top the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, for her Twitter rebuttal after reporters have noted the strained relationship between the White House and the Office of the Vice President.
“For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country – from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband,” she tweeted.
My wife doesn’t closely follow politics, so she couldn’t understand why I was laughing so hard. “It’s the equivalent,” I said, “of me defending your attributes as a wife by noting that you’re a vital partner in our family — and have taken on challenges such as paying the cable bill, addressing the root causes of our unkempt flower garden, and changing the cat litter.”
Some commentators would have us believe that Kamala Harris’ political problems aren’t about her, but about the nature of the position she holds. “The vice presidency of the United States is a terrible job,” wrote the usually sensible Joel Mathis in the Week. “It always has been. And right now, that terrible job belongs to Kamala Harris. It’s turning out about how you’d expect.”
Mathis is partially correct. The Harris vice presidency is turning out largely as this writer had expected, but not because of any inherent problem serving as president-in-waiting. Harris was a terrible San Francisco district attorney, a terrible California attorney general, and a terrible U.S. senator. Perhaps that better explains why she’s a terrible vice president?
So why is Harris facing ridicule? “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,” reported CNN.
Instead of helping the president improve his sinking poll ratings, Harris — whose own rating stands at an almost impossibly low 28 percent — is whining about her unfair treatment (sexism and racism, of course). One of the dings against Harris is that her office is in chaos. The other, per CNN, is that her supporters “see no coherent public sense of what she’s done or been trying to do as vice president.”
I’m not sure why presidential candidate Joe Biden didn’t see either of those situations coming. “Harris’ staff struggles are nothing new,” reported Politico. “People who have worked for her in the past describe days as ‘managed chaos.’ ‘The boss’ expectations won’t always be predictable,’ said one former Harris Senate aide.” This echoes other reports.
Here’s a San Francisco Chronicle report from 2010: “San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office violated defendants’ rights by hiding damaging information about a police drug lab technician and was indifferent to demands that it account for its failings, a judge declared Thursday.”
Myriad news articles about the crime-lab scandal certainly paint a picture of chaos — something the Biden team could easily have learned with a Google search. That’s Harris as a manager, but the other complaint — that she hasn’t advocated a consistent set of policies as veep — is equally unsurprising for those who follow her career trajectory.
Harris campaigned as a reform-minded “progressive prosecutor” who put justice issues above everything else, but as California attorney general she served largely as the cat’s paw for the decidedly non-progressive police unions. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Harris’ principles seem to revolve around gaining power and advancing politically.
“Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reform, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent,” law professor Lara Bazelon wrote in the New York Times. “Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.”
As I mentioned, many of us repeatedly warned about the Harris scourge. I couldn’t believe that Biden even considered her seriously after that video of her chuckling as she talked about prosecuting poor parents for their kids’ truancy. One need only watch that video to realize why Harris suddenly is getting so much negative media attention.
She is, as New York Post columnist Kyle Smith noted, “a very weird person” who can’t “manage to speak without sounding like a random word generator” and who often laughs awkwardly. He quotes directly from her talk in Paris: “We must work together. Work together. To see where we are. Where we are headed, where we are going and our vision for where we should be.”
At least she didn’t don a fake French accent when she uttered that pabulum. Newsweek reported that the video of Harris speaking about “zee plan” has thus far garnered 1 million views — and that in part explains her falling fortunes. Harris ticks off all the right demographic and political boxes (for the Democrats) on paper — but she doesn’t quite work in person.
This is good news for those of us who feared that Harris might eventually ascend to the presidency. Instead of being Biden’s heir apparent, Politico reported, “Harris is currently not scaring any prospective opponents.” As one Democratic operative told the publication: “She’s definitely not going to clear the f—ing field.”
OK, but that’s only because she’s tending to vital White House functions, such as pruning the Rose Garden and evaluating the root causes of the president’s political collapse.
Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.