Joe versus Kamala
One of the stories creeping into the news – or shall I say “leaking” into the news? – is an apparent rift between the President Biden Team and the Vice President Harris Team. Some reports place the blame on the two principles. One news analyst –one of those supposedly with the inside poop – did not resort to euphemistic language. He stated in unequivocal terms that Biden and Harris “hate each other.”
Officially, however, everything is honky-dory in the West Wing of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Biden Chief-of-Staff Ron Klain went on damage control – appearing on various news outlets to offer up high praise for the Vice President. “She is doing a terrific job,” he declared.
But that is not the perception at the proverbial watercooler.
Team Biden complained that Harris is not taking on the job in a serious and effective manner. After being assigned to be border czar over immigration, Harris seems to have gone AWOL. Her one trip to the border was a photo op at a point where there were virtually no migrants entering the country.
She did take a trip to Vietnam – for what purpose was never made clear. And there was not much to report upon her return to the United States. I would bet that most Americans not were even aware of her foray to Asia.
And her job as the outreach person to minorities has not been all that successful. Increasing numbers of blacks and Hispanics voted Republican in 2020 and 2021. That may be because Harris has not polled well among blacks from the time she first announced for President. Her approval rating among blacks is actually lower than Biden’s
So far, she has not been terribly effective as a super salesperson for the Biden’s Social Welfare efforts even though she was handed that assignment, too. She is blamed for being part of the Democrats’ “messaging problem.” That may be the source of Team Biden’s greatest irritability with Harris.
Just by way of comparison, when Mike Pence was Vice President – and put in charge of the Covid task force, he was holding briefings in the White House on an almost daily basis – at least until President Trump started showing up.
Team Harris understandably has a different view. They argue that Harris has been handed all the tasks in which there are no easy solutions. Biden appointed her to the crisis at the boarder because he did not want to take on that situation himself. And as evidence of that, Biden has not yet gone to the border for an on-site briefing.
Some see Harris merely as a shield for the President. In many of his public pronouncements, Biden uses Harris as a prop. She generally stands behind him – off to the left – and has nothing to say. She takes her position on the stage and leaves without commenting or responding any questions.
In picking Harris as his running mate, Biden was thinking pure politics. A progressive black woman to shore up support among minorities and women. On might call it “tokenism.”
Harris was no friend of Biden when they were both competing for the Democrat presidential nomination. She made her strongest points in her famous “I was that little girl” debate retort — when she essentially called Biden a racist and the father of the 1990s crime bills that overcrowded America’s prisons with young black and Hispanic males.
There is a popularized saying that you should “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” It comes from the 1974 “The Godfather – Part 2” movie. That may have been part of the thought process in picking Harris.
It is not the first time that has happened. For his second Vice President, Abraham Lincoln chose Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat, to be his running mate. President Kennedy chose his mortal political enemy, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson as his Vice President candidate. In the cases of the two Johnsons, the political adversary became President upon the assassination of the boss.
In both cases, the disdain and rancor between the supporters of Lincoln and Kennedy and the supporters of Johnson and Johnson carried forward into the new administration. It eventually got Andrew Johnson impeached – and the lack of public popularity forced Lyndon Johnson to withdraw his bid for re-election in 1968. It would seem that Biden was thinking more about politics than history when he picked Harris.
The other thing Biden did not consider was Harris’ general popularity – or more accurately, her unpopularity. For reasons that are too complicated to explain, Harris – at least what the public sees – is not very likeable. That was a factor in her inability to get traction in the presidential campaign – and is seen in her flat-lined poll numbers.
In the latest polls, Harris is in the mid-20s in favorability. That is phenomenally low for a Vice President – especially one who has only been on office less than a year. They generally are more popular than the presidents they serve – largely because they are not steeped in the major controversies and subjected to unrelenting partisan attacks.
The Harris problem has even led to speculation that she would be replaced by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The fact that such a silly conjecture has been seriously aired in the mainstream media is indicative that Harris is a problem for Biden. Is it because she is not doing the job, as Team Biden says, or because they are undermining her, as Team Harris alleges? Does not matter.
It is safe to say that Biden does have a Harris problem – and no number of public assurances are going to make it go away. This is a marriage of convenience and the best that Team Biden can hope for is to get through the rest of his term without a full-fledged political divorce.
So, there ‘tis.