Althouse | category: Kamala Harris



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"Given the stakes, Biden needs to make the case... why [Kamala] Harris is the best choice to succeed him, should he not be able to complete his [second] term...."

"One thing Biden might consider is putting Harris in charge of ensuring that America’s transition to the age of artificial intelligence works to strengthen communities and the middle class. It is a big theme that could take her all over the country. I wrote a column more than two years ago suggesting that Biden make Harris 'his de facto secretary of rural development, in charge of closing the opportunity gap, the connectivity gap, the learning gap, the start-up gap — and the anger and alienation gap — between rural America and the rest of the country.' It would have been a substantive challenge and would have enabled her and the administration to build bridges to rural Republicans. Never happened. I am terrified of going into this election with a Democratic ticket that gives moderate Republicans and independents — who are desperate for an alternative to Trump — any excuse to gravitate back to him...."

Writes Thomas Friedman in "Why Kamala Harris Matters So Much in 2024" (NYT).

Unlike the commenters over there, Friedman doesn't consider replacing Harris. He's just talking about giving her different assignments from the very important ones she already has. His suggested assignments are blurrily described. We are entering the "age of artificial intelligence," but she would somehow "ensure" that it "works to strengthen communities and the middle class." Somehow that vague task — what are "communities"?  — would build up her reputation. Why? Because she could travel "all over the country" with "a big theme." Friedman likens this assignment to the one he recommended 2 years ago — "rural development." Somehow he sees her as suited to pull along people who are left behind. 

That sounds hopeless, but I don't blame him for avoiding the subject of replacing her as the VP candidate. The Democrats can't humiliate her. She's the first black VP and the first woman VP, and they can’t say she didn't do well enough. Unthinkable. 

"Most Democrats interviewed, who insisted on anonymity to avoid alienating the White House, said flatly that they did not think Ms. Harris could win the presidency in 2024."

"Some said the party’s biggest challenge would be finding a way to sideline her without inflaming key Democratic constituencies that would take offense. Now with Mr. Biden appearing all but certain to run again, the concern over Ms. Harris has shifted to whether she will be a political liability for the ticket...."

"Aides have encouraged her to liberate herself from the teleprompter and show the nation the Ms. Harris they say they see when the cameras are off, one who can cross-examine policymakers on the intricacies of legislative proposals and connect with younger voters across the country. Ms. Harris has acknowledged her reservations about leaning into the more symbolic aspects of her current position. 'My bias has always been to speak factually, to speak accurately, to speak precisely about issues and matters that have potentially great consequence,' she said... 'I find it off-putting to just engage in platitudes. I much prefer to deconstruct an issue and speak of it in a way that hopefully elevates public discourse and educates the public.'"

Do you think there is this other Kamala Harris who springs to life "when the cameras are off"? It's hard to believe... it's like the Phil Hartman Ronald Reagan:

"Several busloads of migrants were dropped off in front of Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington, DC, on Christmas Eve in 18 degree weather...."

"A CNN team saw migrants being dropped off, with some migrants wearing only T-shirts in the freezing weather. They were given blankets and put on another bus that went to a local church.... It’s not clear who is responsible for sending the migrants to the Naval Observatory, where the vice president’s residence is located, though CNN reported earlier this year that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had sent buses of migrants north, including to a location outside Harris’ home."

CNN reports.


"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."


I wonder, if Kamala Harris wanted to seize this occasion and make an impressive showing for herself, what could she do? I understand the response that is to do nothing and to deny her adversaries the power to require that she react to a circumstance that they created. But what if she wanted to say or do something... on Christmas? Kamala Harris is a Christian — a Baptist.

"Sitting across from [Kamala] Harris had me thinking about how I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to analyzing how the media, and Americans more generally, treat powerful women."

Writes Molly Jong-Fast in a Vanity Fair piece with a long title: "KAMALA HARRIS, A VERY TURBULENT YEAR IN AMERICA, AND THE CHALLENGE OF BEING FIRST/In an interview with Vanity Fair, the vice president discusses protecting abortion rights post-Roe and tackling immigration, along with how, as a woman of several firsts—from DA to AG to VP—she hopes to 'create a path and widen the path for others.'"  

It sounds as though, in the middle of the interview, she's ransacking her own mental archive in search of any substance to use in this big Vanity Fair piece she's supposed to write.

And here is the most powerful woman—quite literally one heartbeat away from the presidency....

Oh! The despair in those words! Here you are, given special access, and you don't just trot out the old cliché — "one heartbeat away from the presidency" — you pad it with the ludicrous amplifier "quite literally." I am quite literally rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

At this point, I am sure Jong-Fast found absolutely nothing of interest in this interview — nothing, that is, that she wanted to use.

[I]t occurs to me during our interview that the vice president of the United States is actually trying to make me feel comfortable.

Jong-Fast talks about herself, and I'm willing to believe it's because her subjective feelings are more interesting than anything Kamala Harris said.

Perhaps it’s a function of the world we all inhabit, but the female vice president is way friendlier and more accommodating than a man in her position would ever be.

Perhaps! We're not told of anything friendly and accommodating Harris said or did, but why not aim vague attacks at people who are not present — "a man in her position" — and, earlier — "the media, and Americans more generally"?

There is an anxiety in her office—the staff is obsessive about getting every last detail right.

Oh? Could that be because she is not as friendly and accommodating to her staff as "a man in her position" might be? That's what I've heard.

No one says it to me explicitly, but you can sense in the carefulness and precision of every word and gesture that the success of the vice president is about more than just her.

Jong-Fast is lost in her own thoughts. I have to presume Harris gave her nothing to write about.

Harris is saddled with the burden of being first. Anything she does will attract more scrutiny, anything she doesn’t do will attract more scorn. There is a tension that permeates the world surrounding her. Being first is never comfortable.

This is so ludicrously padded! Harris is 2 years into the vice presidency. Why are we musing vaguely about all the "firsts" now? Or should I credit Jong-Fast with subtly conveying the sense that Harris is "trying to make [her] feel comfortable" and failing. But that can't be Harris's fault. "Being first is never comfortable." And "tension... permeates the world surrounding her." Huh?!

And yet, Harris seems relaxed as we get chatting, starting off with some small talk about wedding photography, of all things, as well as feminism, which led me to mention that my mom is the writer Erica Jong. “That’s your mom?” she said. “Nobody tells me anything around here!”...

Oh, my. Harris is woefully under-informed and even that is to be blamed on faceless others. You would think a seasoned politician would be skilled at seeming to already know the things she should already know. Where's the finesse?! She blames the staff.

A bit of substance: Jong-Fast asked Harris about her reaction to the news of the overruling of Roe v. Wade. Harris referenced a speech she gave in early May, just after the leaking of the draft of the Dobbs decision:

“I just gave a pretty spontaneous speech, saying, ‘How dare they?’” Harris said. “In terms of just an expression of the outrage I think we all felt.”

That's such a weak way to put it —  "just... pretty... In terms of just... I think we all felt." 

Jong-Fast displays her dissatisfaction:

But I wanted to know if she saw the fall of Roe coming. I expected that after the Supreme Court failed to act on SB8 (the bill that banned abortion after about six weeks in the state of Texas) that she might have assumed Roe would be overturned.

“You brace for any major catastrophe. I think it’s human nature that we retained some element of hope that this couldn’t happen because it would be so awful if it did. That’s how I think about this issue, that it couldn’t happen because I’m acutely aware of how many people will be hurt in a significant way if it did. That was kind of just mentally and emotionally where I was, which is eyes open that it could happen, but also believing this can’t happen. Then, of course, when the leaked decision came down, that was it.”

Again, I'm struck by the verbal weakness: "kind of just mentally and emotionally where I was." She sounds resigned and unable to prepare or fight in any way.

But Jong-Fast presents her as scrambling to begin to fight:

The former prosecutor pulled opinions related to Roe and started strategizing. “In that opinion, shocking but not shocking, that Justice Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud—that marriage, that right to contraception was very much at risk.” (Thomas’s concurring opinion also raised concerns the court could target sodomy laws.) Since Harris had experience as a state AG, where she helped beat back Califorina’s 2008 proposed same-sex marriage ban Propostion [sic] 8, she was quick to turn to the states, telling me how governors had been partners with the Biden administration when it came to reproductive health, such as Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers, who’s “going to veto what he has to, he’s going to do it right.”...

So it's a non-fight, just an idea that it's left to the states — an incomplete solution that only works in states with Democratic governors. Leaving it to the states is pretty conservative and low-energy, but Jong-Fast tries to spice it up and make it seem active: "she was quick to turn to the states." But to be quick to leave the work to someone else is to have an instinct for inaction.

Since the court was sending abortion rights to the states, she said, “we need to get out of DC and go and support and be with leaders in the states. I convened state legislators in red states and blue states to one, remind them they weren’t out here fighting alone, but to also see what I could do, to bring my platform and whatever cameras and voice I could bring, to uplift and highlight the incredible work that they’re doing at a state level.”...

What about federal legislation? I wouldn't say "the court was sending abortion rights to the states." Why is she conceding that? Get a federal statutory right done while you can! But no, she's talking about herself as if she's a movie star, bringing "cameras and voice" "to uplift and highlight" the work that other people are doing. 

Jong-Fast tries to get something out of Harris on immigration. Harris says what she does is: "Bringing together CEOs and business leaders to say, hey, you guys have resources and skill and expertise in certain areas, and coupling that with the bandwidth and the scope of what we can do as government, can be very powerful to have a very focused ability to look at the solutions to a problem."

But, it's Congress's fault: “CEOs will tell you this every day of the week, they need immigration... The problem here is that we don’t have a Congress that is willing to actually approach this in a reasonable way.... Congress has to act.” 

Harris claims to have a strong relationship with President Biden: "We just like each other a lot. We just like each other. It’s really nice. It’s really nice. I feel very fortunate to have this relationship."

"In the first months of his presidency, JOE BIDEN vented his frustration about Vice President KAMALA HARRIS, telling a friend that she was 'a work in progress.'"

Politico reports on what's in a new book ("The Fight of His Life," by Chris Whipple). 

[W]ord got back to [Biden] that second gentleman DOUGLAS EMHOFF had been complaining about Harris’ policy portfolio — which her allies felt was hurting her politically....

“[Biden] hadn’t asked Harris to do anything he hadn’t done as vice president — and she’d begged him for the voting rights assignment.”...

Well, why wasn't Harris given what she wanted? Why didn't they try to help her build her reputation? If they thought she was a "work in progress," why didn't they help her progress? Did Biden make her Vice President to impede her progress? 

The book doesn't sound terribly enlightening. We're told it "features extensive interviews with Biden’s current chief of staff, RON KLAIN, whom he credits with 'patient, nose-to-the-grindstone stewardship.'" We're told the "interviews with top senior staff were done on deep background, with quote approval." 

And Biden and Harris only agreed to answer questions submitted in writing. (Whipple wrote that Harris declined to answer a question he sent about “turmoil and morale problems among your staff going back to your time as California attorney general,” and a question asking about her worst day as vice president.)

There's some material about Afghanistan, best summed up in this sentence: "The book includes several on-the-record interviews with top officials pointing fingers at one another over the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan." 

ADDED: Was Harris not given what she wanted? As noted above, she wanted the voting rights assignment and she got it. Was Emhoff complaining about that part of the portfolio or something else? The Politico article does not help at all and I wonder what the book has to say. Is the book a hit job on Harris?

I think the Democrats do have a huge problem looking forward to the 2024 campaign. If Biden does not run, the heir apparent is Harris, but she, in all likelihood, will be a poor candidate. Does Biden have to run simply to keep her from stumbling into the nomination (the way he stumbled into the nomination)?

"Most Democrats interviewed, who insisted on anonymity to avoid alienating the White House, said flatly that they did not think Ms. Harris could win the presidency in 2024."Election Day cured me of my habit of checking Real Clear Politics for the latest polls, but I did just now check back...

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