Kamala Harris: The absentee VP by design
By Joe Concha, Opinion ContributorAugust 30, 2021 – 12:00 PM EDTThe views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
She was supposed to be a major player in the Biden administration after being lauded as an historic, consequential figure in her role as America’s first female vice president.
“Harris Has the Potential To Change the Face of U.S. Politics,” read a November 2020 Politico headline that echoed many others at the time. And not long after Joe Biden was sworn in as the nation’s 46th president, the administration insisted she should be known as her boss’s equal.
“Please be sure to reference the current administration as the ‘Biden-Harris Administration’ in official public communications,” a March directive read, emphasizing Biden-Harris in boldface.
Kamala Harris may have crashed and burned as a 2020 presidential candidate, dropping out well before the first votes were cast in Iowa. But Biden chose her as his running mate anyway. It’s not clear exactly what Harris brought to the ticket outside of checking off a few demographic boxes.
Foreign policy credentials? Nope. Business experience? None. A track record of working with Republicans to pass important legislation? Not even close. In fact, an analysis by the non-partisan GovTrack showed that she was the most liberal member of the Senate, even further to the left than democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
But she had been California’s attorney general, so perhaps Team Biden felt her record on crime could help her lead the way in reducing the violent crime that has engulfed American cities since the summer of 2020, resulting in mass resignations and retirements among the police.
Not at all. In fact, during the presidential primaries, Harris’s Twitter account publicly promoted a bail fund for rioters in Minneapolis, a city that’s seen violent crime spike under the current administration.
“If you’re able to, chip in now to the @MNFreedomFund to help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota,” it tweeted in June 2020 as Minneapolis was under siege to the tune of more than $500 million in damage.
All of this helps explain why Harris has been taken off the field almost completely. Last week Harris was sent to Vietnam and Singapore amid the chaos in Afghanistan. When that trip was over, she stopped off in Hawaii to visit Pearl Harbor. Any Americans who wanted to hear why Harris supported the decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan last spring would have to wait, because the press was blocked from the event.
Last year, then-Vice President Mike Pence held dozens of press conferences as the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, taking tough questions on an almost daily basis from the onset of the pandemic.
Since Harris took office, she has yet to hold even one formal press conference. Not one.
It’s also been weeks since Harris sat down for a one-on-one interview. There’s a reason for that: Her handlers seem to know there’s very little upside in having her say anything unscripted on the crisis at the U.S. southern border, where the migrant numbers are at 20-year highs amid a pandemic.
If the White House thinks its strategy of keeping Harris out-of-sight, out-of-mind is working, they should think again. Because we haven’t seen vice presidential approval numbers this low so early in an administration since Dan Quayle under George H.W. Bush.
A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, for example, has the vice president at 35 percent approval, 54 percent disapproval. Just seven months in, Harris is 19 points underwater. And this is someone who more than a few in the D.C. chattering class hailed as the 2024 Democratic nominee-in-waiting.
With numbers like these, it’s very hard to see Harris becoming the nominee.
As a former prosecutor and Democratic star of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, one would think Harris would be doing more interviews and holding more press conferences. She clearly has the ability to make persuasive arguments.
But don’t expect that to happen. Her handlers seem afraid to put her out there.
The press should be pushing back, demanding more transparency, more access to this historic vice president.
Outside of a few outlets, that hasn’t been happening.
But as things continue to go south for Team Biden, expect the pile-on to officially begin, with Harris inspiring very little confidence from an already disappointed public…once she’s actually allowed to speak without a prompter again.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.