Opinion: How Harris has been problematic for Biden
Elizabeth Warren has issued serial apologies for saying, when asked whether Joe Biden should keep Kamala Harris as his running mate, “I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team.” She went on to say, “I like Kamala,” which is what we call “damning with faint praise.”
Nothing Warren subsequently said erases her original message. As for her implication that Harris has been a problematic vice president for Biden, well, Warren is right about that. Harris has been prone to gaffes and doesn’t understand that California swagger married to identity politics is not universally beloved by American voters.
Biden’s dilemma resembles John McCain’s in 2008, when the Republican chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. A former governor of Alaska, Palin looked OK on paper. But when she burst onto the national scene, Palin shocked the world as an obnoxious ignoramus.
McCain was 71 years old, and so voters had to seriously consider who would replace him if he died. Biden is 80, and so his choice of vice president also figures more strongly into voters’ calculations than might have otherwise been the case.
This writer is convinced that McCain could have beat Barack Obama had he not had the wildly unqualified Palin hanging around his neck.
Now, Harris isn’t one-hundredth as unqualified as was Palin. She is clearly informed and has not embarrassed the United States as vice president. But there’s this record of problematic conduct.
Biden seems to understand that the issue of security at the Southern border has become a liability for any reelection campaign. He has thus recently toughened the rules against hollering by some on the left. That was smart politics (and policy).
He surely must regret having put Harris in charge of the border early on. Having to defend Biden’s previously wishy-washy stance wasn’t an enviable assignment. But she also didn’t do the job with utmost competence. Example: When she was planning a trip to the border, Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat representing part of the Rio Grande Valley, called her office for a talk. No one bothered to call him back.
There’s some unfortunate video of that first Democratic presidential debate in 2020, when Harris lunged for Biden’s throat over his purported opposition to busing schoolchildren for purposes of racial integration. The icky optics included her strutting past the other candidates and declaring herself “the only Black person on this stage,” as though that should have clinched the deal for her.
That was most unpleasant, in addition to being blatantly dishonest. Go into her record and you learn that Harris opposed forced busing, not the voluntary kind. That was exactly Biden’s stance. Why Biden made her his running mate floors me to this day.
As it happens, Harris’ mother was a medical researcher from India and her father, a Jamaica-born professor of economics at Stamford University. Harris was hardly a disadvantaged victim of Jim Crow. And as far as political skills and charm were concerned, she was no Barack Obama.
Diversity arguments have gotten old in any case. I never believed that it’s “time” for a female president or that a “person of color” is necessarily preferable over a white candidate. Nor did Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and civil rights icon. He rescued Biden’s flailing campaign with an enthusiastic endorsement before the important Southern primaries, with their heavily Black electorate. In doing so, he saved Democrats from a likely defeat and the country from another four years of Donald Trump.
Hitting back against doubters like Warren, Harris defiantly said, “He (Biden) intends to run, and if he does, I’ll be running with him.” Democrats should disabuse her of that notion.
• Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist with Creators.