With opinion poll numbers deep underwater, Vice President Kamala Harris is taking her show on the road. Less than one year into a Biden administration beset by near-constant difficulty, few second-in-commands would consider the timing right to position themselves as the heir apparent. Harris, however, is no ordinary contender. With fellow Democrats outright claiming she is being “set up to fail,” the ever-friendly interview circuit may appear to be a lifeline for Harris. Amid a public relations push to rescue the vice president’s reputation, what should be a series of image-building tête-à-têtes has become a surreal experiment in how to derail an as-yet-unannounced candidacy.
Portfolio From Hell?
Speaking one-on-one with CBS’ Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan, the VP was asked to give her opinion on recent statements by colleagues claiming that she has been handed an “impossible portfolio” to manage. Brennan cited Donna Brazile, the former Democratic strategist, who said that all the focus on staff turnover in Harris’ office is overblown. And Bakari Sellers, former South Carolina representative and Democratic pundit, who put it bluntly: “Her portfolio is trash. You give someone a portfolio that is not meant for them to succeed.”
And there lies the paradox. President Biden on the campaign trail said on numerous occasions that the Biden-Harris ticket would be a “partnership” and that he sees himself as “a transition candidate.” In fact, it would not be unfair to say that speculation was rife on both sides of the political divide regarding whether electing Biden would eventually result in a President Harris. Now that Biden is ten points underwater after less than a single year, this should be the time for Harris to shine and cash the check others have written for her. But it isn’t.
Keep Your Money Away From Your Mouth
In response to Brennan’s probing, Harris pooh-poohed the idea that she was being thrust into an impossible situation, answering:
“I’m vice president of the United States. Anything that I handle is because it’s a tough issue and it couldn’t be handled at some other level.
“And there are a lot of big, tough issues that need to be addressed. And it has actually been part of my lifelong career to deal with tough issues. And this is no different.”
Tough issues, indeed. Harris’ most notable role has been to deal with the ever-burgeoning immigration crisis. With 1.66 million illegal migrants arrested crossing the border in the fiscal year 2021 – and now an average of 200,000 per month – the VP has during her tenure repeatedly stated that she would deal with the root causes of migration rather than the actual U.S. border.
When illegal immigration increases and the border is at a breaking point, one wonders how effective her strategy has been.
The Truth of the Matter
But is Harris being undermined? And why would her Democrat colleagues make their suggestions regarding her failure so publicly? According to a CNN report just one month ago, nearly “three dozen” insiders spoke to the network about the atmosphere surrounding the VP. According to one source, “The vice president herself has told several confidants she feels constrained in what she’s able to do politically. And those around her remain wary of even hinting at future political ambitions, with Biden’s team highly attuned to signs of disloyalty, particularly from the vice president.”
As to why Democrats not directly linked to the VP would voice their concerns, it seems that the answer lies with the president himself. With Biden recently stating that, should health permit, he will be running for office in 2024, those who took the president at his word that he would be a mere “transition” candidate likely feel they have been cheated out of their favored contender.
Hitting the interview circuit will not save the vice president from being undercut by Biden’s team in the White House, nor will it make her a more palatable candidate when the next election comes. Instead, it has highlighted the fact that she is locked in an untenable situation where she can neither solve the problems imposed upon her nor provide acceptable answers as to why she is failing to deal with serious issues that matter to actual voters.
Harris is likely being set up to fail, but it’s too late to change course now.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.