The Biden administration keeps trying to give Vice President Kamala Harris something to do, but she keeps balking at the opportunity. She complains about being "sidelined" by the White House and complains when they give her a job she doesn't want to do, such as handling the border crisis. It's as if the only thing she is really passionate about is using the power of her office to destroy the careers of her political rivals.
Harris was not enthusiastic about being tapped to lead the administration's response to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the vice president "had initial reservations about becoming the face of the administration's response, worried she could be pigeonholed on the issue because of her gender, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose a sensitive dynamic."
Ultimately, Harris signed on to be in charge of the White House push to protect abortion rights across the country. If history is any indication, the result will be a half-assed effort that accomplishes nothing and inevitably devolves into finger-pointing, recrimination, and anonymous leaks to the press. That is precisely what happened after the administration tasked her with leading the charge on the border crisis and on voting rights.
Harris was not thrilled when Biden in March 2021 put her in charge of the administration's response to the ongoing immigration crisis on the border. The vice president "was resigned to the assignment, but she and her team wanted to make sure her role was depicted in the narrowest possible way," according to the authors of This Will Not Pass.
At one point, New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns recount in the book, Harris corrected Biden during a meeting with leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus. When the president said she would do "a hell of job" handling immigration, Harris immediately chimed in to say that her role would be limited to U.S. relations with the so-called Northern Triangle countries in Central America. During a subsequent visit to Guatemala, the vice president fumbled a question from NBC anchor Lester Holt about why she hadn't visited the U.S. southern border. "And I haven't been to Europe," she cackled.
Days later, Politico published a story headlined, "‘Not a healthy environment': Kamala Harris' office rife with dissent," which detailed the dysfunction in the vice president's office and was riddled with anonymous quotes from former Harris aides blasting her leadership style. That was around the same time Biden tasked Harris with leading the administration's effort to promote so-called voting rights. A similar fiasco ensued.
Martin and Burns report that after holding a series of initial meetings with activists, Harris failed to marshal a significant push for voting rights on Capitol Hill. Months after taking the assignment, they note, she had not even spoken about the issue with Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), whose votes were crucial to passing legislation in the Senate.
Voting rights soon became "another dead end" for the vice president, who "continued to resist the exhortation to pick some signature issues, partly out of concern that she would be restricted to handling subjects closely linked to her personal identity." Harris preferred to take ownership of "broad-spectrum issues" that wouldn't be "mainly associated with women and Black Americans."
This attitude is echoed in her response to being asked to handle the response to the Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade. She doesn't want to be "pigeonholed on the issue because of her gender." OK, then. What, exactly, does she want to be doing? According to Martin and Burns, the vice president's staff did at one point propose that Harris could oversee "relation with the Nordic countries," a suggestion that was "rejected" and "privately mocked" by White House aides.
It is perhaps no wonder that Democrats are already panicking at the thought of Harris being the party's presidential nominee in 2024. Even her former staffers are terrified at the prospect of Harris becoming president.