Harris joins ranks of headache-inducing vice presidents

Vice President Kamala Harris keeps breaking the cardinal rule of a running mate and second-in-command: Do no harm.

Harris is under intense scrutiny, given she is President Joe Biden's heir apparent, yet, she appears to be repeating the mistakes of her failed 2020 White House campaign, delivering an uneven performance as his No. 2. And it is proving to be a detrimental distraction for Biden's administration.

Presidential historian and Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley compared Harris to former Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Spiro Agnew, as "two men with both feet perpetually in their mouths."

Quayle, for instance, earned a reputation for uttering unintelligible phrases, such as "I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future."

"When they were VPs, joke writers for late-night comedians never were lacking for material. They were made fun of for just getting out of bed in the morning," Shirley told the Washington Examiner.


Shirley's assessment was that Harris seems in "over her head," contrasting her with former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Golda Meir of Israel. Although she was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she has been meeting regularly with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to bone up on foreign policy.

"Nervous Americans want to take the pulse every day of Joe Biden, just to make sure he is still alive for fear she might become president," Shirley quipped of Harris. "She might become a competent VP — but only if God drops everything else."

Historian David Pietrusza referenced Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance when he was asked for examples of other headache-inducing vice presidents. The line regarding "a policeman's lot" not being "a happy one" also applies to White House understudies, according to Pietrusza.

"More often than not, they could be dumped from the ticket or about to be dumped from the ticket," he said.

Pietrusza cited rumors that Calvin Coolidge was going to be nixed from the 1924 Republican presidential lineup before Warren Harding's death in 1923. The same speculation plagued Charles Curtis and Herbert Hoover's doomed GOP reelection run in 1932.

"FDR grew increasingly suspicious of his increasingly conservative Vice President John Nance Garner, and Garner was dumped from the 1940 ticket to be replaced by Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace," Pietrusza said of the Democrats. "Wallace, in turn, was dumped from the 1944 ticket to be replaced by Sen. Harry Truman."

Dwight Eisenhower tried to sack Richard Nixon in 1956, while John Kennedy was "wary" of Lyndon Johnson, Pietrusza added of the bipartisan phenomenon.

"Richard Nixon absolutely personally despised Spiro Agnew, but Agnew was too popular with the Republican base to be dumped in 1972 — but not to be removed from office after that," he said of the successful federal tax fraud investigation into Agnew. "Gerald Ford named Nelson Rockefeller to be his vice president, but Bob Dole replaced Rockefeller on the 1976 GOP ticket."

Booting Harris, the country's first minority woman in her position, before the 2024 contest may be more troublesome for Biden than simply retaining her. Yet, she does make White House aides' jobs harder, and her approval rating trails former Vice President Mike Pence at roughly the same point in their tenures.

Harris's problems are exacerbated by her thorny portfolio of issues, including illegal immigration and voter access. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has reiterated that Harris requested to spearhead the administration's efforts concerning the latter, but their insistence that Biden's presidency is known as the "Biden-Harris administration" links the two together.

Harris will travel to El Paso with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Friday after receiving a barrage of criticism for not visiting the southern border, despite being tasked with addressing the "root causes" of illegal migration.

Pressure ramped up this month after Harris told NBC's Lester Holt she had not been to Europe when he pressed her on why she had not flown to the border.

"I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making," she said.

In March, she was slammed for laughing and replying "not today" in response to a similar question.

Harris's other awkward moments range from accidentally saying “abandoned land mines” instead of “abandoned mine lands" during a January West Virginia local news media interview lobbying Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending package, to handing out cookies sharing her likeness to reporters on her trip to Northern Triangle countries earlier this month.

Harris's husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, defended his wife this week from the backlash, arguing breaking down gender and racial barriers "means you might get cut sometimes."


"It's worth it because she's leaving a path for others," he said in an interview. "No one wants to see anyone they love attacked or criticized, but that's part of what she signed up for in this life of public service, and she has spent her entire career in public service as a lawyer in elected positions, so look, it's part of the territory."

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Tags: News, Biden, Joe Biden, White House, Biden Administration, Kamala Harris

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Harris joins ranks of headache-inducing vice presidents