Editorial: Time for Biden to Defend Kamala Harris


Kamala Harris shouldn’t be Biden’s whipping post

By Rosetta Miller Perry, Publisher of the Tennessee Tribune

There are very disturbing reports out now about Vice President Kamala Harris and the lack of support she’s allegedly receiving from President Biden. If these are true, they are not good indicators of Biden’s faith in her, or his willingness to defend her against many attacks that are both excessive and unwarranted. They also represent yet another time when Biden’s rhetoric on race doesn’t match his actions. While some of the accounts from right-wing media like the New York Post might not be totally complete or accurate, it’s something else altogether when CNN presents a detailed report making some of the same claims.

According to 36 different people inside the White House, both Harris and her staff are dismayed by the lack of support from President Biden, particularly when Harris has been the one who’s had to go public and be the face of the administration in very controversial settings and on hot button issues. “It’s hard to miss the specific energy that the White House brings to defend a white man, knowing that Kamala Harris has spent almost a year taking a lot of the hits that the West Wing didn’t want to take themselves,” a former Harris aide told CNN. The ex-staffer was referring to the Biden administration springing to defend Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking paternity leave amid the global supply chain crisis. Buttigieg is considered a potential challenger to Harris for the Democratic presidential nomination either in 2024 or 2028.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the report was the contention Biden and Harris ” have a dysfunctional relationship that has reached an “exhausted stalemate,” according to the network. CNN also added that instead of viewing Harris as a future replacement,  Biden has instead been sidelining Harris as a potential liability. If true, this represents an alarming lack of confidence and a sign of disrespect from Biden to Harris, It is even more frustrating when Harris has been the public face during some of the toughest and most controversial issues facing the Biden administration. “They’re consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set,” summed up one former top Harris aide to CNN. 

Eleni Kounalakis, the lieutenant governor of California and a longtime friend of Harris, confirmed there is irritation. .“It is natural that those of us who know her know how much more helpful she can be than she is currently being asked to be,” she told CNN. “That’s where the frustration is coming from.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Harris Sunday night, tweeting: “For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country—from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband.”

The revelations emerged days after a USA Today/Suffolk University poll showed Biden with an approval rating of 37.8 percent, a new low for the president. However, Harris’ approval rating was 10 points lower, at 27.8 percent. Now some questions might be asked regarding which people are being asked in these polls, it’s very doubtful Harris’ rating would be that low among Black voters. Still, all this raises some legitimate questions regarding Biden and his treatment of Harris. Also, one wonders what the reasons for that low showing of Harris would be, given that she’s been far from a major public presence in many recent situations.

If he has real faith in her, then he should utilize her expertise in multiple areas, and not just stick her with thorny issues he wants to avoid. When she takes criticism that’s unfair and excessive he should immediately go public and defend her. He should also make public some of the things that she’s doing, and neither isolate her from ongoing situations or leave her alone to be criticized when she’s actually doing things that he’s authorized or supports. It really looks like she’s on an island at times, particularly when it comes to immigration.

Vice President Harris also should continue to speak out on issues that she cares about, and say what she thinks whether the President agrees with it or not. They seem to have conflicting views on Israel, for instance, but there’s nothing that says they must agree 100 percent on everything. The President ultimately sets the tone for what will happen policy wise, so it’s his opinions that matter most.

It’s really time Biden start utilizing Harris in a more effective manner, particularly on domestic policy issues. If what the press secretary says is true, and he considers her a vital partner and a bold leader, then let her do just that. Let her take the lead on some key policy issues and also have her stand with him more frequently during press conferences and/or appearances. Make her a real partner as opposed to someone only seen and heard when it’s a controversial issue, and he’d rather not take the heat, no matter what happens. Or when he’s trying to present him as someone truly interested in equality and diversity.