White House "perplexed" that Harris bungled question about visiting the southern border

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

I don’t know what they mean. Turning a diplomatic trip on immigration into an endless series of questions about why she hasn’t visited the Mexican border yet seems like a political master stroke to me.

Pissing off the woke left by telling Guatemalans not to come north during her remarks was just icing on the cake.

Look, she’s not a good politician. Even a mediocre candidate running for president will hang around long enough to compete in Iowa before bowing out. She couldn’t even do that.

So I’m perplexed that the White House is “perplexed” that she bungled a question about the border, as CNN alleges. Bungling easy questions, like why she supports single-payer, is a Harris tradition.

Several sources say there was a real hope inside the White House that Harris’ first trip abroad would be a success, and worry that what looked like ill-prepared answers to that inevitable question would overshadow it…

Harris’ response to NBC raised the issue of potentially overshadowing a trip White House officials saw as an opportunity to display the true intent of an assignment that has been conflated in the weeks since its announcement.

Instead, she was stuck once again dealing with an issue that has drawn repeated GOP attacks — one some officials said they had assumed she would be able to easily address and move on from when it was inevitably raised.

Right, that’s the irony. The point of having her visit Guatemala was to remind Americans that she’s not in charge of what’s happening at the Mexican border. DHS is. She’s in charge of the diplomatic effort to address the “root causes” of migration, which is bureaucrat-speak for bribing local governments with U.S. taxpayer money to do more to keep their people from leaving.

That’s the answer she could have and should have given when Lester Holt asked her why she hasn’t visited the border, that it’s not part of her portfolio. Or she could have just gone to the farking border for a few hours last week so that she could say she’d been there when she was inevitably asked. “Border control might not be my responsibility in America’s immigration response but it’s important for me to see all aspects of the problem before engaging our Central American allies,” she could have said.

But she’s not a good politician, so here we are.

Some Democrats were less polite in their criticism of her than the White House was:

“She is going to be haunted by this trip and this issue for as long as she is in politics,” said one Democratic strategist, in no uncertain terms. “The border is a thorny issue and she can’t win inside her party and she’ll be targeted for these comments for a long time from Republicans.”

“Issues like immigration are not the ones that anyone would sign up for given the obvious political risk,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne added.

It’s not all her fault. Tasking her with immigration diplomacy was a strange choice by the White House given that it’s a thankless subject politically and that Dems are in a tight spot in 2024 because of Biden’s age. I can’t remember the last time it’s been as likely as it is now that a first-term president would be replaced by his own VP as nominee after his term ended. That being so, you would think Team Joe would keep Harris far away from no-win issues like immigration and put her in charge of stuff that’s popular, like health-care reform. Especially since the border crisis has made immigration the source of Biden’s worst marks in polling since becoming president.

Even if she were doing everything right, the intractable nature of the problem would set her up for failure.

All I can think is that maybe the White House believed that giving Harris opportunities to warn foreigners not to come to the U.S. right now might make her more appealing to centrists in 2024. But if so, it backfired twice over — first when Harris admitted to Holt that she hasn’t been to the border yet and later when progressives began attacking her for delivering the “do not come” message to Guatemalans during her trip. To border hawks, she’s disengaged. To the open-borders left, she’s a border hawk. What a fiasco.

Speaking of which, here’s AOC grumbling last night about Harris’s “do not come” remarks that the administration hasn’t opened the border *enough*, a weak complaint given the daily reports of migrants surging across in record numbers. Not only is Ocasio-Cortez’s point a poisonous message for Democrats in swing districts, who’ll be confronted about it the same way they were confronted about progressives’ “defund the police” sloganeering, it’s at odds with her own economic populism. Read this smart piece by Batya Ungar-Sargon about the difference between the old redistributionist left and the new identity-politics left. For years Bernie Sanders was hostile to immigration because he recognized that a glut of cheap labor would drive down the wages of working-class Americans. AOC and the young left don’t care about that. For them, the fact that Mexicans and Central Americans are part of a victim class means they’re owed entry to the U.S. on asylum grounds, seemingly limitlessly, whatever it means for blue-collar Americans’ pocketbooks.