Heh: Kamala Harris's communications director to leave White House next month

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

She should find a more competent, likable Democrat to work for. Like Andrew Cuomo.

It’s unclear at the moment whether Ashley Etienne, Harris’s comms director, jumped or was pushed. You can imagine it either way in light of the terrible press the VP’s gotten lately. Jumped: Etienne had a nightmare boss and ended up concluding there was no way to serve a retail politician as hapless as her effectively. Was pushed: Harris needed a scapegoat for her own image problem and sent Etienne packing.

Vanity Fair is reporting that Etienne neither jumped nor was pushed. Supposedly she committed to a year on the job when she joined Harris’s team last year after the election. Fair enough if so, but if Harris was killing it in her role as number two and looked on track to become the next woman president in 2024, I’m guessing Etienne would have hung around a bit longer. Even if she was hellbent to leave, one might have expected her to stick around at least until the latest wave of bad press about Harris had subsided, so as not to leave the impression that Harris’s own team was writing her off and abandoning ship. Etienne apparently couldn’t be bothered to keep up appearances. CNN noted today that “several people on Harris’ staff had started to reach out to contacts [recently] to say they’re looking to leave, according to sources who’ve gotten calls.” You don’t say.

Oh, and don’t forget that working for Harris is no picnic even when the political waters are placid. More than one story bubbled up in political media this summer about the dysfunctional, even “toxic” environment in the VP’s office. Said one former White House staffer to Vanity Fair, “The one through line [in Harris’s career] would be the principal and not the staff. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to blame the staff for all of the stray voltage around that operation.”

Whatever her reasons, Etienne had enough. More from VF:

But now, a Democratic strategist told me, the Democratic establishment and donor base increasingly see Harris as a “nonstarter” in 2024 if Biden doesn’t run. “I think her biggest problem is that she is naturally cautious and she has been hamstrung by the administration,” the strategist told me. “It has put her in a place where she is almost too shell-shocked to get out and do anything.”…

There is also increasing buzz that Biden may not be destined to be a one-term president, as was once presumed. “I genuinely expect Biden to run again. That’s not just sort of his posturing, but having spoken to very senior advisers of his, he plans to run…I don’t think he thinks there’s any other person right now who can connect with the white working class and the African American community and build a coalition, the Obama coalition, that we’d need to win,” the Democratic lawmaker, who did not endorse Biden in the Democratic presidential primary, said. “I think he feels more of a duty to run.” A George McGovern–level loss is the fear among Democrats as they look to 2024. “The sentiment in the caucus is also that Biden should run because many people think that Buttigieg and Kamala are unelectable and we would basically be handing the presidency to Trump,” the lawmaker added.

Buttigieg and Kamala *are* unelectable and would tear the party apart running against each other in a primary. “If a management consultant were to design a progressive white Democrat in a bottle, the result would look a lot like Buttigieg, himself a former management consultant,” wrote Rich Lowry today. A 42-year-old transportation secretary challenging the first black woman vice president in a Democratic primary would be read as an affront to black voters, a constituency Buttigieg already famously struggles with. It would be taken as a breach of protocol by a privileged white male who would never have dared to challenge a VP from his own demographic. “The politics of the Democratic Party, which runs through the heart of Black America, would not be kind to somebody being perceived to cut the line ahead of the president or vice president,” said one Democratic operative to The Hill about the prospect of Buttigieg leapfrogging Harris.

If he tried anyway and somehow won the nomination, he’d have to face Trump that November amid accusations from nonwhite voters on his own side that he’d ridden racism and sexism to victory and would be betting the White House and the future of the country on the proposition that America is ready to elect an openly gay man as president. But if Harris held him off and won the nomination herself, she’d head into the race against Trump the same way she ended the 2020 primaries, with everyone feeling underwhelmed by her. Except this time, she’d have had four years in the spotlight showing she’s not ready for primetime that will have convinced swing voters to stay far away.

Democrats are screwed either way, which is why I suspect if they get obliterated next fall they’ll pull out the stops in searching for a truly formidable nominee, even if that means snubbing Harris. She has a year to convince her party that she’s not hopeless and doomed to defeat in a national election.

Here’s Jen Psaki yesterday making excuses for her. If she wants someone to blame for the public’s poor perceptions of Harris, she should blame her boss for not giving the VP an agenda designed to boost her popularity.