I wonder how much of this is Harris being Harris and how much of it is a product of her anxiety that she’s widely viewed as, well, a joke. To some degree it must be who she is: You don’t shed staffers at the rate she has by being easy to work it.
But the “joke” factor is real too. I mean…
VP HARRIS: "I think everyone here recognizes how extraordinary space is. Space is exciting. It spurs our imaginations, and it forces us to ask big questions. Space: it affects us all, and it connects us all." pic.twitter.com/eJxUMyFi7I
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) April 20, 2022
If you can’t make your deputies want to stand for you, I guess you’re forced to insist.
She’s been insisting, say Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns. To the point where actual meetings have been held to discuss the matter:
NYT: Kamala Harris has become "fixated on…snubs" from Biden's staff — even demanding Biden staffers "stand when she enters the room."
"The tensions are deep and they are real between the VP's office and the West Wing." pic.twitter.com/nNqjED2kao
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 1, 2022
There are many breadcrumbs out there in the media about the relationship between Team Biden and Team Harris being frosty. It started before the election, when the VP selection was made. “There are millions of people in the United States. Why do we have to choose the one who attacked Joe?” Jill Biden reportedly asked, referring to Harris’s famous attack on Biden for opposing busing during his early days in the Senate. For his part, Biden promised to build the same sort of working relationship with Harris that he and Barack Obama built. He hasn’t kept that promise:
The weekly [lunch with the president] was so important to Biden that he carried over the tradition to his own presidency. “I made the same deal with her that Barack and I made,” he said of his newly minted vice president just weeks after his inauguration. That meant drop-in privileges at the Oval Office and carte blanche over executive office meetings, Biden told People magazine, but also “lunch alone once a week.”…
And yet, according to a review of the president’s public schedule by RealClearPolitics, Biden and Harris have only sat down to lunch twice this year, a significant drop when compared to the 12 times they shared the meal together by this same point last year.
If your running mate decided that he no longer valued your opinion enough to consult with you regularly about world developments, you might be a little touchy about “respect” too.
As Martin says in the clip, though, 2024 and Harris’s insecurities about enjoying the pole position if Biden doesn’t run are hanging over this pairing. A new one from Republican pollster John McLaughlin:
2024 National Democratic Primary Poll, Without Biden:
M. Obama 23%
— PollTracker (@PollTrackerUSA) April 29, 2022
Michelle Obama is unlikely to run, making Harris a *modest* favorite for the nomination by default. But no one anywhere believes she’d be the party’s strongest play to claw back rural white voters and working-class Hispanics, the two groups Democrats most desperately need to improve with to stand a chance in 2024. Their best bets electorally are probably Tim Ryan or John Fetterman, assuming either is able to win his Senate race this fall. But Ryan and Fetterman are working-class white guys in a party that depends heavily on women and black voters. And snubbing the first black woman VP for one of them as nominee would be very, very hard for Dems to explain.
That’s surely the real snub Harris is “fixated” on. The fact that White House staffers aren’t standing for her may be a sign to her that even her own team doesn’t expect her to be president someday.
Of course, Obama’s team didn’t expect Biden to become president either. Here’s another fascinating glimpse from Martin into the psychological dynamic between Biden and his former boss:
"For all the talk Biden and Obama do about brothers, they're not that close. They don't talk super often today. There's a rivalry there." pic.twitter.com/N5RGDINx2a
— Nora Neus (@noraneus) May 2, 2022
One of the great mysteries of the Biden presidency is why he became so consumed with passing ambitious legislation like Build Back Better when he had a bare 50/50 majority in the Senate and the country craved nothing more than a return to normalcy. Martin provides a possible answer: Like Harris, VP Biden felt that the president’s team viewed him as a joke. And the way to prove that he wasn’t a joke was to get more done with thinner congressional majorities than Barack Obama managed in 2009. Biden’s lingering sense of “disrespect” may have led him to overreach upon becoming president, leaving Democrats in their current pickle.
Ironically, the enormous COVID relief bill Biden passed in order to out-Obama Obama helped create the rising inflation that now threatens his presidency and all but guarantees a Republican takeover of Congress this fall. Dems are desperate for ways to try stanch the bleeding. Bribe twentysomethings by forgiving their student debt, pissing off two-thirds of the electorate? Go on offense in the culture wars, as if that stands a chance of working?
No, per Politico, they’re hanging their hopes on a deus ex machina. Elon Musk to the rescue?
Biden advisers have also tried to game out this week the possibility of one particular October surprise. Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter raised the chance that Trump could be reinstated to the social media platform, where he had more than 80 million followers before being banned in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot. Musk has said he would allow Trump to return, and while the ex-president has claimed he doesn’t want back on, the White House does not believe him.
The consensus among Biden aides about Trump’s possible return: it could cut both ways. While the former president would eat up an extraordinary amount of political oxygen, it’s also possible that he would push the Big Lie or feud with fellow Republicans and damage the GOP’s otherwise strong chances of regaining at least one house of Congress. The more the election becomes about Trump, the better the Democrats’ chances become, many in Biden’s orbit believe.
My pal Guy Benson pointed out that Democrats tried this strategy last year in Virginia, with Terry McAuliffe running an “all Trump, all the time” campaign against Glenn Youngkin, and it didn’t work out well for them. Right, but remember that Team Youngkin worked hard behind the scenes to make sure that Trump didn’t campaign for him in Virginia. Their fear was that Trump’s reemergence might remind some Youngkin-leaning swing voters that it’s still his party, tilting them back into the Democrats’ column. Having Musk un-ban Trump and restoring him to a platform where he can dominate the daily political conversation would, in theory, create that problem on a national scale. It wouldn’t prevent a GOP congressional takeover but it might cost the party a few races at the margins.
I’ll leave you with one more clip of Martin and Burns, this time from “The View.” The word “microaggressions” is mentioned.
The View, Biden's staff is putting out racist "microaggressions" against Kalama.
Whoopi suggests they have "a giant meeting" at the White House to "go over how this actually works" in terms of them needing to stand when Kamala enters a room.
Sunny declares: "Protocol is protocol" pic.twitter.com/xXczaYaAQz
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) May 2, 2022