Hunkering Harris: VP blocks media from Hawaii event after Kabul bombing

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Another Profiles in Courage moment from a beleaguered administration. More accurately, it’s another retreat — this time in front of the military. Kamala Harris landed in Hawaii yesterday on the final leg of her diplomatic tour in Asia, where the VP had hoped to bolster confidence in the US with Vietnam and Singapore against China.

How much confidence can either country have in the US when the Biden administration gets itself chased out of Afghanistan by terrorists? And how much of a confidence-builder can it be to see the same VP hiding from the press?

Media access to Vice President Kamala Harris’s address to U.S. troops at Pearl Harbor was suddenly pulled on Thursday.

No explanation was given, according to the White House press pool, but the move comes hours after two explosions outside of the airport in Kabul killed 13 U.S. service members and 60 Afghans during evacuations.

“The VP’s staff informed the pool during the flight that her event with troops at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam would now be closed press. No explanation given by the VP’s team for why it has been changed to closed press when asked by a member of the pool,” the dispatch said.

The event had been scheduled to be a pool event, which would be typical for this kind of speech. The point of addressing the military on such trips is to recognize their efforts, but more important politically, to be seen to be recognizing their efforts. It’s a photo op, a basic political exercise that exists for the purpose of having the press around to record it.

How frightened must the administration be of the media at this moment to lock the press out of such an event? Clearly, they don’t trust Harris to handle questions well enough in a crisis to prevent even more damage done to their standing. The White House doesn’t have much choice but to put Biden up in front of reporters, even though he’s terrible at it, as seen in yesterday’s presser. Biden appeared to barely be able to complete a thought during his speech, and looked entirely out of energy and life for most of the four answers he gave in the highly limited exchange the White House comms team allowed.

If the White House had any confidence in Harris, they might have tried to use her as a substitute. Instead, it’s become clear that they’re worried she might be worse than Biden at handling the media. Harris had been scheduled to make an appearance to boost Gavin Newsom in his recall effort, but that’s not just been closed to the press — it’s been canceled outright:

Harris was due to stop in California to appear with Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall attempt, but following the attack, scrapped those plans to head directly to Washington, D.C.

Newsweek has contacted Harris’ office for comment.

The White House also announced that Biden would not make a campaign appearance for Newsom either, but of course, Biden’s the president. He has an official role in directing military policy; Harris doesn’t have any official duties in Washington at all. Furthermore, while both have been popular in California, that’s Harris’ home state and political power base. Newsom needs all hands on deck to rescue him from this recall, especially in getting out the vote among communities of color. The recall election is less than three weeks away (September 14), so time is running out.

If they’re canceling press access to a military-boosting event and pulling Harris out of the salvage-Newsom effort, the White House must have zero confidence in Harris’ abilities. They want her hunkering down in Biden’s basement, apparently hoping that a campaign strategy works as a governing strategy. So far, however, the results aren’t promising for Democrats. And they’re much worse for everyone else.