Are more resignations coming in the vice president's office? Kamala's former aides speak out

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Willie Brown was right. Kamala’s glory as Vice-President of the United States has quickly faded, just ten short months into the Biden-Harris administration. Brown warned her not to take the job if offered and to instead go for Attorney General in the Biden administration. He wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle on the topic back in June 2020. Brown wrote at the time, “the glory would be short-lived, and historically, the vice presidency has often ended up being a dead end.”


Panic began setting in back in August. A circle of close friends and advisers gathered to discuss the best way forward for Kamala as leaks were reported in the press about the discord in her office. By November her top communications people announced their resignations. Then last week two other top staffers announced their departures. While it isn’t necessarily unusual for the White House to have frequent turnover in staff as the staffers gain experience and move on to more financially lucrative opportunities, the Biden administration is still in its first year. That’s not normal.

The long knives are out for Kamala. Some former aides are speaking out against her leadership style and how she treats her staff. It’s not good. For whatever reason, a perfect storm is brewing to take down Kamala and it’s not Republicans doing it. Gil Duran, Editorial Page Editor of The San Francisco Examiner, penned a piece addressing staff drama and gaffes. Duran is a former Harris aide who left her office in 2013. He said that Kamala is clearly unhappy in her position but her staff is even more unhappy in a toxic office environment. Kamala needs to do more than get new staff to fix her problems in the office.

These embarrassing contretemps were entirely predictable. Harris’ 2020 campaign also unraveled in an ugly war between rival staffers, each side publicly blaming the other for her failure. By then, even former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg was outshining Harris in California. She dropped out before voters got a chance to make the devastation official.

Biden then revived her political fortunes by picking her as his running mate, giving her a chance for a fresh start at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Within months, however, her beleaguered aides were leaking to the press and dropping like flies as she struggled with the thorny immigration portfolio Biden assigned to her. These problems, along with relatively minor gaffes amplified to feverish virality by social media, helped tank her polls.

Those of us personally familiar with Harris’ deficiencies know they cannot be fixed by new staff or pricey consultants. The change has to come from her. During her 2020 campaign, I publicly questioned whether she could muster the management skills and discipline needed to win.

“You can’t run the country if you can’t run your campaign,” I wrote.


Duran offers some advice to Kamala, though he notes she isn’t good at accepting advice from others.

First, swallow your pride and adapt to the job. You’re essentially a presidential staffer, not the star of the show. You signed up for this. The president needs support and stability, not tantrums and turmoil. With the Republican Party working full time to thwart him, Biden can’t afford Machiavellian treachery from his own team.

Second, stop bleeding staff. It’s not like the old days, when we resigned in respectful silence. Today’s disgruntled aides run simulcasts in Politico and the New York Times. Get a grip on the management issues and stop the cycle of dysfunction, or it will permanently define (and disqualify) you.

Finally, don’t worry about becoming president. Worry about whether you can handle the job if it lands on you. You’re one heartbeat from the Oval Office at a dangerous moment. The future of American democracy is at stake. Fate may yet test your mettle. Whining over photo ops and squabbling with staff makes you look unprepared. If you can’t unite your own office, how will you unite a divided country?

All good points. The thought of her being a heartbeat away from the presidency is chilling and the realization that she can’t even handle the vice-presidency isn’t at all reassuring. Biden promised to reunite the country, touting his forty years in the Senate and then the Obama administration and we know he’s continued to divide the country. Kamala has only a brief time in the Senate on her resume and no chance of uniting anyone.


Remember those two people who were hired to manage the Kamala crisis? One of them is Jen Psaki’s brother-in-law. It sure sounds like they need to be replaced, too. The stories leaking about her office are more frequent than ever and her poll numbers are lower than Biden’s. That is almost unheard of for a vice-president.

The vice president’s team declined to comment on what specifically has changed since Voles and Frankel, a former Barack Obama speechwriter, joined the office, but officials acknowledged they were handling long-term planning and organizational development.

“There are definitely some improvements that are widely acknowledged that need to be made in that office. And those improvements are acknowledged by the people in her office and they are acknowledged by the people in the White House,” said a Democratic strategist with ties to Bidenworld.

The strategist added the even though there’s a lot of “talented people in the office,” Harris is now presented with an opportunity to take lessons learned from the first year and “structure the office in a way that meets the needs and goals of what she’s trying to accomplish and what she is accomplishing for the administration.”

As Duran pointed out in his piece, the problem isn’t her staff, it’s her. “One of the things we’ve said in our little text groups among each other is what is the common denominator through all this and it’s her.”

Critics scattered over two decades point to an inconsistent and at times degrading principal who burns through seasoned staff members who have succeeded in other demanding, high-profile positions. People used to putting aside missteps, sacrificing sleep and enduring the occasional tirade from an irate boss say doing so under Harris can be particularly difficult, as she has struggled to make progress on her vice-presidential portfolio or measure up to the potential that has many pegging her as the future of the Democratic Party.


One criticism that jumps out is that Kamala doesn’t bother to do her homework and study briefing materials. She then blames staff when she is unprepared.

Staffers who worked for Harris before she was vice president said one consistent problem was that Harris would refuse to wade into briefing materials prepared by staff members, then berate employees when she appeared unprepared.

“It’s clear that you’re not working with somebody who is willing to do the prep and the work,” one former staffer said. “With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence. So you’re constantly sort of propping up a bully and it’s not really clear why.”

We’ll see how this all plays out. Kamala’s first year hasn’t gone well. It’s no wonder her staff are looking for the exits.

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