“Worn out by what they see as entrenched dysfunction and lack of focus, key West Wing aides have largely thrown up their hands at Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff — deciding there simply isn't time to deal with them right now,” CNN began its lengthy report on Sunday.
With multiple polls putting Kamala Harris's approval rating even lower than Joe Biden's dismal 37.8 percent while rumors swirl that the president may not seek reelection in 2024, Democrats are scrambling to find the future leader of the party. Inside the White House, reports indicate that Team Harris has grown increasingly frustrated with Team Biden for essentially sidelining her despite her status as the first female vice president of color.
“Many in the vice president's circle fume that she's not being adequately prepared or positioned, and instead is being sidelined,” noted CNN. “The vice president herself has told several confidants she feels constrained in what she's able to do politically.”
Kamala Harris and her team have since been walking a tightrope, fearing that if she appears too ambitious, then Team Biden will suspect disloyalty.
“Harris' staff has repeatedly failed her and left her exposed, and family members have often had an informal say within her office,” CNN said insiders told them. “Even some who have been asked for advice lament Harris' overly cautious tendencies and staff problems, which have been a feature of every office she's held.”
Insiders have speculated that Biden modeled his relationship with the office of the vice president after his former boss, President Obama, relegating Harris to a more ceremonial role rather than a historic one in which she actively plays a role in carrying out his agenda. Insiders, however, believe that Joe Biden did not adequately calibrate his experience as vice president “to someone with far different qualifications and skills.”
Even occasions in which it appeared that Kamala Harris played a greater role in the Biden administration, such as during the Afghanistan withdrawal, insiders say she expressed dismay in private over her lack of involvement.
“Harris has also complained to confidants about not being a greater part of the President's approach to the Afghanistan withdrawal — despite telling CNN at the time she was the last one in the room when he made the decision — leaving her without more to draw on when she defended him publicly,” the outlet noted.
An anonymous Democratic Party donor lamented that President Biden has failed to put Kamala Harris in a position to lead, setting her up for failure.
“Kamala Harris is a leader but is not being put in positions to lead. That doesn't make sense. We need to be thinking long term, and we need to be doing what's best for the party,” said the donor. “You should be putting her in positions to succeed, as opposed to putting weights on her. If you did give her the ability to step up and help her lead, it would strengthen you and strengthen the party.”
Beyond the sidelining, insiders also feel that the Biden administration has not done enough to curtail partisan attacks on her from the conservatives. One former Harris aide even suggested race may be a factor, considering that the White House jumped at the opportunity to defend Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg when it was revealed that he went on three months paternity leave during the supply-chain crisis.
“It's hard to miss the specific energy that the White House brings to defend a White man, knowing that Kamala Harris has spent almost a year taking a lot of the hits that the West Wing didn't want to take themselves,” said the former aide.
Insiders said that the Biden administration believes it can only help heal Kamala Harris of so many of her self-inflicted wounds, such as when she “didn't push back on a student who accused Israel of ‘ethnic genocide.'”
Going forward, the tensions will likely only deepen as Kamala Harris continues to find her footing. With Joe Biden's steadily declining approval rating, his closes aides will have no choice but to focus on keeping the president's agenda afloat, fearing that the Democrats could suffer a crushing defeat in the 2022 midterms.
Hours after the CNN report on Sunday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki immediately leaped to defend Kamala Harris, praising her for a variety of unimportant tasks, such as “expanding broadband.”
“For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country–from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband,” tweeted Psaki.
For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country—from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) November 15, 2021
In a statement to CNN, Psaki hailed Harris as “an incredibly important partner” of the president with a supportive team around her. “I will say that the vice president is an incredibly important partner to the President of the United States. She has a challenging job, a hard job, and she has a great supportive team of people around her. But other than that, I'm not going to have any more comments on those reports,” said Psaki.
Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary to the vice president, also told CNN in a statement that Kamala Harris will continue to focus on supporting President Biden's agenda.
“The Vice President and her office are focused on the Biden-Harris Administration's agenda to build an economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down, to making sure racial equity is at the core of everything the Administration does, to combatting the existential threat of climate change, and to continue protecting the American people from the Covid-19 pandemic,” Singh said.