Much Ado About Kamala

Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

The palace intrigue industrial complex, largely dormant since the inauguration, began churning again this weekend regarding the current ambitions and future employment of Vice-President Kamala Harris.

It began pretty favorably on Friday, when the New York Times reported on how the VP’s frequent diplomatic trips abroad function as a chance “to cement the global profile of the vice president, who has demonstrated aspirations for higher office.” (The end of that statement may be an understatement.) But things got worse from there. On Sunday, Politico provided a dispatch from the cold war between 2020 Democrats who are taking early steps toward a second run, should President Joe Biden decide to retire in 2024 at the age of 82. Harris’s vice-presidential status hardly earned her a front-runner’s slot, per party officials:

But less than a year into her time in the executive branch, more than a dozen Democratic officials — some affiliated with potential candidates — say that Harris is currently not scaring any prospective opponents.

“She’s definitely not going to clear the f—ing field,” said one veteran New Hampshire operative.

According to a CNN report on Sunday, Harris is also having a difficult time charting a course in Washington:

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, especially at a moment when President Joe Biden faces quickly multiplying legislative and political concerns.

The exasperation runs both ways. Interviews with nearly three dozen former and current Harris aides, administration officials, Democratic operatives, donors and outside advisers – who spoke extensively to CNN – reveal a complex reality inside the White House. Many in the vice president’s circle fume that she’s not being adequately prepared or positioned, and instead is being sidelined. The vice president herself has told several confidants she feels constrained in what she’s able to do politically. And those around her remain wary of even hinting at future political ambitions, with Biden’s team highly attuned to signs of disloyalty, particularly from the vice president.

It’s not a great sign when vice-presidential aides reportedly “pass around a recent Onion story mocking her lack of more substantive work.” (The headline in question: “White House Urges Kamala Harris to Sit at Computer All Day in Case Emails Come Through.”) But it’s far from the unprecedented hostility seen in the final days of the Trump White House: On Sunday, minutes after CNN published its report of dysfunction, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted in defense of Harris “for anyone who needs to hear it.”

Much Ado About Kamala