Say it ain’t so: America’s political sweethearts are drifting apart.
Once upon a time, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were so close it was almost like they were co-presidents. In fact, the arc was almost like a bad rom-com. First, they met on a presidential debate stage in the summer of 2019, where then-Sen. Harris made national headlines for eviscerating Biden over his racial history, including his work with segregationist Dixiecrats on busing.
Then, her campaign collapsed in late 2019. If a New York Times deep-dive on her campaign was any indication, it’s because management on her presidential run was a dumpster conflagration of impressive proportions, even by the standards of the 2020 Democrat field — and the candidate the campaign was propping up was so feckless and self-contradictory in her messaging she stood for everything and nothing at the same time, anyway.
But in the summer of 2020, Joe Biden realized he needed Kamala. Granted, the reasons were a bit more mercenary than in a rom-com. On May 22, Biden managed to neatly sum up his shaky position with minority voters during an appearance on a black-centric radio show, in which he told the hosts, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” Three days later, George Floyd died in police custody, making race the other defining issue of the 2020 election aside from COVID-19.
That indeed presented a quandary. Who to run to? The person who implied he was a racist on that debate stage one summer prior, of course — and thus was a beautiful political partnership born. Daisies bloomed. The birds sang. Things like this got painted:
Indian artist Jagjot Singh Rubal gives the final touches to a painting depicting US President-elect Joe Biden (R) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (L) in Amritsar.
PHOTOS-PRABHJOT GILL pic.twitter.com/zczQh5SGzb
— The Financial World (@FW_ChdDelhi) January 20, 2021
If that guy is a long-lost son of the president’s, I can have those paintings on the market for $500,000, easy.
If the rom-com had stopped in January, we would have had a happy ending. Perhaps they could have even waited a little longer and rolled the credits when the White House officially started calling it the “Biden-Harris administration.”
Unfortunately, that’s not how real life works, particularly when it involves marriages of convenience — and, as the U.K. Daily Mail pointed out Monday, there’s ample evidence the relationship between the two principals at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has cooled considerably.
The Daily Mail looked at data regarding Harris’ schedule compiled by the Los Angeles Times and found the president and vice president had appeared in public together just two times in the 55-day period ending Oct. 22.
In the month of September, Harris appeared with Biden once at the 20th anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. Thus far in October, she’s appeared with him once, at the anniversary of the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Meanwhile, in the months of January and February — 38 days of the administration’s time, considering Inauguration Day was Jan. 20 — the two appeared together 27 times in public. There were a further 23 in March and April.
A similar pattern could be observed in announced events featuring the two, be they public or not. There were 20 of those in January and 38 each in both February and March. Meanwhile, there were only eight in September and seven in October, at least up to the 22nd.
One former Harris adviser said the president and vice president are divided over a lack of trust in one another, and said that Harris is unhappy “she hasn’t been given any all-star portfolio” to work with.
“Instead, a compilation of all of her publicly-announced events by the Times shows a more traditional vice presidency where she travels to promote her boss’s plans for the country rather than sitting in the board room shaping them,” the Daily Mail reported.
The White House disputed the Daily Mail’s conclusions, saying the president and vice president often meet at events not on the official calendar and that they meet weekly for lunch.
“The vice president keeps a busy schedule doing the work of the administration and always in support of the president,” Harris spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told the Daily Mail.
“Sometimes those events are together, other times apart, sometimes she is on the road amplifying the agenda of the administration and highlighting the importance of Build Back Better.”
Singh didn’t address whether Harris was frustrated over her portfolio, although one would venture a guess she wouldn’t be venting the veep’s frustrations to the Daily Mail on the record even if the question had been broached.
To be fair, there’s probably plenty of mutual displeasure in the political marriage when it comes to Harris’ portfolio.
Harris would be right to complain that the three biggest major public initiatives she’s been given charge of — management of the border crisis, getting Democrat voting legislation through Congress and boosting COVID-19 vaccination rates — were thankless, Sisyphean tasks. Biden would be right to point out that, unlike Harris, at least Sisyphus made a valiant effort to push the boulder up the hill.
On the border crisis, for instance, Harris was given some kind of vague mandate on the issue before everyone in the administration settled on it revolving around her solving the “root causes” of the issue. There was no terribly promising way this could have ended — although Harris managed to chart one of the more ineffectual routes possible, refusing to visit Central America or the border for far too long while settling on solutions like getting major corporations to pledge to buy coffee from Northern Triangle countries.
She eventually did visit Central America — and then, upon her return, gave an interview to NBC News’ Lester Holt, which promptly wiped out any political capital she might have garnered from the matter:
Cringe video. Over awkward laughs, Kamala Harris:
“We’ve been to the border.”
Holt challenges that lie.
Kamala “and I haven’t been to Europe.”
Do we have an illegal migrant crisis on our ‘border’ with Europe? pic.twitter.com/qsBxNbMs8a
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) June 8, 2021
She’s since visited the border. Europe can wait, however.
On the Democrats’ so-called “voting rights” legislation (really just a federal power grab), Joe Biden said this when he put Harris in charge of the effort back in June, as per NPR: “With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you. But it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.”
That hasn’t happened. Harris wasn’t able to garner the votes or convince centrist Democrats to abandon the filibuster on the bill, so now Biden’s taken the reins back somewhat — indicating he’d be behind a push to change the filibuster for the legislation during a town hall in Baltimore last week.
Meanwhile, if Harris’ national vaccination tour — also begun in June, according to USA Today — hasn’t been as blatantly ineffectual as her performance on the border crisis and getting voting legislation passed, it also hasn’t been notable for its effectuality, either.
In short, Harris has every reason to complain she’s not getting the co-president responsibilities she was billed as having, while Biden can similarly gripe he didn’t get the co-president he thought he was getting. Neither is faring well in polls. It’s a rough patch for the political marriage, indeed.
How rough? Consider Harris’ birthday last week. The president surprised her with … flowers and a picture. Seriously.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 21, 2021
“Aw, Joe, I’m very touched,” she said, looking at the framed photo. “This is my favorite.”
It’s almost like they’re just staying together for the Democratic Party.
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