After the first 11 months, Harris’ vice presidency is a work in progress – The Ukiah Daily Journal

New year, new start for Kamala Harris?

Last year should have been a year of triumph for the Vice President. She was a pioneer as the first black and Asian woman to occupy the office. His ascendancy has erased memories of his faltering 2020 presidential campaign, which ended even before the start of the election year. She was the second in command of a man who had held the position before, who understood his frustrations and, just as important, understood his potential.

And the whole business turned out to be a bit of a failure.

She didn’t accomplish much, she didn’t restore her image, she didn’t carve out achievements on her own. But in fairness, one of the reasons she didn’t stand out was because she was in a position where the job description requires a political figure to step aside.

Its role, and the role of the vice-presidency more broadly, is a work in progress. As Joe Biden’s association with Barack Obama has shown, a relationship potentially as important as that between the only two people directly elected by the public is not established in the first year, but can develop over time. as their mandate advances.

Biden knows, for example, that Harris can’t be closer to the legislature than he has been; his Senate connections are slim, the result of having, literally, a ninth of the time in the bedroom he had before he moved to the Vice President’s mansion on Observatory Circle. But he was not a historical figure like she is.

And so far – ignored by most commentators – she has navigated the difficult waters of executive politics much better than some of her predecessors.

Gerald R. Ford, who briefly served under the leadership of a besieged Richard M. Nixon by Watergate, essentially dumped his vice president, former Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York City, during his first year. Bill Clinton and Al Gore walked away in their second term, and Dick Cheney was less influential in the second term than he was in the first, in part in reaction to the idea that ‘he had fashioned an “imperial vice-presidency” after the 2001 terrorism attacks.

In contrast, Ronald Reagan grew in respect for George HW Bush over time, and Obama called Biden “the best vice president America has ever had,” which could have been a presidential lie but a full lie. tactfully delivered in the nostalgic hollow of their last eight days at the office.

Biden would surely deliver an equally tactful public assessment of his vice president, but privately he would likely be inclined to think that the final verdict on Harris has yet to be sealed.

“She’s got some missteps and we’re talking about personnel issues, but by all appearances she still has a lot of access to Biden and is involved in a lot of public advocacy,” said Joel Goldstein, a law school expert. of the University of Saint Louis as vice-president. . “There is no reason why she cannot have a successful vice-presidency. It depends on what she learns and how she helps the president solve his problems. “

The vice-presidency is, of course, a delicate position, and most of the 48 men who came before her were in the same grim situation, although Harris, because of her visible minority identity, was a particular target of enmity.

Lyndon Johnson became irritated at work – so less powerful, so less interesting, so less rewarding than being the Senate Majority Leader – and was perhaps clinically depressed during the period 1961-1963; his main collaborator must have been pushing him – to cajole a stubborn and embittered man – to give a civil rights speech in Gettysburg which may have been his best time as vice-president. Hubert H. Humphrey was a hot and efficient senator but a brooding and humiliated vice-president; Walter F. Mondale once told me that the position, which he believed his mentor should never have accepted, crushed Humphrey’s mind and hurt him psychologically forever.

The Activist Vice President is a modern concoction, created by Mondale under Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) and Gore under Clinton (1993-2001). Dan Quayle, who served under the old Bush, does not fit this model, and personal loyalty and political assistance have been the main assets Bush and Biden brought to the office, although the Obama understudy has pushed President over gay rights and pushed back mission to kill Osama bin Laden. (He prevailed over the first, was rejected over the second.)

Mondale, who had witnessed Humphrey’s desperation and studied how desperate Rockefeller had been as Ford’s vice president, only accepted Carter’s post after lengthy negotiations ensuring he would have access unlimited to the president and any information Carter received. He also won the promise of having a regular lunch on Monday when the two were in town.

“He wanted a substantive role and not a ceremonial role,” said Richard Moe, who was Mondale’s chief of staff and who wrote the 11-page note outlining Minnesota’s hopes for the office, in an interview. “It worked because Carter thought the vice-presidency as it was designed was a wasted asset.”

Indeed, Carter took it a step further by offering Mondale an office in the West Wing and telling his staff that they should consider a request for information from Mondale as a request on his part. Biden had a similar arrangement with Obama, although Karine Prémont, deputy director of the Center for United States Studies at the University of Quebec at Montreal, says Biden’s appointment, with his soothing temper and easygoing relationship with Capitol Hill, was a reaction to Cheney’s aggressive vice-presidency.

Biden almost certainly had politics in mind when he picked Harris; his selection was a signal of his commitment to diversity and, following the California senator’s aggressive debate against Biden for his views on buses, his instinct for forgiveness. But he also almost certainly had the Biden role model in mind for the vice-presidency.

His prescription for work: being supportive but not aggressive, confident but also docile, conscientious but not demanding.

So the truth may be, Biden has exactly the vice president he wants, the vice president he needs – and the vice president he was.

David M. Shribman is the former editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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