Reports of rift between Biden and Harris rock Democrats

WASHINGTON: US vice-president Kamala Harris returned to Washington DC after a four-day visit to France to a devastating report on Sunday of her purported rift with the Biden White House, alarming Democrats still reeling from the loss of a bellwether election in Virginia.
The report — a 4800-word, 12-minute account on CNN, epic length by TV news standards — was considered so damaging that the White House immediately pushed back at it. Biden’s spokesperson Jen Psaki tweeted, “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.”
The vice-president’s aides also snapped back at the report — which media mavens said was surprising for a liberal outlet that is generally considered sympathetic to Democrats — characterising it as gossip.
“It is unfortunate that after a productive trip to France in which we reaffirmed our relationship with America’s oldest ally and demonstrated U.S. leadership on the world stage, and following passage of a historic, bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create jobs and strengthen our communities, some in the media are focused on gossip – not on the results that the President and the Vice President have delivered,” said Harris’ press aide Symone Sanders.
The story, coming on the heels of several reports of dysfunction within the vice-president’s office, spoke of an “exhausted stalemate” between the Biden and Harris camps despite cordial relations between the principals.
“But, with many sources speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the situation more frankly, they all tell roughly the same story: Harris’ staff has repeatedly failed her and left her exposed, and family members have often had an informal say within her office. 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, from San Francisco district attorney to U.S. Senate,” the report said.
It also spoke of racial and gender tensions in the ruling establishment with some Harris aides reportedly claiming that the Biden White House is leaving her out in the cold over public controversies, while rushing to the defense of other top administration officials, notably mentioning Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — who is gay — when he was mocked by conservatives for taking paternity leave for his newborn.
“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,” a former Harris aide told CNN.
The report also said Harris had 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.”
Although it is broadly acknowledged in political circles that Kamala Harris has more work of consequence piled on to her than any other vice-president in history, many reports suggest that she is being set up to fail because some of the problems are so intractable.
“When Biden picked Harris as his running mate, he was essentially anointing her as the future of the Democratic Party. Now many of those close to her feel like he’s shirking his political duties to promote her, and essentially setting her up to fail. Her fans are panicked, watching her poll numbers sink even lower than Biden’s, worrying that even the base Democratic vote is starting to give up on her,” the report said.
It also said said many Harris staffers were starting to look for jobs elsewhere, leading to at least two of them, including her press aide, Sabrina Singh, going on social media to assert how honored they are to be working for her.
Republicans expectedly feasted on the report, invoking succession battles in the Democratic Party amid uncertainty over whether President Biden will run for a second term. Biden has said he will, but at 82 when the next Presidential election cycle begins, and the general expectation that an incumbent vice-president will a strong contender for the party nomination, there are few takers for that happening.
But Kamala Harris’ critics in both Democratic and Republican circles see a very slim change of her snagging the nomination. “Then there’s her 28% approval rating. And ZERO delegates in her own race for POTUS,” sneered Kellyanne Conway, a Trump-supporting Republican operative, referring tot Harris’ own failed Presidential nomination campaign, despite which Biden picked her as his running mate.
Recent surveys have been devastating for Democrats with polls indicating they could lose control of both the Senate and the House of Representation — where they hold razor thin majorities — in the mid-term elections in 2022. A recent ABC/Washington Post survey showed Republicans holding the largest lead on the generic congressional ballot in forty years, polling 51 per cent to Democrats’ 41 per cent.

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