Kamala Harris's first year as Vice President has apparently not gone particularly smoothly, says CNN — via what they say is intel from three dozen insider sources — and now the White House is trying to downplay the drama.
CNN published a piece on Sunday and reported on air about what White House aides and others have described as "exasperation and frustration" from both Harris's and President Joe Biden's teams relating to how they're dealing with each other. And knowing Harris's ambition and the historically constrained and limited role of the vice president, all of this rings pretty true.
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.
Because of Biden's age and current unpopularity, there's been lots of talk in Washington about the possibility that he won't run for reelection in 2024, though Biden himself has reportedly been assuring people he will.
But given his age and Harris being "a heartbeat away" from the presidency, it stands to reason that she might have hoped that she'd be more actively prepped for the Oval Office than previous vice presidents. But that clearly hasn't been the case in Year One of the Biden Administration.
A recent Onion headline, reminiscent of the show Veep, apparently hit home with Harris's team. It read, "White House Urges Kamala Harris To Sit At Computer All Day In Case Emails Come Through."
California's Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis gave an on-the-record quote to CNN saying, "She's very honored and very proud to be vice president of the United States. Her job as the No. 2 is to be helpful and supportive to the President and to take on work that he asks her to take on." But, she added, "It is natural that those of us who know her know how much more helpful she can be than she is currently being asked to be. That's where the frustration is coming from."
Harris was just sent on a diplomatic errand to France, to mend ties there after tensions that arose over a September deal for nuclear submarines that the UK and the US made with Australia. And the trip attracted some negative attention on conservative social media when Harris was seen publicly taking on what some called a French accent — but really she was just saying "Thee Plan" through a mask, emphasizing how government follows capital-T, capital-P "The Plan" when it operates, and maybe it sounded to someone like a French person saying "Zee Plan"?
Anyway, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to the CNN report on Monday during her daily briefing, saying, The President selected the vice president because — to serve as his running mate — because he felt she was exactly the person he wanted to have by his side to govern the country."
Psaki continued, "She is a key partner, she's a bold leader, and she is somebody who has taken on incredibly important assignments, whether it is addressing the root causes of migration at the Northern Triangle or taking on a core cause of democracy in voting rights. There's been a lot of reports out there and they don't reflect his view or our experience with the vice president."
When pressed about whether the frustrations CNN reported were true, Psaki only said, "I know that the President relies on the vice president for her advice for her counsel. She's somebody who is not only taking on issues that are challenging; she's not looking for a cushy role here."
Whether any of this is real drama, we shall see. But things could turn tense around the time next year when the Dems are trying to figure out if Kamala needs to start campaigning on her own, or what.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images