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The old saw in politics is that when you are in a hole, stop digging.
Harris will have to improve the foxhole soon if she is able to save her vice presidency. But all is not lost.
Her Bio Is Not the Problem
How has she been insulated from problems in her otherwise stalwart career?
You can’t argue with Harris’ resume and appealing bio. She started off as a noteworthy prosecutor in San Francisco. Then advanced to become that city’s district attorney. After that it was an elevation to attorney general.
Then a short term as a U.S. Senator before running for president in an aborted campaign – but one in which she gained experience in the national spotlight.
An Inauspicious Start
The vice presidency has been a struggle for her. In her defense, President Joe Biden gave her an impossible job at the beginning – somehow lead the program for the administration’s response to illegal immigration at the Southern Border.
She struggled with such a difficult task and seemed to be frozen with indecision. Her lack of action became apparent to the mainstream media that called her out quickly on her struggles.
Snakebitten By NBC News
The low point for Kamala Harris was during an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News in June 2021 when the broadcaster pointed out that she hadn’t been to the border.
Harris reacted unexpectedly and instead of saying that a visit there was in her plans, she pivoted to an incongruous answer about not visiting Europe.
It was an embarrassing moment for Harris, and she looked like an unprepared amateur.
Maybe She Wasn’t Ready for Prime Time
It has been the lack of preparation that critics have seized on when the weakness of the vice president is on display. She often gives speeches that either does not make sense or that have a tremendous grasp of the obvious.
This was surprising since observers expected that her accomplishments as a prosecutor would give her the definite ability to communicate effectively.
Nervous Laughter Looks Bad
Word spread in Washington that she did not fully study her briefing books and could not deliver simple talking points. Harris often displayed a cackling laugh during serious moments that had critics wondering if she was too nervous to speak in public.
Some of Harris’ supporters attribute this unfair criticism to sexism and racism.
Staffers Head for the Exits
But this does not explain the number of key staff who have left the vice president.
A domestic policy adviser quit, and a speechwriter left, among many others. This had critics wondering if Harris’ leadership was subpar.
It may be because Harris has trouble talking on the stump at scripted and unscripted moments which is frustrating for her staff.
Basic Communication Lapses
Harris also struggles with retail politics – speaking in front of supporters and friends at ceremonial events. This is troubling because the vice president has numerous critics who are ready to pounce at the slightest mistake and place the gaffe on social media.
She has a habit of improvising that leads her down a path toward what her opponents call “word salads.” This means that the vice president begins talking in circles with no clear point. The long diatribe ends up not making sense and only confuses the audience.
Attempt to Put Her Talents Forward
The Biden team has struggled creating situations in which the vice president can overcome these problems and live up to the high expectations that everyone had for her.
Nobody (except for the Republicans) wanted to see such a historic and ground-breaking candidate fail on the big stage.
Maybe Security Policy Is the Answer
I’ve always said Harris has the potential to turn things around and come back from these difficulties. Biden still wants to throw her in the deep end of the pool even though she is barely treading water. They are allowing her to make statements on China – one of the most difficult topics in foreign policy. Biden is sending her to the Munich Security Conference which is a proving ground where defense ministers show off their international security chops. Harris will need to articulate the administration’s policy on Ukraine at the conference and it remains to be seen whether she can fulfill those duties.
This is a pivotal time for Harris as critics say she could be removed from the vice presidency and supporters believe she will stay on board throughout a second term if Biden is re-elected. The Vice president has no choice but to improve her performance in public and retain her staff members behind the scenes. Both Democrats and Republicans will watch closely – one side extolling her virtues and the other pointing out failures. It remains to be seen whether Harris can rise to the occasion and prove her critics wrong.
BONUS: Kamala Harris Should Quit
BONUS: Donald Trump Looks Desperate
Author Expertise and Experience:
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.