New York Times opinion columnist Gail Collins has a new piece, about Vice President Kamala Harris, that echoes some of my own thinking.
Extra scrutiny for Harris
Collins makes a point that I’ve been writing a lot about for 19FortyFive lately: “Biden, now 80, would be the oldest president ever running for re-election – and therefore his veep should get special scrutiny.”
That’s absolutely correct.
Already, in US history, the vice president has been required to replace their president on eight separate occasions – four times on account of an assassination, and four times because the president simply passed away.
This makes him older than the four presidents – Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, Warren Harding, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt – who simply passed away in office.
“Biden’s medical team says he’s in super shape,” Collins wrote, “which certainly sounds plausible. He appears devoid of bad habits – works out all the time and his strongest drink is Gatorade. While there are different estimates of his life expectancy, pretty much all of them would get him through a second term. One, by a team of medical experts before the 2020 election, projected 96.8 years.”
So, would Biden’s medical team tell us if he weren’t in super shape?
Would they tell us ‘hey, this guy is going to croak any minute.’ I’m skeptical.
The US male life expectancy is 76. Of course, people live to 96 regularly, but I’m going to take Biden’s medical team’s projection as a very rough estimate – and continue to pay special attention to Biden’s VP choice.
Kamala Harris is a problematic VP choice
“[Harris] was, you’ll remember, not a terrific candidate for president when she ran in 2020,” Collins wrote. That’s an understatement: Harris’s campaign withered up and died early, in December 2019, after failing to poll higher than low single digits.
“Staff seems to have been a problem for Harris, and when we’re thinking about a potential chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world, the phrase “not so great at running things” is a serious matter,” Collins wrote.
Reports from within Harris-camp indicate that she is dreadful to work for. High staff turnover suggests as much. And the inability to keep a stable staff has come to be viewed as a potential reason for why Harris has been so unproductive as vice president. I doubt that intolerable, ineffective bosses don’t find much incentive to change their ways after a promotion.
But it’s not just Harris’s record as a candidate, or her treatment of staff, that causes concern; Harris’s performance as vice president has been disappointing.
“Her term in office under Biden didn’t begin well, although to be fair, Biden didn’t exactly give her the easiest portfolio. The biggest assignment was dealing with the migration crisis at the Mexico border,” Collins wrote.
“Do not come,” [Harris] helpfully suggested to our southern neighbors.”
Harris will not be removed
In the end, Collins concludes that Harris just isn’t going to be removed. She’s the first black and first woman and first Asian-American vice president ever – removing her would cause as many problems as it would solve. And Collins acknowledges that Harris’s performance has improved recently: “she made an important speech recently in Munich about the Russia-Ukraine situation. And she’s been a passionate voice for the administration on the issue of abortion rights.”
I also think being a passionate voice on abortion rights is a pretty low bar for the vice president of the United States.
But I, too, recognize Biden will not replace Kamala Harris. Not a chance.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.