It’s funny when The New York Times comes under fire among liberals for saying something critical about Vice President Kamala Harris. A front-page story on Feb. 6 was headlined “Frustrated Harris Struggles to Define Her Role.” This somehow required three reporters — Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Katie Rogers and Peter Baker.
The passage that spurred all the fits came inside the paper, of course, on page A-13. It wasn’t hostile fire from Republicans. It was internal: “(T)he painful reality for Ms. Harris is that in private conversations over the past few months, dozens of Democrats in the White House, on Capitol Hill and around the nation — including some who helped put her on the party’s 2020 ticket — said she had not risen to the challenge of proving herself as a future leader of the party, much less the country.”
But wait, the next sentence was even worse: “Even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for supportive quotes confided privately that they had lost hope in her.” Even the authorized anonymous sources went rogue.
The Times also noted that author Chris Whipple recently quoted Biden as calling Harris a “work in progress.” They added comments from chief of staff Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to two vice presidents (Al Gore and Joe Biden). He said vice presidents often “take grief” but go on “to prove skeptics wrong.” This all recalls Dana Carvey’s impression of George H.W. Bush claiming his vice president, Dan Quayle, was “still gaining acceptance.”
In an angry video tweet, Democrat pollster Cornell Belcher argued there was an “implicit gender bias” in the Times story, complaining that unlike male vice presidents for centuries, “the woman is not accorded the presumption of competence.” It’s like Belcher can’t remember Quayle. Then there’s the case of Dick Cheney, where he was presented as Darth Vader and George W. Bush suffered the presumption of incompetence.
What makes Democrats nervous is Harris’ cockeyed utterances, which can easily go viral. Most recently, she said, “We in government have great possibility in terms of the range at which we work as government.”
The Times story presents the sentence, “You got to know what you stand for and, when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for,” and then adds, “What that translates to in tangible terms is less clear.” They noted after a “disastrous” interview in 2021 with NBC anchorman Lester Holt, she “all but went into a bunker for about a year.”
The Harris defenders complain that Biden’s age is her greatest handicap. At the website Puck, former ABC White House correspondent Tara Palmeri lamented, “Biden’s age is a huge liability for him, and that’s one reason why Harris is the subject of such excessive criticism. Of course, some of the antagonism is sexist and racist, the unfortunately predictable response in some corners to her historic role.”
Then, Palmeri added her own advice, that she should be by his side at more events: “The older he gets, his re-election depends on her success just as much as his. And taking her off the ticket is not an option.”
There’s not a single Republican quoted in this supposedly outrageous anti-Kamala piece. But one Democrat, John Morgan, explicitly said the prospect of Harris suddenly becoming president is “one of the most hard-hitting arguments against Biden” in 2024. That underlines how many Republicans feel a little glee at the idea of Harris remaining on this ticket as Biden’s apparent infirmities increase.