Why Is the Buttoned-Up Biden White House Leaking Dirt on Kamala?

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Vice President Kamala Harris seems to be the only target of leaks coming out of the Biden administration. Harris stands dutifully by, reminding the increasingly addled President Joe Biden to put his mask back on and to mention the condo collapse in Florida. At the same time, she guides him away from shouting reporters. Yet it seems that someone in Biden world is not a fan of Harris. The latest criticism is that she makes Senator Amy “eats salad with a comb” Klobuchar look like a great boss.

Politico interviewed 22 current and former aides, administration officials, and associates, some of whom claimed that Harris’s office is an abusive and chaotic environment. While some of those interviewed pointed to Tina Flournoy, Harris’s chief of staff, as the root of the problem, two administration officials had a different assessment (emphasis mine):

While much of the ire is aimed at Harris’ chief, two administration officials said the VP herself also bears responsibility for the way her office is run. “It all starts at the top,” said one of the administration officials, who like others requested anonymity to be able to speak candidly about a sensitive matter.

“People are thrown under the bus from the very top, there are short fuses and it’s an abusive environment,” said another person with direct knowledge of how Harris’ office is run. “It’s not a healthy environment and people often feel mistreated. It’s not a place where people feel supported but a place where people feel treated like s—.”

There is no doubt that key members of Team Biden know exactly who said this. How do we know? Because the piece takes care to fluff up Team Biden:

The dysfunction in the VP’s ranks threatens to complicate the White House’s carefully crafted image as a place staffed by a close-knit group of professionals working in concert to advance the president’s agenda. It’s pronounced enough that members of the president’s own team have taken notice and are concerned about the way Harris’ staffers are treated.

The closing paragraphs are a literary kick in the teeth. After about twelve graphs describing the stress of Harris’s trip to El Paso, Texas, the marginalization of women and minorities in power, and the pressure of being the logical choice to become the standard-bearer if Biden decides not to run in 2024, the author makes the only point that matters:

What’s more concerning for people inside and out of Harris’ orbit is staunching the bleeding among frustrated staff and meaningfully improving the low morale in the office, which could cause damage to her relationship with Biden and his team. Harris, these people said, excels when those around her project calm and order, creating a sense of confidence and certainty.

“When people feed her anxieties, all of that goes away,” said another Harris friend, “exacerbating the bad tendencies.”

Obviously, Harris’s relationship with Biden’s team is already damaged or this article would never have been written. Her selection as a running mate was supposed to be a glowing achievement. Yet Politico is taking the first woman vice president to the woodshed and making her sound like a basket case. The closing paragraph basically says that she needs people to tell her how great she is, how wonderfully things are going, and make everything smooth sailing—or she falls apart. Not exactly leader-of-the-free-world material.

Why are some in the administration torpedoing the successor to President Biden so brutally? Her border trip and associated media trips were a disaster. Harris did not attend the G-7, even as a learning opportunity to increase her foreign policy knowledge. Now, reports are surfacing that Jill Biden Ed.D. will attend diplomatic meetings at the Tokyo Olympics in her husband’s place, not Harris. Was the Politico his piece designed to make America more willing to accept a declining President Biden rather than risk the disaster that is Kamala Harris?

Of course, personal animus cannot be ruled out. Harris is very close to the Obamas, with their endorsement of her career going back years. Former President Obama receive rare criticism in the media when he referred to Harris as the best-looking attorney general in the country. He also vigorously endorsed her as Biden’s running mate and throughout the campaign:

In a statement, the two-term Democratic president said he and former First Lady Michelle Obama “couldn’t be more thrilled” about Kamala Harris being named as Biden’s running mate.

President Obama added that he thinks Biden “nailed this” decision.

“By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character,” Obama, 59, said. “Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job. And now Joe has an ideal partner to help him tackle the very real challenges America faces right now and in the years ahead.”

Given the immediate and effusive endorsement of Harris and lagging lukewarm one for Biden, Obama seems to have been a key player in her selection. Recently, Obama claimed that the Biden administration is just finishing the work he started using many of the same team members. Could marginalizing Harris be a rebuke for Obama taking credit for Biden’s agenda?

Or is it just a signal that Jill Biden Ed.D. has more control over the reins than a first lady ought to? It’s rather interesting that this piece dropped right after the fawning coverage of Jill’s Vogue cover. Recall that the first lady also had some biting words for Harris after she essentially called her husband a racist on the debate stage. Jill reportedly told Harris to “go f*** yourself” after the event and there are no reports of them being particularly chummy.

It will be interesting to watch. Leaks from the Biden White House are neither unintentional nor a mistake. Taking shots at the vice president is no exception.