Harris as veep — not a command performance

Does anyone know Vice President Kamala Harris canceled plans to campaign for Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a bruising recall election?

Harris was meant to help the governor in an hour of need. But she may have little political capital to lend Newsom. Newsom faces voters on Sept. 14 in a state where Republicans are on a tear. No reason was given. The rally has not been rescheduled. Harris and Newsom are friends and pragmatists who know the special election is national in scope.

If Larry Elder becomes governor and if California Democrat Dianne Feinstein has to leave her Senate seat, Elder would name the new senator and tip the Senate to a Republican majority.

The incident got me thinking about Harris. Her portfolios, a voting rights bill and the southern border with Mexico, have not moved forward.

Harris has not received rave reviews. Her 2020 presidential campaign tanked before Iowa. How little we know her, the woman that would be president. She is not commanding her historic role nor taking our town by storm.

Her uproarious laughs have turned to gaffes. These outbursts contrast with her usual prosecutor’s demeanor. History’s odds are one in three Harris will move into the White House someday. Joe Biden spent eight years in the Naval Observatory on elegant Embassy Row. Fifteen presidents served as vice presidents first.

The odds are higher for Harris, since Biden is the oldest president in history. After long years, we the people have finally learned what a difference a good — or bad — president makes.

That also goes for vice presidents. They should be carefully chosen. Dashing Aaron Burr was Thomas Jefferson’s vice president. Many thought he’d make a swell president. Burr made men weep as a gifted orator, which Jefferson was not.

Abraham Lincoln’s worst mistake was choosing a racist tailor-by-trade, Andrew Johnson, as his vice president. Johnson became president with a single shot fired in a crowded theater. He undercut Lincoln’s Civil War legacy and reinstated Confederate leaders to power.

Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman were the best in show. In 1901, President McKinley was shot. Young Roosevelt, took office without missing a heartbeat. Roosevelt modeled the American spirit and stayed in office until 1909.

Truman was second only to popular “Teddy,” whose nephew, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, hardly said a word to his vice president.

But hardheaded Truman knew what to do when Roosevelt died in April 1945. Blessed with a barrel of common sense and a keen grasp of history, Truman integrated the military — his greatest act.

Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the nation wept over John F. Kennedy’s murder. A tragic figure, great on advancing civil rights at home and flawed in relentless pursuit of the Vietnam War. Previously, he was known as “Master of the Senate.”

This circles back to Harris. Truman, Johnson and Biden himself were consequential, established senators before becoming vice presidents. The Senate is the battleground of the Biden presidency. Harris’s time is best spent buttressing a bridge to the chamber, forming deeper friendships, coalitions and strategies in the place she thought she left behind.

Jamie Stiehm is a nationally syndicated author.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.38/week.

Subscribe Today