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The media is trying to make Kamala Harris happen again

The fourth (?) coming of Kamala. Credit: Getty

October 26, 2023 - 5:30pm

How many reboots can one vice president get? Over the last month, three major publications have all published iterations of the same theme: how to get Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s wayward Vice President, back on track. 

Yesterday, the Financial Times announced another Harris “relaunch”, featuring interviews with dozens of US lawmakers and Democratic strategists about her value to the administration. Nearly all were in violent agreement that she was an asset: “If we want to win, she needs to be out there — and she needs to be speaking to groups of people who are willing to listen to her,” said one. “She can feel the threats to this democracy like nobody else can,” said another. “She speaks from the heart and the soul.”

Similar notes were hit in a New York Times profile of the Vice President earlier this month. Noting that Harris was an “underappreciated electoral asset”, the piece works hard to paint the Veep in a genial light. She “never got to enjoy a honeymoon,” the journalist writes, but to write her off would be a “mistake”. Yet over the course of this 9,000-word piece, which includes 75 interviews and took eight months to report, the interviewee struggles to extract a single clear answer or position from her:

“Was [your] an evolution on [criminal justice] based on new evidence? Or is that a kind of tacit admission that the view from 20 years ago might have been incorrect?” I asked.

“Why don’t we break it down to which part you’re talking about, and then I can tell you,” she said, leaning forward.

I mentioned the elimination of cash bail… “I think it depends on what kind of crime you’re talking about, to be honest,” she said.

I tried to ask another way… “You have to be more specific,” Harris said.

The Vice President is then asked about whether she is a progressive or moderate: “why don’t you define each one for me, and then I can tell you where I fit,” she replies, before concluding: “I don’t think I understand your question”.

On the same day as the publication of the NYT profile, another came out in the Atlantic. This was Kamala away from the cameras, someone who was “intensely private” but agreed to allow the journalist to visit her home. “I love circles,” Harris cheekily admits as she points to the banquette seating. In the piece, the reporter compliments the Vice President’s “intelligence, diligence, and integrity”, but still struggles to elicit any lucid responses. When asked if Harris has dined with the President at her home, she responds, “We have a plan to do it, but we have to get a date. But he and I have a plan, we have a plan to do it. And yeah, no, we actually have a plan to do it.”

These three pieces (which run to a total of 20,000 words) all concede that the Veep has an image problem, marked by political missteps, gaffes and a failure to get her “message out”. She is also, they note, the victim of circumstance, racism, sexism and unfair treatment by the press. Now, though, was her moment for a (choose suffix here) “reset’, “relaunch” and “reboot”.

Of course, October 2023 is not Kamala’s first relaunch. In fact, there have been at least three others over the course of her vice presidency. The third wave came two months prior, spearheaded by a Politico piece claiming that Harris had put the “rockiness” behind her with an “image reset”. CNN, Time, Vanity Fair and the New York Times agreed: the Vice President was now taking on a “forceful new role in 2024”.

Before that, another flurry of press releases came out in January 2022 after Harris’s botched handling of the border crisis. The Washington Post saw it as an opportunity for a “reset” (that word again) along with Politico. The Los Angeles Times reported on how the Vice President was “making some changes” but insisted that it shouldn’t be called a “reboot”.

Her first reboot, however, began barely before Harris entered office. Despite seriously underperforming in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, the then California senator was selected to be Biden’s running mate. Aware of her low approval levels among the public, friendly and familiar publications came to her rescue. 

It’s only been three years since Kamala Harris became vice president, but in that time she has enjoyed four “reboots”. With another year to go until the presidential election, expect to see a few more yet.


is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.

james_billot

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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

How many reboots can one vice president get?
Have they tried unplugging her, then plugging her back in?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Ugh. She’s an empty vessel with no convictions, other than winning elections. Puts her on par with the rest of the clowns in this administration.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That’s an insult to empty vessels, which are at least nominally useful.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
8 months ago

Eeyore was very fond of his empty pot and spent many happy hours putting his burst balloon in and out of it. So we just need to burst Uncle Joe’s balloon and the world will be a happier place.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Uncle Joe’s balloon? Is that the surgical one that’s keeping the blood supply to his cerebrum patent?

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I would say that depends on the vessel being referred to. For instance, if she was a chamber pot, she would definitely not be empty.

David McKee
David McKee
8 months ago

Golly. If the quotation is a fair example, she makes Diane Abbott sound like Cicero.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
8 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

I always thought DA sounded more like a would be stand in for Mrs T, as you would expect for a black woman from Hackney (joke).

Last edited 8 months ago by Mike Downing
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

As you might suspect, that is not a fair example. You could find the same for most politicians. Kamala Harris is actually a reasonably good speaker. She got a lot of kudos for skewering nominees like Bret Kavanaugh when she was a newish senator on the judiciary committee. She can be articulate.
Kamala Harris has her faults, and they are major. She should never be president. But she has her talents, too. You don’t get to be Vice President by accident.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Up to a point it’s OK to be dumb. But dumb and lazy is a non-starter. She doesn’t do the work and winging it doesn’t work for her.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

You don’t get to be Vice President by accident.

That’s right; in her case, you get to be Vice President by the President elect announcing that his Vice President will be a woman of colour, and you being one of the handful of people who ticks both boxes.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

Ah, but getting into that handful of people who Joe Biden considered took a lot of hard work over decades. When Joe Biden said he would pick a woman for vice president, there were well over a hundred million eligible women in the United States. He did not specify a black woman, but there were many million eligible black women.
Kamala Harris getting into the handful of women who Joe Biden considered for the job was not by accident. She would not have been there if she had not been attorney general in California at the same time Beau Biden was in Delaware (becoming good friends with him), and if she had not fought her way into the US Senate.
As you can see from my other comments here, I don’t think much of Kamala Harris, the Barbie doll to Gavin Newsom’s Ken. But I cannot deny that both of them do have their talents, and have put in a lot of work.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Your point that he originally specified only that his VP would be female is fair, although he did go on to say that preferably she would also be ‘of colour’.
https://time.com/5803677/joe-biden-woman-vice-president/
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/28/politics/joe-biden-potential-vp-pick/index.html
Also, you may be right about Harris and Newsom having “their talents”, I just don’t think they are the kind of talents which benefit the people who elected them.

Val Simpson
Val Simpson
8 months ago

Ever since I heard Curry and Divorak suggest she sounds high whenever they hear her talk, I can never get the image out of my mind of her holding a spliff with her index finger and thumb giggling like a schoolgirl. Her “Passage of Time” speech is priceless

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

The more you try to polish something the more you get the feeling it’s actually just a t*rd.

Last edited 8 months ago by robertdkwright
James Knight
James Knight
8 months ago

Democrats officially hitting the panic button.

AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

Biden – degeneration
Harris – desperation
All the ‘real’ politicians have been scared off. What is the Democratic Party to do? They should have kept Kennedy in the tent.

Marc Miller
Marc Miller
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I do wish that had happened. The current VP is an example of identity politics gone mad and sanctioned by the U.S. corporate press. A truly empty suit.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

No, Bobby Kennedy has a screw loose in his head. He really believes in some delusional stuff that is just nuts. He’s harmless living on his riches in LA with his actress wife and his smelly dogs. Nut jobs like him are common there. But he should get nowhere near the Oval Office. Much, much too dangerous.
Just to give one example. Bobby Kennedy’s vaccine views are largely nonsense, with just enough calculated leavening with truth to make it hard to contradict him. He lies casually and convincingly about non-existent studies — “tens of thousands of studies” support his claim, he says, that WiFi causes cancer, kills mitochondria, and pierces the blood-brain barrier. But there are not tens of thousands of studies about the dangers of WiFi. There are none.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

That may indeed be true… but is he any less moored to reality that Biden or Harris?
Had Kennedy been recruited his more unusual ideas would have been swept under the carpet by the Democratic Party machine.

Last edited 8 months ago by AC Harper
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Yes, Bobby Kennedy is less moored to reality than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Or Donald Trump. Bobby Kennedy is like a person who sincerely believes they have been taken up into a spaceship by aliens and subjected to experiments. That kind of nuts.
At least that’s my opinion. I don’t know him personally, but I know someone who does. He likes the guy, but thinks he should never be president. Other information I’ve gathered makes me think the same.
Bobby Kennedy’s a lot like Steve Kirsch, a guy with similar nutty views who I have dealt with in the past (before he turned nutty during the pandemic). They are having a reception here in Silicon Valley at some rich guy’s house tomorrow night. Minimum donation is $1,000 or I’d go to look and listen. (RFK Jr. fundraiser in Silicon Valley on October 28, 2023 at 6:30pm)

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I agree he’s a nut, but if he’s running in a four way race alongside Trump, Biden and West, he doesn’t actually seem that bad.
And yeah, if that ends up being the choice on offer I’ll probably vote for him.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago

Instead of a reboot, give her thee boot.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago

Assuming this article is a fair reflection of the interviews she does appear even more evasive than the average politician. It’s fair enough to avoid being labelled by some journalist but you do have to give some idea of where you stand on the issues of the day to be taken seriously otherwise you invite the sort of ridicule dished out here. The US didn’t fancy Hillary Clinton just because she would have been the first woman President and being black and a woman won’t cut it for a successful Presidential run if that is all Harris has to offer.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Dave Chappelle had a Hillary Clinton joke at the time, which went something like: “I’m all for there being a woman president, but does it have to be that woman?”

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago

Can anyone produce a single thing that Kamala has said as evidence of insight, wide-ranging knowledge or original thought? ‘No’ is the answer, isn’t it?

George Locke
George Locke
8 months ago

I really don’t understand why she got into politics if she can’t say whether she is a progressive or a moderate and admits she doesn’t even understand the question. The most basic thing a politician can do is to let the voters know where they stand. If Kamala can’t give them an indication of her basic ideological leanings then voters may as well just select a candidate on the ballot paper with their eyes closed rather than vote Kamala and then speculate on what she might promote based on vibes. Avoiding questions relating to her political beliefs also has the effect of making her come across as if she has nothing to promote and is only in office for power. Unfortunately for her, smiles and tidy homes alone don’t win elections – here’s a shocker: politics is political. Play the game or find another one to play. I heard the prisons in California are packed and looking for their first black, female wardens.

Last edited 8 months ago by George Locke
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  George Locke

My guess is that Kamala Harris didn’t want to get pinned down in an interview. Politicians do that all the time. Indeed, most of the time. They evade questions more than they answer them. She understood the question, but didn’t want to answer it.
To answer the question, Kamala Harris is a moderate. And she knows it. No question about it.

George Locke
George Locke
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I know she knows, and I know that this is a standard tactic; I’m not stupid – my questions were more rhetorical. What my point was is that playing dumb and not giving any kinds of answers or indication that you believe in anything should be (and usually is) a self-defeating tactic. It doesn’t give voters any real reason to want to vote for you.

Last edited 8 months ago by George Locke
Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

If you just pick out bits and pieces from interviews, or watch memes on the internet, you can make a case that Kamala Harris is inarticulate. But that’s an inaccurate picture. Compare her rhetorical ability to, say, a Nancy Pelosi, a Chuck Schumer, or a Mitch McConnell, and she comes out much better.
Still, to get a real picture of the woman, you have to look closer and further back. As a Californian interested in politics I’ve watched Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom since they first entered politics. They have their talents. They look good. They sound good. They toe the party line and they kiss the rings of those in power.
Kamala Harris in particular kissed more than just the ring of one person in power when she kissed a Willie — Willie Brown, that is. She was just 29, and he 60, when the powerful machine politician had an affair with her and gave her two plum little-work-for-large-pay jobs and a car. That gave her her start, and she rose through the ranks to District Attorney, Attorney General, Senator, and now Vice-President by appealing to powerful people more than to voters.
Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom are alike in being superficial — they are Barbie and Ken. They succeed because of machine politics, not because either has the talent to get things done. Even Joe Biden has more talent at that than they do, and he has very little. None of them, of course, is even fit to hold a candle for Donald Trump.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Compare her to, say, a Nancy Pelosi, a Chuck Schumer, or a Mitch McConnell, and she comes out much better.

That’s a really low bar you’re setting there, and nowhere in the rest of your post do you explain quite how she comes out “much better” (unless you think looking and sounding good, toeing the party line, and kissing the rings of those in power are admirable qualities which qualify someone for being POTUS).

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

Thanks for your query. I meant that Kamala Harris is a better speaker than those three, and have edited my comment to clear that up.

R Poesje
R Poesje
8 months ago

Make Kamala great again.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others…

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
8 months ago

IF the American public is so incandescently gullible to accept that Kamala Harris is anything but the dimwit she has proven herself over and over again to be, then there’s no saving the Republic. She is worse than awful. There are no words capable of defending her as a public figure. None.

Colorado UnHerd
Colorado UnHerd
8 months ago

Harris strikes me as the consummate politician, and as beholden to woke ideology as her boss.

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
8 months ago

How many times do you have to reset a car before a Lemon Law gets triggered?