Vice President Kamala Harris appears to be highly attuned to criticism, a characteristic that has become a source of frustration within President Biden’s inner circle, as revealed in an upcoming book by journalist Franklin Foer titled “The Last Politician.”
In the book, Foer describes Harris as having what colleagues refer to as “rabbit ears” – an ability to instantly pick up on even the slightest hints of criticism, whether from within the West Wing or in the media. Rather than brushing off such critiques, Harris actively sought to identify the sources and the content of these criticisms, indicating a deep concern about her public perception.
Foer recounts an incident where Harris came across a critical news story about her alleged mismanagement of her team. Her response was to briefly distance herself from an aide she suspected of collaborating with reporters. This approach, Foer notes, demonstrated Harris allowing criticism to influence her decisions and actions.
Foer also suggests that Harris may have been influenced by conventional wisdom instead of remaining steadfast in her responsibilities, pointing out a missed opportunity for her to achieve meaningful accomplishments.
In the same book chapter, Foer contrasts President Biden’s approach to Harris with his role in the Obama administration. While Biden treated Harris with utmost respect, he didn’t assign her a substantial role akin to his position in the previous administration. Foer explains that Biden had served as a gap-filler in Obama’s resume, a role not mirrored by Harris in the current context.
Harris received guidance primarily from Ron Klain, who considered himself an expert on the vice presidency due to his experiences working with both Al Gore and Joe Biden in that role. However, Klain faced difficulties assisting Harris effectively, as she placed numerous self-imposed constraints on her responsibilities.
Foer notes that Harris voiced a preference for not working on women’s or race-related issues, striving for a predominantly female team with a Black woman serving as chief of staff. Klain, however, perceived Harris as imposing too many restrictions on herself, making it challenging for her to find her footing.
The book highlights Harris’s continuous search for issues to add to her portfolio, although she often hesitated to accept suggestions when they were presented to her. For instance, while she initially sought a role in managing relations with Scandinavia to avoid the spotlight, she eventually requested a substantial assignment on voting rights. However, Klain’s initial hesitance failed to provide the vote of confidence she desired.
Foer underscores that Harris seemed to be influenced by unfamiliar and untrusted staff members, while Biden appeared less inclined to offer extensive guidance. Though there were initial plans for regular lunches to facilitate guidance, those interactions gradually dwindled.
At present, neither the vice president’s office nor the White House has issued an immediate response to the revelations presented in “The Last Politician,” which is scheduled for release from Penguin Random House on Tuesday.