Kamala Harris takes on the gnarled vice-president portfolio of heat management

US Vice President Kamala Harris gave a widely broadcast television interview during a visit to Guatemala this week.

When asked why she hadn’t gone to the US-Mexico border, where an influx of migrants puts enormous pressure on local communities, Harris initially dismissed the question and said, “We went. at the border”. In a hurry, she laughed and said, “And I didn’t go to Europe.

Her comments drew criticism and highlighted the political dangers the second White House official faces as she juggles a heavy and expanding political portfolio.

Harris was in Central America as the leader of the Biden administration’s response to the border issue, including the thorny question of how to deal with migrants fleeing north the troubled countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

She was also given the almost insurmountable task of leading litigation. right to vote and legislation on police reform by a heavily divided Congress. She hit the road to sell President Joe Biden’s sweep Infrastructure plans. In addition, she has also been interested in black maternal mortality and other racial equity issues, including addressing vaccine reluctance among African Americans.

Harris’s first overseas trip as vice president revealed what her critics and allies say are her shortcomings as a politician and her vulnerabilities if she runs for president again. Harris, a former senator from California, dropped a struggling main bid for the White House at the end of 2019.

His comments earlier in the week on NBC News sparked outrage, especially from Republicans who hammer the administration against migrants. Meanwhile, she has come under fire from fellow Democrats for urging migrants not to go to the border in the first place.

Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist, highlighted the vice president’s failure to effectively deliver her message on the trip.

“If this is your debut as a vice president on the international stage, you want to give your best performance, and she can definitely do better,” said Marsh.

Harris made history when he was sworn in in January, becoming the first woman, first black person and first Asian American to serve as vice president. She wields inordinate power as the deciding vote in a Senate divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. But the other duties of a vice-president are less clearly defined.

People close to the administration say Harris has proven to be a skillful adviser to the president and an almost constant presence in the White House, attending regular briefings, offering advice to Biden and appearing alongside him for big speeches.

Biden himself was Vice President to President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. When he announced that Harris would be his running mate last summer, he said he hoped she would give advice like he did. did to Obama.

“When I agreed to be President Obama’s running mate. . . he asked me what I wanted the most. . . I told him I wanted to be the last person in the room before he made some big decisions, ”Biden said.

He added, “This is what I asked Kamala. I asked Kamala to be the last voice in the room.

Harris is hardly the first vice president with tough assignments. Most recently Mike Pence, Vice President of Donald Trump, headed the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“The duties of the vice-presidency are such that usually, if you are successful, they become the achievements of the president and the administration. If you fail, they become yours, ”said Kenneth Baer, ​​founder of consulting firm Crosscut Strategies. He served as a speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore in the Clinton administration and Gore’s unsuccessful presidential bid in 2000.

Harris supporters argue her tough wallet only underscores the trust Biden has placed in her.

“Any of these issues would be a full-time job for most people,” Marsh said.

Many Democrats argue that Harris faces undue criticism, from Republicans in particular, given her identity as a woman of color. But others admit she made some missteps in Latin America and say her refusal to change course – Harris then had a frosty exchange with a Univision TV presenter about the border crisis – only reminds people people her shortcomings as a 2019 presidential candidate.

“What I think you’ve seen in recent weeks. . . are some of the issues you saw during the campaign, ”Marsh said. “At various points in the campaign, she did not perform particularly well. The other days it was spectacular.

The political future of Biden, who is 78, looms above Harris’ tenure. Her allies say she is focusing on supporting the president as he seeks to advance his legislative agenda ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when control of both houses of Congress will be up for grabs. Next week, as part of her voting rights mandate, she will meet with lawmakers in the state of Texas, where Democrats recently blocked a state bill that would have restricted access to the ballot box. .

“There is a meaning. . . that she is focusing on her future rather than her job, and I just don’t think that’s true, ”said Dylan Loewe, former speechwriter for then Vice President Biden, who also wrote Harris’s memoir.

“The last thing she wants for her future presidential campaign, regardless of the time, is for the scenario to be that she focus on the future and not on the president, and that she was not the same kind of vice president Joe Biden as Joe Biden was to Barack Obama.

Marsh Notes

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