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Dump Kamala Harris Because... Her Voice Is Nasal?

Dump Kamala Harris Because... Her Voice Is Nasal?

<p>Dump Kamala Harris Because... Her Voice Is Nasal?</p>
photo by Jen Rosenstein

photo by Jen Rosenstein

Some say Harris is bad for Biden, but they just can't really articulate why. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's ears are ringing.

At the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1944, Missouri Sen. Harry Truman was nominated to be President Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate as Roosevelt sought an unprecedented third term. Truman’s selection was one of the great comeback stories in political history. Many were aghast that it was the relatively inexperienced Truman, because many realized that Roosevelt wouldn’t survive a third term if he were reelected. The consensus on Truman was that he was clearly not ready to be president.

Roosevelt died in April of 1945, and Truman, a former haberdasher and failed businessman who went into politics late in life because he had no other recourse, became president. Truman’s vice presidency was one of the shortest in history. He only met with Roosevelt twice before he died.

Harry Truman became arguably one of the country’s greatest presidents.

Thinking his vice president, Richard Nixon, was too arrogant and aloof, and a drag on his presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower tried to dump Nixon when he ran for reelection in 1956. Party insiders also were lukewarm on Nixon. He didn’t take the hint. Eisenhower easily won a second term. In 1960, Nixon ran as the Republican presidential nominee against John F. Kennedy. Eisenhower refused to campaign for him out of dislike. Nixon lost in 1960, and we all know what happened to him when he became president.

In 1984, the Democratic presidential nominee, Minnesota Sen. Walter Mondale made history by selecting New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, the first woman chosen by a major party for that slot. She was lambasted, primarily because misogyny ran deep. Ferraro made Mondale look “weak.” Even Second Lady Barbara Bush, when asked to describe Ferraro, said the word she was looking for rhymed with “rich.” I spoke to Ferraro’s daughter after her mother died, and she told me that Mrs. Bush apologized to her mom throughout the rest of her life.

When Barbara’s husband, George H.W. Bush, ran for reelection as president in 1992, many in the Republican Party, including Bush, wanted Vice President Dan Quayle off the ticket. Many were shocked when Bush chose Quayle as his running mate in 1988. Quayle was a nightmare on the campaign trail, but Bush won. Quayle was perceived as a do-nothing vice president. Bush thought he was a mouthpiece for the extreme wing of the Republican Party, but in the end Bush couldn’t bring himself to kick Quayle to the curb. Bush lost. And Quayle became the lasting afterthought.

If you’re waiting on something about Sarah Palin, we’re not going there.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have all had their names bandied about as possible running mates for various presidential candidates. But, ultimately, they were not chosen. Hillary Clinton was thought to be close to choosing Booker, but she went with the safe bet, white, middle-aged Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Insiders privately felt that America had their fill after eight years of a “Black” president.

Not ready to be president. Arrogant and aloof. Rhymes with “rich.” Do-nothing vice president. All these labels, plus racism and misogyny, have figured in how our current vice president, Kamala Harris is being described and categorized. As she and President Biden seek reelection, the debate about whether the number 2 is bringing down the ticket persists.

Is this the argument that pops up every four years, particularly for an incumbent team? When the number 2 on the ticket, Harris in this instance, is left to cumulatively twist in the wind, defend herself, or ignore all the whispers and predictions of doom.

If you read our new cover story about Vice President Harris, you will come away wondering why there is all the slander about one of the most passionate, vibrant, and intelligent leaders we have in the United States today.

First, let’s address the elephant — or, in this Democratic case, the donkey — in the room. The most consequential job responsibility for the vice president is to be ready to assume the presidency if the unthinkable happens and at a moment’s notice. Arguably, the biggest issue in the 2024 presidential election will be President Biden’s age, and that flows into the second question about whether Harris is qualified — or ready — to step into the role as commander in chief.

People were wrong about Harry Truman, who grew into the job and eventually was reelected, and while we can’t compare Harris to Truman, she has more government and leadership experience (California attorney general, U.S. senator) as well as holding the vice presidency for almost four years compared to Truman’s four months. On that note, she’s as ready as she’s ever going to be.

The second issue is that the American public doesn’t see or hear much from Harris, unless of course you’re a political junkie. And there might be a reason for that. Biden, going purely on conjecture here, may be loath to cede any of the spotlight to Harris for fear that doing so might make it appear he’s not up to the job.

We might compare Harris being relegated to offstage to the way Vice President Bush was handled during Ronald Reagan's presidency. After Reagan was shot, Secretary of State Al Haig became famous for taking the microphone in the White House press briefing room and commandeering the presidency by declaring, “I am in control here.” However, according to witnesses and records at the time, it was Bush, from his home state of Texas, who quietly and out of the glare of the media stepped in.

Bush also stepped in, via the 25th Amendment, and briefly became president during Reagan’s cancer surgery, but the minute he came to, Reagan, primarily through his aides, grabbed it back. And Reagan’s aides were sure to put Reagan out front and center — always. Bush was effective behind the scenes, which is why the American public rarely saw him. Cognizant of Reagan’s age and rumors of his forgetfulness and naps, his handlers overcompensated by staging ways that showed Reagan was in command and strong, i.e. chopping wood on his ranch in his 70s.

This overcompensation is happening with Biden, i.e. his bike rides and constant reminders that he hits the gym five days a week, and how he is always the one that speaks behind the podium, with Harris behind Biden behind the podium. However, Biden’s falls, most recently at the U.S Air Force Academy, are becoming an issue, and each fall is another reminder about the question of whether Harris is capable.

The Biden campaign might be stuck in a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" scenario. Giving Harris more visibility might help settle the concern of whether she’s ready. But making sure Biden is the only topic of conversation risks more questions about Harris’s readiness.

One thing is for sure, on women’s issues, particularly abortion, Harris needs to take the lead — and she has. There is no doubt that women and the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade led to the Democrats’ surprise success in the 2022 midterms. It’s going to be incumbent on Harris to keep that fire burning.

Yet, here’s something to consider. If Harris is out being vocal about women’s issues, does the undercurrent of misogyny rear its ugly head? Does her passion on abortion, women’s health, and equality make her sound shrill to white middle-class suburban voters? Yes, this sounds chauvinistic, and petty, but many are actually complaining about the sound of her voice. Really? They said the same thing about Hillary Clinton, so sexism is alive and well.

Racism too. There are still racists in this country — that is unfortunately well known. It’s inevitable that their hatred is going to be spurred on by Republican candidates’ dog whistles and Donald Trump’s overt bigotry throughout the 2024 campaign. The cruel reality is that Vice President Harris will be the face on that target. How she responds might make her a more sympathetic candidate. We can only hope so.

Having said all of this, as a lifelong student of the presidency and vice presidency, I believe Harris will finally get her due during the 2024 campaign. Her credentials are solid. Her background is impressive. She’s had four years of on-the-job training. She’s an eloquent speaker and a passionate advocate for marginalized communities — particularly ours — and she’s exceptionally bright.

Harris is much more of an asset than a liability. The issue with Kamala Harris is not Kamala Harris. It is the ramifications of the job she holds. To be vice president puts you in a no-win situation.

Thomas R. Marshall, vice president under Woodrow Wilson, once said, “Being vice president is comparable to a man in a cataleptic fit; he cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain; he is perfectly conscious of all that goes on, but has no part in it.”

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate.

CLICK HERE to read our exclusive interview with Vice President Harris

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John Casey

John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the United Nations and with four large U.S. retailers.