Considering Kamala Harris’s fitness to take over from Joe Biden should the need arise, a top aide to the former California senator’s 2020 campaign said: “This person should not be president of the United States.”
The withering assessment, given after Harris was picked for vice-president in 2020, is reported in The Truce: Progressives, Centrists and the Future of the Democratic Party, by the reporters Hunter Walker and Luppe B Luppen. The book will be published in the US on 24 January 2024. The Guardian obtained a copy.
Harris ran for president in 2020, but withdrew a month before the first vote. Her campaign, Walker and Luppen quote the unnamed aide as saying, was “rotten from the start.
“A lot of us, at least folks that I was friends with on the campaign, all realised that: ‘Yeah, this person should not be president of the United States.”
Another unnamed aide, identified as a “senior staffer”, is quoted as saying Harris’s backstory, as the child of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who became the first woman and woman of colour to be vice-president, is “a lot of the reason people support her.
“But you’ve got to back that up with: ‘What are you going to do?’”
In fact, Harris made a strong start to the Democratic primary in 2019, landing memorable blows on Biden in the first debate when she brought up the veteran senator and former vice-president’s historic opposition to “busing”, a way of compelling racial integration in public schools.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools,” Harris said, onstage in Miami, “and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me.”
But Harris failed to capitalise with policy proposals or further profitable attacks and though Biden forgave her, overruling reported opposition among aides and from his wife to pick Harris as his running mate, reports of tension and Harris’s frustrations as vice-president have been a feature of their time in power.
The White House has repeatedly denied such reports concerning Biden and Harris’s working relationship and alleged dysfunction in Harris’s office.
Biden and Harris are set to form the Democratic ticket again this year.
Polling, however, shows widespread concern that at 81, Biden is too old to properly prosecute a potentially historic campaign, with Donald Trump seemingly set to be the Republican nominee once more.
Polling also shows low approval numbers for Harris. Republicans, particularly Trump’s closest challenger, Nikki Haley, have made the prospect of her taking power a central campaign theme.
Walker and Luppen report speculation that Harris could line up a 2028 bid on a ticket with Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary who won the Iowa caucuses in 2020.
A former Buttigieg staffer is quoted as saying Harris has established “a personal relationship with Pete in a way that she doesn’t with other people”.
But alleged people problems, familiar from reports about Harris’s campaign and her time as vice-president, also surface in Walker and Luppen’s book.
“The problems Harris and her team had experienced on her campaign had persisted during her time as vice-president,” the authors write.
“Harris saw heavy staff turnover, with aides describing a toxic climate riven with factionalism and mismanagement. One source who worked for the vice-president declined to go on record or even discuss matters anonymously, due to the heated atmosphere around the office.
“They refused to characterise the experience of working for Harris, apart from offering a three-word assessment. It was, they said: ‘Game of Thrones’.”