I like to say that I read the New York Times so that you don’t have to (plus I can claim an online subscription as a tax deduction, which helps), but today is one of those days you wish you had a subscription for the amazing “news” feature on the dismal future prospects of Kamala Harris. Here’s the hed:
This “news story” was reported by three Times journalists, but what is the actual “news” that would prompt such an article? Did she collapse while being bundled into a van on a campaign swing? Did she seem to suffer a stroke mid-sentence, like her boss? No: this story has all the hallmarks of agenda journalism untethered to any actual news event.
The article quotes almost no one by name, relying on the favorite media source in politics—”Anonymous”—supposedly for fear of offending the Biden White House. Maybe, but more likely this is a premier instance of “ventriloquist journalism,” where you find a source (and “anonymous” courses are best of all, even when they aren’t made up) to ratify a preexisting story line. In other words, the Times editors decided the time had some to put out a more explicit hit piece on Kamala, and assigned their best political reporters to run the usual playbook. A story like this doesn’t just happen without editorial deliberation.
The resulting article is stunning in its negative portrayal of Harris:
But the painful reality for Ms. Harris is that in private conversations over the last few months, dozens of Democrats in the White House, on Capitol Hill and around the nation — including some who helped put her on the party’s 2020 ticket — said she had not risen to the challenge of proving herself as a future leader of the party, much less the country. Even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for supportive quotes confided privately that they had lost hope in her.
Through much of the fall, a quiet panic set in among key Democrats about what would happen if President Biden opted not to run for a second term. Most Democrats interviewed, who insisted on anonymity to avoid alienating the White House, said flatly that they did not think Ms. Harris could win the presidency in 2024. Some said the party’s biggest challenge would be finding a way to sideline her without inflaming key Democratic constituencies that would take offense.
Now with Mr. Biden appearing all but certain to run again, the concern over Ms. Harris has shifted to whether she will be a political liability for the ticket.
I imagine Dan Quayle and the ghost of Spiro Agnew are smiling right now.
This passage is especially fun:
No one feels the frustration of being underestimated more acutely than Ms. Harris, but she makes a point of not exhibiting it publicly. In an interview with The New York Times while she was in Japan last fall, she tried to explain her own political identity.
“You got to know what you stand for and, when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for,” Ms. Harris said.
What that translates to in tangible terms is less clear.
Let that last sentence sink in: “What that translates to in tangible terms is less clear.” This is not news or even “news analysis.” It is the editorial voice of Times tacitly confessing that Harris is an idiot.
Then there is the sheer comedy:
“My bias has always been to speak factually, to speak accurately, to speak precisely about issues and matters that have potentially great consequence,” she said in the interview in Japan. “I find it off-putting to just engage in platitudes. I much prefer to deconstruct an issue and speak of it in a way that hopefully elevates public discourse and educates the public.”
It is hard to imagine that the Times reporters included this outtake from an interview conducted last fall without laughing, and without malice aforethought.
The article ends with an unintended comic note offered by the totally hackish and terminally lightweight historian Douglas Brinkley (who is a perfect fit for Harris actually as he is a bottomless pit of banality):
“President Biden has to give her more leeway to be herself and not make her overly cautious that a mistake, a rhetorical mistake, will cost the party a lot,” Mr. Brinkley said. “It’s better to let Kamala be Kamala.”
It is one thing to say, 40 years ago, “Let Reagan be Reagan,” but “Let Kamala be Kamala” is exactly why she has become a laughing stock.
Let’s get out, as John McLaughlin used to say. Going back to the drive to oust Nixon in 1973-74, it was necessary first to get Spiro Agnew out. Likewise today before you can push out Biden, you have to get rid of Harris. I don’t go in for any of the favorite fan fiction that the Obamas are behind this as a plot to pave the way for Michelle; I see no evidence that she wants to undergo the rigors of a presidential campaign, nor do I think she’d be any good at it.
If anyone is quietly pushing the “dump Biden/Harris” plan behind the scenes, it’s Hillary Clinton, who still pines for the Oval Office with Gollum-like fanaticism. And sure enough, she makes an appearance in the Times story:
Two [unnamed, naturally] Democrats recalled private conversations in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamented that Ms. Harris could not win because she does not have the political instincts to clear a primary field. Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said she was strongly supportive of Ms. Harris and often spoke with her about shared experiences of being “a woman in power.” He added: “They have built and maintained a strong bond. Any other characterization is patently false.”
Which means it’s completely true. Pass the popcorn.