Biden Team Clashes with Harris Team, New Book Reveals

Biden Team Clashes with Harris Team, New Book Reveals

President Joe Biden speaks next to Vice President Kamala Harris before signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 20, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Some of President Joe Biden’s advisers accused Kamala Harris of being too focused on “first-world problems” as the vice president and her team continually focused on her image and whether she was receiving adequate respect from White House staff and the media, according to a new book.

New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns write in their upcoming book, This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future, that Harris tasked aides with addressing a leaked Vogue cover photo that showed her dressed down in Converse and skinny pants ahead of Inauguration Day, according to an excerpt of the book obtained by Politico

The book says Harris was “wounded” after the more casual photo was selected for the cover, while the photo she expected to be used was relegated to the digital cover.

“She felt belittled by the magazine, asking aides: Would Vogue depict another world leader this way?” the book reads.

Harris’s press secretary Symone Sanders reportedly reached out to Vogue editor Anna Wintour to express the incoming vice president’s displeasure. Wintour replied that she had personally selected the photo because it made Harris “relatable,” according to the excerpt. 

Meanwhile, Harris’s incoming chief of staff Tina Flournoy reached out to a senior Biden campaign official, who told Flournoy that it was not the time to go to war with the magazine over a “comparatively trivial aesthetic issue,” the book says, adding that the adviser called the concerns “first-world problems.”

After the incident, which occurred before the pair even took office, the president and vice president’s teams’ priorities only continued to diverge, the journalists reported. 

“Some of Harris’s advisers believed the president’s almost entirely white inner circle did not show the vice president the respect she deserved,” the journalists write. “Harris worried that Biden’s staff looked down on her; she fixated on real and perceived snubs in ways the West Wing found tedious.”

Harris sent her chief of staff to talk to top Biden adviser Anita Dunn to express concern that White House staff was not standing when Harris entered the room as they did for Biden, which Harris took as a sign of disrespect, according to the excerpt. 

Dunn told West Wing Playbook that she wasn’t “going to comment except to say that everyone in the West Wing has a high degree of respect for the Vice President and the hard work she is doing for this President and our country. Particularly me.”

Harris’s team also clashed with the president’s advisers over her policy portfolio. She did not want to select a few signature issues, telling White House aides that she did not want to be limited to a few subjects mainly associated with women and black Americans, according to the book. The vice president sought a low-risk assignment, like overseeing relations with the Nordic countries, though Biden ultimately tasked her with focusing on the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle.

Not only did White House aides reject the idea of Harris overseeing relations with the Nordic countries, they privately mocked it, according to the excerpts.

Biden’s aides were also irritated when they learned Harris wanted to plan a major speech to outline her view of foreign policy, a proposal that team Biden ultimately vetoed.

Harris’s team saw the Northern Triangle assignment as politically undesirable amid a surge of illegal immigration at the southern border. She did not want to be referred to as the “border czar” and “did not hesitate to chide Biden for characterizing her assignment in those terms,” the book says.

She corrected the president when he said during a meeting with Congressional Black Caucus leaders that she would do a “hell of a job” handling immigration. She clarified that her purview included only the Northern Triangle countries, not immigration as a whole.

A senator close to Harris described her frustration level as “up in the stratosphere” as her approval numbers tanked, even lower than Biden’s, the pair reported.

Yet as some accused the White House of mismanaging Harris, Biden’s comms director, Kate Bedingfield, privately blamed the vice president herself for the shortcomings.

“In private, Bedingfield had taken to noting that the vice presidency was not the first time in Harris’s political career that she had fallen short of sky-high expectations: Her Senate office had been messy and her presidential campaign had been a fiasco. Perhaps, she suggested, the problem was not the vice president’s staff,” Martin and Burns write.

Bedingfield told Politico PLAYBOOK that “the fact that no one working on this book bothered to call to fact check this unattributed claim tells you what you need to know.”

“Vice President Harris is a force in this administration and I have the utmost respect for the work she does every day to move the country forward,” she said.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

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[By: Brittany Bernstein

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