Who Is Really in Charge? Did Biden Refer to Kamala Harris as 'President Harris'?
Letting us in on something, Mr. President? Or are the gaffes coming more fast and furious now that you’re not in that Wilmington basement like you were last summer, praying for Nov. 3 to come?
On Thursday, 58 days into his administration, President Joe Biden took to the airwaves from the White House to announce his administration was about to meet its goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in 100 days.
“When I announced in early December that I had goal that I set of administering 100 million shots for the virus in the first 100 days of our office — 100 million shots in 100 days — it was considered ambitious. Some even suggested it was somewhat audacious,” Biden said at the outset. “Well, it wasn’t.”
Naturally, the fact this milestone was reached in less than 60 days could raise just as many questions among the skeptical, particularly regarding whether Biden was lowballing the estimate of how long it would take or how much an administration that still hasn’t filled major Cabinet positions, including those particularly germane to the vaccination effort — the president’s controversial pick to lead Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, was only confirmed hours before Biden made this speech — actually did to make this goal a reality.
But no. The narrative is that the Biden administration moved into the White House on Jan. 20 and found there was no vaccination plan whatsoever left for them by the Trump administration — this, after all, is what multiple sources in the administration first told CNN for a Jan. 21 article, and it’s been a claim the administration has echoed ad nauseam without providing many details. After discovering this, Biden pounded his fist on the table and told people, dagnabbit, no more malarkey on this! So, through his perspicacity, experience and competence, he turned this ship around and we got 100 million doses in under 60 days. That’s the kind of sharp, seasoned operator we have as president now.
Shortly thereafter, our president proved just how sharp and seasoned he is by calling Kamala Harris the “president”:
“’A dose of hope.’ That’s how she phrased it.”
There’s a “dose of” something joke to be made here, but I’d just as soon not make it. A White House transcript of the speech confirms Biden didn’t correct himself, although they were nice enough to do it for him: The transcript reads “Now, when [Vice] President Harris and I took a virtual tour of a vaccination center …”
This isn’t the first time he’s rhetorically elevated his second-in-command, either — and coincidentally, the last time I noticed, it had to do with vaccines, as well.
“I took it to instill public confidence in the vaccine,” Biden told a Wilmington crowd in late December. “President-elect Harris took it, took hers today for the same reason.
He also made a remark in September about a “Harris-Biden” administration. Not that this was uncommon for him during the 2019-2020 election process, even though Biden’s trademark slip-ups were supposed to be getting less frequent since he’s been mostly making prepared remarks or speaking in tightly controlled settings.
He doesn’t even need topics related to COVID-19 to say something that will induce a jaw to drop. Just last week, he referred to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the man who’ll be overseeing massive, woke-friendly cultural changes in the Biden administration’s Pentagon, as “the guy who runs the thing over there”:
These are, by the way, controlled situations. An extensive catalog of what he’s said in the past two years in uncontrolled situations could potentially rival Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” for sheer reading heft, so I’ll just include my personal favorite from an interview with “The View” last March:
Look, as a reformed teenage miserabilist, I like the music of The Cure as much as anyone, but I’m not sure ’80s alternative gloom-rockers are an at-risk group.
And yes, we know he made a slip-up when he called Kamala Harris “President Harris.” The same way we know he made a slip-up when he called her “President-elect Harris” or talked about a potential “Harris-Biden” administration. He’s not letting us in on some big, deep-state secret that his bland image was just a Trojan horse to get Kamala Harris’ hard-progressive values into the White House and — oh, dang, now he’s blown the whole thing. Again.
The question is how much accidental truth was contained in the slip-up. Biden isn’t a drinker, so one can’t quite say this was in vino veritas, but in seniorem veritas might do just fine.
When Biden was picking a vice presidential candidate, there was always the subtext he wasn’t so much picking a No. 2 as a No. 1b. Polling showed a significant number of American voters didn’t believe the now-78-year-old Biden would finish off his first term. The implication was clear: Even if you thought the words “cognitive decline” were a bit too harsh, “diminishing returns” would do quite nicely.
When it became evident the choices had been winnowed down to Harris and former Obama administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice, a curious amount of digital ink was spilled over the fact Rice had never run for or held elected office. Given that 2020 was a campaign that was being run virtually, this shouldn’t have been an issue — unless the expectation was that whoever got picked would be leading the 2024 ticket and doing a lot more heavy lifting than the average vice president would.
Not that there weren’t other reasons Rice might have been passed over for Harris — her role in the Benghazi debacle, especially. However, it’s worth noting she was much closer to Biden (a politician who values inner-circle loyalty to an unusual degree), hadn’t implied Biden was a racist or that the women who accused him of touching them inappropriately should be believed during the campaign like Harris did, and had significantly more experience at the federal level to boot.
Now that Harris is the veep, the administration has done little to dispel that impression, particularly since she’s been taking policy calls with world leaders:
In other words, when it comes to the Biden administration dynamic, “Who’s on First?” isn’t just an Abbott and Costello routine (or an amusing way to confuse the president if you’ve got some time to kill on Air Force One). It’s a legitimate question about where the power lies — and more importantly, if it’s with Biden, how long it remains there.
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