Harris’ VP Chances Redux

She would hardly be the first running mate who criticized the nominee in a debate.

Yesterday, Steven Taylor defended Kamala Harris against the notion that showing no remorse for factual attacks on Joe Biden while they were competing for the nomination should be a problem for her. Today, WaPo columnist Karen Tumulty weighed in, suggesting it should actually be a benefit.

[I]f Biden were to tap Harris, he would hardly be the first to turn to a rival who had scuffed him up in a primary.

Biden himself stands as an example. Barack Obama picked the then-Delaware senator in 2008, despite the fact that Biden had warned that his colleague from Illinois — who was still in his first term — would be a “naive” commander in chief.

After candidate Obama said in August 2007 that he would be willing to order strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, several of his more seasoned rivals piled on.AD

Biden at the time was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his comments were especially scorching.

“In order to look tough, he’s undermined his ability to be tough, were he president,” Biden said of Obama. “Because if you’re going to go into Pakistan — which is already our policy by the way, if there’s actionable intelligence — you need actionable intelligence from moderates within Pakistan working with you. Now if you’re already going to say I’m going to disregard whatever the country thinks and going to invade, the likelihood you’re getting the cooperation you need evaporates. It’s a well-intended notion he has, but it’s a very naive way of figuring out how you’re going to conduct foreign policy.”


That Obama would then turn to Biden as a running mate — and more importantly, a governing partner — was a sign of Obama’s confidence, as well as his understanding that he would need candor and a range of perspectives to be a success as president.

And he was far from the first nominee to embrace a top critic. In 1980, against the advice of many in his camp, GOP nominee Ronald Reagan chose as his running mate George H.W. Bush, who had labeled Reagan’s policies “voodoo economics.”

Compare that with the current situation: an administration of yes-men and yes-women who are banished and branded as disloyal if they breathe the slightest whisper of dissent.

If anything, Harris’s lack of “remorse” should recommend her for the job. She is an able debater, and a tough inquisitor in Senate hearings. Harris also has the perspective that comes from growing up as a nonwhite woman in this country.

Biden should hope that Harris — or whomever he picks — should not be bashful about stating her views, or apologetic when she does not prevail. No one knows better than Biden how important it is for a president to have a strong partner.

While Harris was by no means my first choice for the nomination, she’s long struck me as the obvious choice for the veep slot. Amy Klobuchar would likely have been my favorite, but she had too much baggage. Elizabeth Warren is arguably the most prepared to step into the presidency but she would detract from Biden’s brand as the comfortable centrist—and we don’t need yet another septuagenarian on the ticket.

Harris is reasonably centrist. She’s experienced, having four years in the Senate and a stellar career as a prosecutor before that. At 55, she’s more than two decades younger than Biden and an obvious successor. The issues that hurt her in her bid for the top job, notably being too tough on black criminals in her stints as DA and Attorney General, will, if anything, be an asset in November.

At this point, I’d be surprised by any other choice.

FILED UNDER: The Presidency, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    This is all very entertaining. I’m guessing there is going to be lot of stories and speculations on Joe Biden’s VP sweeps.

    There is this one on Susan Rice in Politico this morning: ‘It’s absolutely serious’: Susan Rice vaults to the top of the VP heap. These things don’t just happen randomly. Some are pushed by allies of the target of the articles. Some are floated out there by Biden people themselves to gauge interest.

    The danger is that it becomes demeaning to a whole group of candidates. My personal opinions are Harris, Rice, Duckworth, yes. Warren, Abrams, Demings, no. Whitmer, Raimondo, maybe.

    Then again tomorrow, I will have a different opinion. Not sure a VP candidate can help but I do believe a candidate can harm.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    The fact that Harris criticism of Biden in a campaign debate should disqualify her as a candidate for his VP reeks of a hidden agenda of its proponents. If her criticism of Joe, is the best argument against her nomination, then she indeed should be his VP.

    In other news, Politico is polishing an apple for Susan Rice this morning. While I’d be happy with any of the top 5 or so contenders, the fact that Rice brings serious FP experience is a benefit.

    The Reality Show Host is leaving multiple messes and several raging infernos, both domestic and foreign relations. Biden needs to focus on domestic issues and he can hand the FP portfolio off to Rice. She has relationships and is a known quantity with the leaders of our former and hopefully future allies.

  3. SKI says:

    I think there are 3 credible choices – Harris, Duckworth and Rice – and Harris is the front runner.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    hmm, scott beat me to the politico link

  5. Kylopod says:

    After Obama announced Biden as his running mate, I remember this ad from the McCain campaign. At the time I thought, “Well, okay, fair is fair.”

  6. Kylopod says:

    Note: People who saw the first version of my comment, before I quickly edited it, may have been puzzled to be linked to a South Park clip that seemed to have nothing to do with my comment. It was just something that happened to be in my clipboard that I posted at another forum last night, and I forgot to copy the relevant link.

  7. Kylopod says:

    Damn, I wish OTB would fix the preview button. It’s been years. It leads to embarrassing mistakes like this.

  8. de stijl says:


    Now I want to know what South Park clip.

  9. Kylopod says:
  10. de stijl says:

    Why everybody is wound up is this is the prep for 2024 and everybody wants an edge.

    It is Biden’s choice. I assume it will be Harris. Even so or not, the VP choice is immaterial to 2020. I know who I am voting against 100%.

    2020 is very squarely a referendum on Trump.

  11. Sleeping Dog says:


    At least it was South Park and not a Porn Hub clip 😉

  12. de stijl says:



    (Btw, that was concise and awesome.)

  13. Sleeping Dog says:


    A Former Reality Show Host ad showing Harris accusing Biden of being cozy with segregationists, could give the Trumpkins permission to stay home

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    and we don’t need yet another septuagenarian on the ticket.

    I hope I have half that woman’s energy when I’m 70.
    Anyone notice Trump walking at his photo-op yesterday? Watch his right leg drag. He’s had at least a minor stroke.

    NEW VIDEO: President Trump wears a face mask while touring a laboratory in North Carolina Monday.PO-124MO pic.twitter.com/V11jd4Vht5— CNN Newsource (@CNNNewsource) July 28, 2020

  15. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl: I actually didn’t remember immediately and had to look it up. Political Wire reported that Trump described trending on Twitter as “illegal.” Another commenter posted in quotes “I am the law”–and that’s when I posted the clip.

    But I’ve posted the clip many times, in response to things Trump, Barr, and others have said or done. I mean, Jesus, Trump literally said Article II gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.” There’s essentially no difference at all between the parody and the real thing at this point.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    A Former Reality Show Host ad showing Harris accusing Biden of being cozy with segregationists, could give the Trumpkins permission to stay home

    I don’t know about that. In 2016 he attacked Clinton for “superpredators.” He’ll go there. It’s an attempt to suppress black turnout. The Stormfront folks don’t mind, they get what he’s doing.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: Unfortunately, it’s $150/hour to dive into these things and there’s no way of knowing how long it’ll take to run it down.

  18. de stijl says:

    Put the Judge Dredd clip on your clipboard of Stallone saying “I am the law” for Barr related topics.

  19. de stijl says:

    For a few minutes I thought Reality Show Host referred to Chuck Woolery.

    He had an abortive thing last week. Denied reality then reality infected his son. Oops! Got caught hiding the evidence.

  20. de stijl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Warren needs a role. She is a bad-ass and a super wonk. Treasury?

  21. Since the veep talk has migrated to this thread, I will repost what I wrote on the thread of my post a few minutes ago:

    FWIW, I don’t think that the VP picks mattes electorally. It really only matters to me at this point because of Biden’s age–both in terms of completing the term and the likelihood of him being a one-termer.

    These two things put more weight on the selection and is a major reason I would heavily prefer someone not also in their 70s.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: In the grand scheme of things I vote for saving your money….

  23. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am of the opinion that everyone knows that Biden is a regent of sorts. Normalcy and sanity for four years, but no second term.

    Hence the jockeying and positioning for veep and for 2024 prep.

  24. Jen says:

    Speaking of 2024 prep, both Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. Josh Hawley appear to be laying the groundwork for running. They are both likely inheritors of Trump voters. This is not a compliment. Everyone should be concerned about both of them.

  25. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    He had an abortive thing last week. Denied reality then reality infected his son. Oops! Got caught hiding the evidence.

    He then deleted his Twitter account.

    I just read a really depressing column by a conservative pundit in Dallas. He had previously referred to the “scamdemic,” until it hit his family. Now he’s all apologetic for having gone down the Covid-19 conspiracy rabbit hole–though he does not broaden his critique to that of the entire Republican Party.

    I feel like this year is the point when the chickens finally came home to roost for American conservatism. I came of age in the 1990s. That was around the time of Gingrich and Limbaugh–the point when the party truly went off the deep end and became a reality-denying cult (though the roots of that went back decades). But most of that reality denial was “safe” for them at least. Claiming the Clintons offed Vince Foster isn’t going to cause your child to be put on a ventilator.

  26. de stijl says:


    Put Crenshaw on the list.

  27. Sleeping Dog says:


    Not to forget Junior and Javanka. The nativist wing of the R’s is going to have a plethora of choices.

  28. de stijl says:


    Gingrich was a turning point.

    We became post post-war.

    No longer was “Us vs. Them” reserved for foreign nation states. It applied internally.

    Yes, that has always applied, fully acknowledge, but now it was party policy and focus.

    Absent an enemy we create one.

    A local ad against the D candidate used the “death tax” terminology. Folks need to update their attacks. That is done and dusted.

    Pulled Pelosi in as the boogeyman. Seriously? Update your shit, folks!

  29. Kylopod says:

    @Jen: @Sleeping Dog: Larry Hogan has already made noises about running in 2024. We know he ain’t going anywhere, but there’s still definitely going to be a “bring back sanity” crowd that will fill an entire broom closet.

    Then there’s Tucker Carlson….

    It’s a Rorschach test. They all know Trump’s a disaster, but there’s no agreement on why. Though none of them will say it outright, it’ll be understood that it’s partly a contest for a “smarter Trump”–though even there it’s not at all clear what that means.

  30. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl:

    Pulled Pelosi in as the boogeyman. Seriously? Update your shit, folks!

    If Biden picks Rice, expect them to pull “Benghazi” from their vault.

  31. gVOR08 says:


    Speaking of 2024 prep, both Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. Josh Hawley appear to be laying the groundwork for running. They are both likely inheritors of Trump voters.

    I see a lot of talk lately about the future of the GOP party post Trump. I think they’ll keep going just the way they are with Cotton, Hawley, Cruz or some other Koch financed, Tea Party adjacent type picking up the mantle of Fuhrer.

  32. Sleeping Dog says:


    Probably, but like Hunter Biden, Benghazi is yesterday’s news that they’ve rehashed too often. In a pandemic and ongoing economic depression, no one is going to give a sh%t about about an ancient non-scandal.

  33. JohnMcC says:

    Thought of mentioning on yesterday’s Harris-for-VP? thread (but it seemed sort of minor league) and now that there’s a second, I’ll enter this item: If Ms Harris is the nominee we’re going to hear quite a bit about Mayor Willie Brown. The amusingly named “American Thinker” had an article way back in Jan ’19 with the headline ‘Willie Brown admits it: Kamala Harris slept her way to the top’.

    Put that up against Ms Duckworth’s birtherism if you keep score on that kind of junk.

  34. de stijl says:


    Apparently Cruz is a dick. Not just to Ds but to colleagues and staff. Teddy boy has reached his pinnacle and now the decline. Karma.

  35. Jen says:

    @JohnMcC: Yeah, I mentioned that in yesterday’s thread. Bottom line, there will always be something that the right will attempt to use for character assassination. I’m not sure how they get away with it considering current party leadership, but it’s there.

  36. Kylopod says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Probably, but like Hunter Biden, Benghazi is yesterday’s news that they’ve rehashed too often. In a pandemic and ongoing economic depression, no one is going to give a sh%t about about an ancient non-scandal.

    Nobody gave a shit about it at the time it happened–nobody outside the Fox bubble, that is. Remember Romney’s epic flop when he tried to use it against Obama in 2012 (“Please proceed, governor”)? And contrary to what some liberals think, there’s no evidence it hurt Hillary. She was astronomically popular around the time, and she remained so for quite a while after. It wasn’t until emailgate that her numbers took a real hit. I don’t think it had any more substance than Benghazi, but there’s no question it damaged her politically in a way that Benghazi simply didn’t.

    Now, as you point out, it seems like ancient news on top of things. If they harp on the fact that “4 people died!”–now, during the pandemic–they’ll just sound even more tone-deaf.

  37. Sleeping Dog says:


    Yup! As election day approaches we will likely be closing in on 300000 C-19 deaths. I’d love to see the R’s talking about 4 deaths in a country that most voters couldn’t find on a map, much less the city in which it happened.

  38. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Considering multiple posts here at OTB regarding hollowed-out federal organizations and weakened institutions of government, it seems evident that “Trumpism Repair” is going to be a several years project. Even if Biden were considerable younger, I would be hoping for a younger VP purely for the sake of longer term continuity.

    All due respect to Rep. Pelosi and Senator Schumer, but it will also be critical for the next generation of leaders in Congress to emerge and take the reins. With the Cottons and Hawleys in the wings, Trumpism ain’t dead yet. It’s going to be a long, drawn-out fight.

  39. de stijl says:

    @Scott F.:

    Let’s hope Reconstruction is just a history lesson.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    @Jen: Apart from the obvious cohort, I wonder how far Cotton will get with his affection for fascism and saying things like slavery was a necessary evil…meanwhile, Hawley is a fake populist

    Apparently Cruz is a dick.

    There is no “apparent” about it…literally everyone knows this about good ol’ Rafael, er, Ted…

  41. de stijl says:

    @An Interested Party: @Jen:

    He isn’t called Land O Cotton for nothing.