Joe Biden will announce who his running mate will be next week. Presumably, that means he’s narrowed the field down to a precious few. Two, in fact, if reports are to be believed. The first one should be obvious. Biden has indicated he is looking for a running mate who is “simpatico with me, both in terms of personality as well as substance.”
Initially that was supposed to be Amy Klobuchar. But then George Floyd was murdered and the world turned upside down. Klobuchar did Biden a huge favor by withdrawing her name from consideration, even going so far as to urge the former VP to pick a woman of color. Assuming Biden took the hint, that leaves Kamala Harris as the likely front runner.
Harris checks all the right boxes. Like Biden, she’s a center-left incrementalist who pushes the envelope only as far as she needs to. Ideologically, she’s definitely not part of the Sanders / Warren wing of the Party, despite her early support for Medicare for All. That means it’ll be impossible for the Trump campaign to paint her as a radical. Most importantly, she does no harm, which given Biden’s huge lead in the polls, will be critical down the stretch.
But while the VP slot may be Harris’s to lose, according to Nahal Toosi of Politico, she has some stiff competition. Over the last few weeks, Susan Rice’s stock has risen rapidly. In fact, she might even overtake Harris as Biden’s number one choice by the weekend.
If, like me, you’re scratching your head, going WTF, don’t. Apparently Biden likes her foreign policy chops, and of all the candidates under consideration, Rice is the only one with whom he’s had a working relationship. To those in the Biden orbit, that’s important. Also, and this cannot be overstated, there’s a trust issue with Harris. According to sources within the campaign, Biden was caught off guard by the way Harris went after him in that first debate. He wasn’t expecting it, and given the relationship she had with his son Beau, some say he felt betrayed by the attack.
I have already expressed my reservations concerning Harris. In addition to not being a progressive, based on what we saw during the primaries, she’s not all that compelling a candidate. It’ll be hard for her to generate the kind of excitement that Biden will need to get the base out to the polls in November. Far from balancing the ticket, she would merely consolidate it. In short, she would be to Biden what Tim Kaine was to Hillary Clinton four years ago: a doppelgänger. And we all know how well that worked out, don’t we? No need to rehash a painful memory.
But while Harris is nobody’s vision of Elizabeth Warren, I’d much prefer her to Rice. No knock on the former National Security Advisor, but at least Harris has run for and been elected to office. She also has a working relationship with members of the Senate, which Biden will need if he plans on getting any of his agenda through Congress. Rice’s area of expertise is strictly foreign policy, and it is that very area that will prove to be the most problematic for Biden should she become his running mate.
Look, I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the Benghazi affair still lingers as a sore spot for many. Republicans held 23 hearings into it and though they found nothing, that didn’t stop them from sucking all the oxygen out of the room over it. Why on Earth would Biden want to give this party and, more importantly, this president another bite out of that apple?
The moment Susan Rice is announced as Biden’s running mate, the topic on all the cable news channels will switch from Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus to her appearances on all those Sunday-morning TV shows. I can already see Wolf Blitzer and his panel of so-called experts taking a stroll down memory lane. Apart from Anderson Cooper, there isn’t a single anchor on that network who’s worthy of being called a journalist.
Rice and Biden can say it’s old news all they want, it won’t matter. Trump will get what he’s been looking for since the pandemic hit in March: a chance to get the spotlight off of him and onto a phony scandal that in the end resulted in nothing but a lot of hyperventilating by Republicans, who somehow equated the killing of four people with the sacking of Washington by the British in 1814. Given that William Barr is all but certain to pull his own October surprise by releasing the report on the “origins” of the Russia investigation, the Biden campaign could potentially be dealing with two scandals, both contrived and both equally fatal.
I have been adamant from the beginning that Biden’s choice of a running mate will be the most consequential decision of his candidacy. He cannot afford to fuck this up. There’s too much riding on it. Susan Rice is an immensely talented person who has served her country with distinction. Under normal circumstances, she would be make an ideal vice president.
Unfortunately for her, the circumstances are anything but normal.