According to a new book from two New York Times journalists, first lady Jill Biden was far from thrilled by her husband’s decision to make then-Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) his vice president.
The book, written by Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns of The NYT, is titled “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future” — and it details tensions between Harris and Biden and their respective camps both during the campaign and after arriving at the White House.
First lady Jill Biden reportedly made it clear early on that she was not happy to welcome Harris to her husband’s ticket. According to Burns and Martin, she referenced Harris’ debate-stage attempt to paint then candidate Joe Biden as a racist — citing his friendships with known segregationists and his opposition to busing — and she wondered to an adviser whether there wasn’t a better choice among the millions of other Americans who might be available.
“Speaking in confidence with a close adviser to her husband’s campaign, the future first lady posed a pointed question. There are millions of people in the United States, she began. Why, she asked, do we have to choose the one who attacked Joe?”
Jill Biden’s spokesman, Michael LaRosa, made it clear that the first lady had no plans to comment on the book. “Many books will be written on the 2020 campaign, with countless retellings of events — some accurate, some inaccurate. The first lady and her team do not plan to comment on any of them,” he said.
The book also suggests that the first lady was not the only one who questioned Harris’ abilities. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield reportedly complained about Harris as well, suggesting that the problems in her office might be about her rather than her staffers.
“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.”
Bedingfield has denied ever making such comments, telling Politico, “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.”
The book also alleges that Harris felt frustrated at times — and even blamed President Biden for some of those frustrations. After specifically asking to help with the push for both election overhaul bills — the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom To Vote Act — Harris reportedly complained that unless Biden forcefully declared his willingness to support senate rule changes, she could not hope to move the measure forward.
“How was she supposed to communicate clearly about voting-rights legislation, Harris asked West Wing aides, when the president would not even say that he supported changing the Senate rules to open the path for a bill?”
Biden did eventually say that he would support such rule changes — but because Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) did not support the rule changes, the bills were still stalled in the Senate.
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