Author Jeffrey Frank has written two biographies of American presidents, one about Harry S. Truman and another about the relationship between Dwight D. Eisenhower and his Vice President Richard Nixon. He draws on that knowledge of history to argue that President Biden is doing a poor job preparing VP Harris to succeed him.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a first-term senator from California before entering the White House, hasn’t been given the sort of immersive experiences or sustained, high-profile tasks that would deepen and broaden her expertise in ways Americans could see and appreciate. In the modern era, of course, a 68-day trip for a vice president would be laughable. But over the past 18 months, her on-the-job training in governing has largely involved intractable issues like migration and voting rights where she has not shown demonstrable growth in leadership and hit-or-miss trips overseas like the troubled foray in Central America a year ago and the more successful delegation to meet with the United Arab Emirates’ new president, leading a team that included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin…

Americans deserve to know and see that they have a vice president who is trusted by White House and administration officials to take over, should anything happen to the president.

Instead, we have mostly seen the opposite. She is hampered by Mr. Biden’s unpopularity, to be sure, but she has also not become the successful public face on any major issue.

What comes across in the piece, in addition to Biden’s failure to prepare Harris for the role is a certain amount of urgency because of Biden’s age and apparent frailty.

Mr. Biden’s announcement last week that he tested positive for the coronavirus underscores the clear and present need for the 79-year-old leader, his aides and Ms. Harris to find ways for her to become a true governing partner rather than just a political partner who helped him get elected…

No American president has celebrated his 80th birthday while in office, as Mr. Biden is set to do on Nov. 20. He is, thankfully, experiencing “very mild symptoms” of Covid, according to his press secretary, but it’s still hard to ignore actuarial reality and the plain fact that he appears frailer than a man or woman of 60 (or, for that matter, his 57-year-old vice president).

Biden may be talking as if he’ll run for reelection in two years but there’s plenty of evidence Americans in general and his party in particular don’t want any more of him, probably partly because of his age and apparently frailty. But that just puts more pressure on Harris as the heir apparent. The fact that nearly halfway through Biden’s term she’s not remotely ready to succeed him is a problem for the party. If nothing else it’s an opportunity squandered. Franks concludes the piece on that note, calling it an “urgent obligation” that he “hasten and advance the education and authority of his vice president.”

What Franks mostly sidesteps is the possibility that Harris never really demonstrated she was popular enough to earn the presidency. He does note that Harris left the presidential race early. She dropped out in early December of 2019 a month before candidates like Julian Castro and Marianne Williamson and two months before Andrew Yang and Deval Patrick. Whatever it was that Democrats didn’t see in her then, they pretty clearly still don’t see it in her now. RCP puts her approval rating average underwater by 15 points, about 4 points better than Biden himself. And you have to think at least some of that difference is simply the fact that people don’t hold the VP responsible for conditions in the same way they tend to blame the president. In other words, were Harris to become president next week, her polling would likely sink further.

You can get a pretty good sense of what people think about Harris just by looking at the comments on this opinion piece. Here’s the top comment:

Kamala Harris has failed to distinguish herself in the various roles she has been given. For example, on immigration she never even bothered to go to the border for a photo opportunity showing her concern. Her public speaking skills would probably be ranked at a C- level in a high school debate. Maybe the primary voters knew a lot more than given credit for when they rejected her out of hand.

And the #2 comment:

Why the Biden team picked Harris for VP is a mystery to me and millions of others. He didn’t need help in winning California, and Harris’s career to that point had been mediocre…and continues to be so as VP. Picking an African-American woman was an important move, but Biden would have been better off going with Val Demings from Florida — a congresswoman and former police commissioner from Florida, a state he needed help in, or Susan Rice, an experienced foreign affairs envoy with global contacts. Either one would have been far more able qualified to fill-in as president than Harris were something to happen to Biden.

And this comment suggests she’s in a “doom loop.”

I’m a liberal person of color from the Bay Area, followed Harris from her DA days. Not a fan of her politically. She seems like a robot with a bit of condescension radiating when she speaks. I remember her being asked tough questions on the campaign trail and immediately turning to her handlers(her sister) to feed her an answer. It’s clear Biden picked her strictly as a move to capture the multiracial vote while having littler respect for her as a politician. Now from the outside it looks like a doom loop where Biden doesn’t trust her, she can’t get off the bench to try to improve in the game, and thus Biden continues to keep her on the bench.

Anyway, you can scroll through them yourself. Some readers offer a bit of support but quite a few seem to think she’s in over her head.

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