In an unusual joint interview on CNN that further confirmed Kamala Harris will be one of the most consequential vice-presidents in US history, the duo promised a “simpatico” relationship — one characterized by easy-going compatibility and trust even when they disagree.
“We are full partners….the President-elect has been — since the first day he asked me to join him on the ticket — very clear with me that he wants me to be the first and the last in the room,” Harris said in the in-person interview where they sat at least 12 feet apart from each other and the host Jake Tapper. “And so, on every issue that impacts the American people, I will be a full partner to the President-elect and the President. And whatever our priorities are, I will be there to support him and support the American people.”
Biden on his part said he and Harris have become friends and “are simpatico on our philosophy of government and simpatico on how we want to attack — approach these issues that we’re facing. … and when we disagree it will be just like — so far it has been just like when Barack and I did.” The portfolio that would land on Harris’ desk would not be what she asks for or would be interested in, as Al Gore did with environment during the Clinton Presidency, but what needed urgent attention.
The Biden explication suggested Harris’ remit would extend far beyond her specialty areas given her background in law and order, justice, civil rights and allied fields. In the interview, the duo identified four crises affecting Americans: Coronavirus, the economy, racial inequity, and climate change.
While the climate change remit has been parceled out to former Secretary of State John Kerry and the economic team of Janet Yellin, Neera Tanden, Cecilia Rouse and others is being put in place, there is much jockeying in the party for the post of Attorney General and Health and Human Services (HHS) department, with powerful African and Hispanic lobbies pressing for their candidates.
Biden was reported to have initially considered Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General during the Obama Presidency, to head HHS. But given his lack of experience in running a vast bureaucracy, the search in on for someone with more extensive management experience.
Supported by the Latino lobby New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is said to be a top contender, although Murthy is expected to get a second stint as Surgeon General with expanded responsibility given the pandemic situation and his status as one of the three co-chairs of president-elect Biden’s coronavirus advisory board.
The Black and Latino lobbies are also duking it out for the powerful Attorney General post that would oversee the Justice Department. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is pressing Biden to appoint either California Attorney General Xavier Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez for the job. But the African-American lobby wants a black AG given the context of the Black Lives Matter struggle, and the fact that Biden has already nominated Cuban-American Alejandro Mayorkas for Secretary of Homeland Security.
In fact, there is already a murmur of disapproval among the more radical Democratic elements over the establishment line toed by party grandees with regards to BLM protests. Several so-called progressive lawmakers including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib tee’d off against Obama this week after the former President suggested Democrats lose support with “snappy” slogans like defund the police.
“We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety,” Ilhan Omar clapped back on Twitter. “Damn, Mr. President. Didn’t you say ‘Trayvon could’ve been my son?’ In 2014, #BlackLivesMatter was too much. Today, discussing police budgets is too much. The problem is America’s comfort with Black death — not discomfort with slogans.” tweeted Jamaal Bowman, a newly-elected progressive from New York who defeated a ten-term establishment Democrat Eliot Engel.
While more radical Democrats want the Biden administration to get after Trump and his cronies amid growing concern over criminal overreach in the final days in office, including pardon-for-bribes report, the President-elect said his Justice Department will “operate independently on those issues.”
“I’m not going to be telling them what they have to do and don’t have to do. I’m not going to be saying, ‘go prosecute A, B or C’, I’m not going to be telling them. That’s not the role, it’s not my Justice Department, it’s the people’s Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn’t,” Biden said.
In fact, Biden virtually urged Trump to attend his inauguration in the interest of unifying the country, saying it will show a “peaceful transfer of power with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on.”
“The protocol of the transfer of power, I think, is important. But it is totally his decision, and it has no personal consequence to me. But I do think it is for the country,” Biden said in the joint interview.
Trump is still fighting it out in courts, losing the same election again and again in embarrassing legal and political setbacks, and making unhinged speeches and charges that are elicit eye rolls even among Republicans now.