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Even with the predictable media fawning we’ve seen over her since Joe Biden picked her as his running mate last summer, Vice President Kamala Harris cannot escape from some of the less than flattering coverage she’s received over the last few months regarding her disastrous handling of the border crisis to date and the rampant reports that she’s difficult to work with.
As to the latter point, the grapevine talk about the alleged “toxic” working environment around her has become so widespread that a “BBQ” was held at her residence last week, complete with her administrative staff and some members of the press corps in attendance. A number of staffers made sure to post pictures of the event on Twitter to let everyone know how much of a great and caring boss Harris supposedly is.
But despite all the smiling faces in those photographs, the rumors still persist, as evidenced by a new report from Business Insider that details accounts of 12 former Harris staffers who worked with her at various points during her time as a district attorney in California, when she was the state’s attorney general and then a U.S. Senator:
Harris’ turnover in the Senate was on the high end during her four years in the US Capitol’s upper chamber. She ranked No. 9 of 114 senators for highest turnover from 2017 to 2020, the congressional database LegiStorm showed.
Barbara O’Connor, a longtime communications professor at California State University, Sacramento, told Insider that at least 20 interns who worked in Harris’ attorney general and Senate offices came to O’Connor crying and seeking advice, saying they “felt they weren’t valued” in Harris’ office. O’Connor helped transfer about five interns out of Harris’ office at the time, she said.
Many former Harris staffers have been privately grumbling for years to reporters and among one another about their time working for her. Several said the latest media reports about staff dysfunction inside the vice president’s wing of the White House were giving them flashbacks to what some have called low points in their careers, including some who have worked for other high-profile politicians.
One former Harris aide described the culture in the attorney general’s office as “toxic” and “reactionary.” There was “a sense of paranoia in that office that you never knew when she was going to snap at you.”
The story also described some former staffers as having to seek therapy for what they said they went through working for her, while two people who went on the record to talk about their time working for Harris predictably trotted out the race and gender cards to downplay the reports, as though white, male lawmakers have never been on the receiving end of similar types of allegations.
I’m going to inject my .02 here as a woman who has long had a gut feeling about Harris (and I know I’m not alone in this) that I think has been validated over the last two or three years, starting with her conduct during confirmation hearings for then-SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, her failed presidential campaign, and now her time as vice president. And I’m going to be blunt about it.
When you’re a woman whose profile was elevated in all the right circles as the result of an admitted affair with a powerful (and married) political figure in California, that tends to lend itself to the belief in some circles that you’ll say and do anything to climb the ladder.
Harris’ time as California’s AG and then U.S. Senator didn’t do anything to dissuade her critics from that notion. She treated Kavanaugh as a rapist using the “Believe All Women” philosophy, grilling him during the confirmation hearings based on circumstantial “evidence” that was much less substantial than the circumstantial evidence Tara Reade had against Biden, who was accused of rape.
When Harris was asked a year before Reade made her allegations as to whether or not she believed the women who accused Biden of inappropriate touching and hair-sniffing, she said she did. Two months later at the first Democratic presidential primary debate, she all but accused Biden of being a racist over his previous stance on forced bussing. The accusation led to speculation that she would run away with the Democratic nomination, but that faded quickly as her poll numbers began dropping, and after Tulsi Gabbard nuked her at a later debate by exposing her for the shamelessly duplicitous politico she is.
Yet in spite of going on the record in support of Biden’s early accusers and then later suggesting in what was clearly a scripted moment that his stance on forced bussing would have had an impact on children who looked like her, she decided to accept his offer of the vice-presidential nomination. “Believe All Women” and the suggestion that Biden had racist tendencies took a backseat to her political ambitions.
It’s not surprising that a person like this – whether they be a woman or a man – would treat staffers in the ways it has been alleged she has. When all that drives a person is raw ambition and an obsession with rising to the top, for some, they’ll stab you in the back and crush anyone who stands in their way, and from the looks and sounds of things, this describes Harris to a “T.”
Is this standard operating procedure for a lot of politicos? You betcha, but remember, one of the chief criticisms Democratic women have about men in politics is that they’re dirty and will do anything to get ahead, and that women should be different and set a better standard. Yet Harris is no different from the rest of them, which, all things considered, makes her position as the second most powerful person in this country much less significant and ground-breaking than her supporters make it out to be.