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Rich Lowry: The worst VP pick of the last 50 years
Rich Lowry
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review. - photo by File photo

Rich Lowry

Syndicated columnist

Poor Kamala Harris. The alleged misogyny that is tearing at her vice presidency apparently extends to highly partisan Democratic leaders such as Jamie Raskin and Nancy Pelosi.

Both of them caused ripples when their praise for Harris in recent TV interviews was notably cool, as if they were at a high-end fundraising dinner and hated the escargot but had to try to convince the hostess that they really loved it.

The Biden campaign reportedly contacted both Raskin and Pelosi. The Maryland congressman revised his remarks to say that Harris is “unquestionably the best running mate for President Biden in 2024,” while the former House Speaker’s office pointed to the favorable things she said about Harris in her initial interview.

What Raskin and Pelosi clearly know, if they can’t say it out loud, is that Joe Biden botched his vice-presidential pick; it is the worst pick in half a century and easily one of the worst in the last 80 years.

As Democrats begin to realize Biden’s political weakness, with Donald Trump barreling down the pike, Harris is one of the factors — although not the main one — keeping them from doing anything about it.

What if someone did convince Biden to step aside for the good of the party? Well, that might open the way for Harris herself to become the nominee. In other words, out of the pan and into the fire.

Even if she lost in an open nominating process, it’d be quite the spectacle for Democrats to turn away a potentially “historic” presidential nominee for someone else.

So, she’s at least a playing a role in the propping up of what may prove the weakest incumbent presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush.

This isn’t the only downside. Harris is going to be an issue next year because everyone realizes there’s a significant chance that Biden wouldn’t be able to serve out a full second term.

Typically, a vice president’s popularity matters only for his or her own political ambitions; this time, it could make a difference in the presidential race because her standing is, in a word, abysmal.

In the new NBC News poll, the theme of which is that Biden and Trump are both abidingly unpopular, Harris is right there with them. At 31%, her positive rating is lower than both of theirs, and her negative rating, 51%, is higher than Biden’s.

The bar Biden needed to clear in his vice-presidential pick wasn’t high. He either needed a political nonentity or a popular entity who ideally had some governing credibility; instead, he went with the unpopular nonentity.

How does this rank with prior bad choices? As it happens (funny how this works), the most maligned recent picks are all Republicans.

Let’s run through them. Sarah Palin was not suited to be president of the United States but was a Hail Mary in a basically unwinnable race, so we should discount that pick for inconsequence. Dick Cheney was a governing choice who, despite all the obloquy heaped on him, performed admirably. Dan Quayle’s reputation was destroyed by the press, but he didn’t play into George H.W. Bush’s fate one way or the other.

I think to find a worse major-party pick — and actual vice president —you have to go back to Spiro Agnew. At least, as far as we know, Harris hasn’t been taking kickbacks that will force her to resign — in fact, she may be the relatively ethical half of the Biden-Harris ticket.

Prior to that, you probably have to go back to Henry Wallace, whom Democrats thankfully dumped in 1944 after he served one term as FDR’s vice president. Wallace’s views on the Soviet Union were criminally naive and disqualifying for any high official of the United States.

Wherever you rank Kamala Harris, there’s no doubt that she’s a poor selection that Democrats will almost certainly have to tolerate because of an ideological trap of their own making.

Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.

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