Kamala Harris Declares She is Ready, Those Concerned About Biden’s Age Should Be Equally Concerned About Trump’s

by David W. Marshall

Respect has to be earned. So far, many within the Democratic Party feel Vice President Kamala Harris has not earned that respect. More than a dozen Democratic leaders in key states were candid about their assessment of Harris. The vice president’s tenure has been underwhelming, they said, marked by struggles as a communicator and at times near invisibility, leaving many rank-and-file Democrats unpersuaded that she has the force, charisma and skill to mount a winning presidential campaign.

The selection process for any vice presidential candidate is never made by the voters. It is the presidential nominee, with the help from a vetting team, who selects the person they feel will bring the most balance and electability to the ticket. While critics of Vice President Harris sometimes view her as being unprincipled and unqualified, many understand she was originally chosen because of her race and gender. In April 2020, more than 200 Black women who are leaders and activists within the Democratic Party signed an open letter to the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden calling him to select a Black woman as his running mate. “It is a fact that the road to the White House is powered by Black women and Black women are the key to a Democratic victory in 2020,” they wrote. The following month, about a dozen of the women who signed the letter made the case directly to Biden in a conference call. Their pitch was about timing, history and strategy. They believed a Black woman would help Biden win the White House. They were correct.

The candidate for vice president again holds special significance in this year’s November election. The likely rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump raises the question of age and mental ability to a new level of concern. Mental competency should be a major issue giving that Biden, 81 and Trump, 77 are the two oldest men respectively to have been elected president.

As the American electorate is faced with making a four-year investment in the leadership of our nation and the free world, we should do so having comfort over Biden’s and Trump’s long term ability to adequately serve mentally and physically. It is beyond the issues of political ideology, ageism or gaining the political upper hand. Those who have concerns over Biden’s age should have equal concern about Trump’s. In recent weeks, both men had their moments of verbal gaffes during speeches. In a speech, Trump confused Nikki Haley for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Biden had his own mix up when confusing the names of French leaders Macron and Mitterrand. Truthfully, a 39-year old can make the same mistakes. But any type of misstep becomes fair game in the world partisan politics and political campaigns.

Republican strategist Scott Jennings said Vice President Harris is now “squarely” a campaign issue, in wake of a special counsel report on President Biden’s retention of classified documents. The report from special counsel Robert Hur concluded no charges should be brought against the president, but noted Biden had problems with memory and recall.  The report portrayed Biden as an elderly man with “diminished capacities,” including memory loss, claiming Biden could not recall which years he served as vice president or when his son, Beau Biden, had died of brain cancer.

The president’s mental competency is a medical issue. Special counsel Hur is not a doctor, nor is the Department of Justice investigation a physical or mental exam. Therefore, the issue of mental competency should not creep into a judicial case without medical confirmation or relevancy. Republicans are now seizing on the report to attack Biden and Harris. Democrats are already skeptical about Biden running for reelection.  CBS News polls showed 39% of Democrats feel Biden should not run again. Overwhelmingly, his age has become the reason. The number of Democrats who lack confidence in the vice president’s electability is growing with many preferring that Harris not be on the ticket with Biden.

The relationship between a president and vice president can be a simple or complex partnership. The main reason former president Obama chose Biden as his running mate was Obama’s resume was thin in the area of foreign policy. Biden was a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and was viewed as an experienced voice in foreign affairs.

The two men maintained an effective partnership throughout the Obama / Biden years. The same was true with Bill Clinton and Al Gore until the Monica Lewinsky incident. The partnership between President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Harry Truman was more complicated. Truman was not “Roosevelt’s guy”, so he was kept in the dark on a number of critical issues. Although the Roosevelt / Truman ticket won a comfortable election victory, Roosevelt didn’t trust Truman. After Roosevelt’s unexpected death, Truman was vice president for only eighty-two days before becoming president. During his few weeks as vice president, Truman rarely saw Roosevelt. Truman received no briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding difficulties with the Soviet Union. History shows that Truman successfully rose to the monumental occasion after being thrown into the fire.

Asked on CBS’s Face the Nation whether she was prepared to serve as commander-in-chief in case Biden became unable to carry out his duties, Harris said: “Yes, I am, if necessary.” There is always the possibility that Harris could ascend to the highest office and become the first women to serve as U.S. president without being elected. We can only hope that like Truman, Harris can overcome the doubts and rise to the occasion with confidence and success.

David W. Marshall is founder of the faith based organization, TRB: The Reconciled Body, and author of the book “God Bless Our Divided America”.