Kamala Harris skillfully running silent and deep
With regard to the coming presidential election in 2024 — the scenarios for which already are creating an escalating buzz — it is amazing to see the false bravado building among some in the Republican Party with regard to the fantasy of how easy it will be to reclaim the White House.
In checking off that victory box, they are underestimating or ignoring the one political force that could crush their dreams: Vice President Harris. Maybe they assume they are going to face the woman who got next to no votes in the 2020 Democratic primary and was forced to end her campaign in late 2019. If so, they are making a mistake.
While acknowledging that President Biden has made known his intention to run for reelection, let’s default to the politically probable. For age and health reasons, Biden may not run for a second term — and some believe there’s a possibility that Harris might very well become president before 2024.
Whichever office she holds when the election cycle begins, Harris is likely to be a formidable force who should not be discounted by anyone on the right — despite her poor showing in the 2020 cycle. Each day in the White House teaches her how to more effectively wield the tremendous power of that institution and is making her more battle-hardened in the process.
It’s a process that is also punishingly political.
Harris knows that as well as anyone. For that reason, she has not only the best interests of the United States at heart but also the best interests of Kamala Harris at heart.
Back in 1955, former U.S. submarine Cmdr. Edward Beach wrote a bestselling novel titled “Run Silent, Run Deep,” which became a 1958 movie by the same name starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Its obvious theme was to run silent and run deep so as not to give away your position until ready to attack.
When immersed in turbulent political waters, experienced and intelligent politicians quickly learn to “run silent and run deep” — they hold their cards tightly to their chests while giving deep thought to the obstacles before them.
Since she was chosen as Biden’s running mate, and most especially since becoming vice president, Harris, one could certainly argue, has been pragmatically “running very silent and very deep.”
The political waters in which she finds herself are not only turbulent but unchartered in many ways. Her boss is the oldest person ever elected president in the history of the United States and someone who is seen as the face of the entrenched establishment by many on the left.
Common sense and the will for political survival would dictate that Harris tread lightly at first, a fair distance away from the Good Ship Biden, which might sail into a storm — self-created or otherwise — in the blink of an eye.
For Harris, two quick examples of damaging political and policy storms threatening to engulf her come to mind. The first is the increasingly untenable immigration issue along our border with Mexico. Last week, Biden finally used the word “crisis” while addressing the subject.
On March 24, Biden placed Harris in charge of managing the migrant surge that has been washing up to the border. Said a senior administration official that day, during a conference call with the media, “Starting today, the Northern Triangle nations and Mexico will know there was one senior official dedicated to this effort. To be very clear, this is an important task.”
OK, that’s one way to look at it. Another way, if one were just the least bit cynical, would be to conclude that Biden put Harris in charge of that visual, social and political hot potato because he knew it could be an eventual “lose-lose” for him and wanted to transfer ownership of that quagmire to her. Harris would understand this “honor” handed to her from the president better than anyone.
For the past three weeks, much of the conservative media have pounded the fact that even though Biden put her in charge, Harris has not visited the border to address the “crisis.” Politically, why should she? Any competent political adviser would tell her that until she has iron-clad evidence of good news to report, she should remain silent and let the various federal agencies involved there continue their work.
The next example is a self-created storm that Harris did not need: Biden’s decision to call Russian President Vladimir Putin “a killer.”
Again, if we assume that Harris might like to run for president in 2024, having Biden call a tough world leader “a killer” — a leader with whom she will have to deal in one form or another, a man who controls a massive nuclear arsenal, powerful military, first-rate intelligence service and small army of skilled cyber hackers — is clearly a headache she could do without.
At the moment, Harris is doing precisely what appears to be in the best interests of her political future. She is running silent and deep until she feels certain she has a firm hand on the controls. In the meantime, if Republicans continue to underestimate the vice president and her political strategy, their chances of winning the next presidential election could be sunk by a few well-placed Harris torpedoes come fall 2024.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.