Being vice president is the easiest job in the world — seriously.
You’ve got virtually no power other than breaking tie votes in the Senate, which rarely happens. You go to funerals of foreign leaders, show up at tree plantings and ribbon-cuttings, and praise the president until you’re blue in the face.
President Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, was said to refer to himself as “the most unimportant man in Washington.” President John Adams — the nation’s first vice president who was never invited to a Cabinet meeting of President George Washington’s staff — called the post “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” And Franklin Roosevelt’s first veep, John Nance Garner, once said the job was “not worth a bucket of warm spit” (or other liquid).
But then again, nowadays, you make $235,000 a year, get a free mansion to live in and a personal plane, not to mention a staff of hundreds. You rarely make the news (unless you do something stupid), and you just kill time for four or eight years until you yourself run for the White House.
Yet Vice President Kamala Harris doesn’t seem to know what her job is (although it is detailed in the Constitution). She said as much when she sat down for a friendly interview last week with “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, who asked her point-blank what she does.
“I know you love ‘Veep,’” Ms. Harris said, laughing that maniacal laugh that’ll keep her out of the White House.
“I do! I love ‘Veep.’ Is it accurate?” Mr. Colbert asked.
“There are bits of it that are actually quite accurate,” Ms. Harris said, telling a story about how one of her staffers filled her ornate office with smoke by lighting a fire in the fireplace without opening the flue. Ah, such an everyman. Who doesn’t have problems with their office fireplace?
But then Mr. Colbert got serious. “One of the themes of the show is that her character, Selina Meyer, is frustrated by the sometimes vague duties of the role. It’s a high constitutional office but does not describe what you’re supposed to be doing. Does that ring true? Like, what’s the actual role on a daily basis as you have found it?” Mr. Colbert asked.
“Well, I have the great privilege of serving with Joe Biden, who is the president of the United States … and was vice president,” Ms. Harris said.
“Does he understand what it’s like to be vice president?” Mr. Colbert then asked.
“He does, he does,” Ms. Harris said. “He really is a true partner, and he understands that job. And remember, we came in during the height of the pandemic. And so much of the work was about, OK, we’ve got to cover a lot of bases and let’s figure out between us how we can do it. But he’s an extraordinary leader, and I wish people could see what I see because there’s only one person who sits behind that Resolute Desk. And the decisions that person has to make are the decisions that nobody else in the country can make. And he’s an extraordinary leader. He really is.”
What the …? How is that an answer to what her actual role is as vice president?
Mr. Colbert was on to Ms. Harris for trying to evade. “That’s an excellent answer, and, uh, the question was what’s the job of the vice president,” Mr. Colbert said as Ms. Harris cackled. “And your answer is part of the job, I’m guessing.”
Ms. Harris never mentioned that Mr. Biden, upon taking office, immediately appointed her border czar, charging her with solving the U.S.-Mexico border crisis. She’s been there once as vice president, and the problem continues to get worse.
And Ms. Harris could have been sent to East Palestine, Ohio, after a devastating train derailment spread deadly chemicals everywhere — heck, she could’ve taken on that duty herself. Instead, she did nothing.
Because the job is so vaguely set out, vice presidents have to make their own legacy — should they choose to. Vice President Lyndon Johnson asserted his longtime tenure in Congress to help President John F. Kennedy enact his agenda. As vice president, Al Gore helped shepherd President Bill Clinton’s environmental policy. And Vice President Dick Cheney, with his broad military and foreign policy expertise, stepped up to steer George W. Bush’s response to 9/11.
But Ms. Harris has never been interested in working hard. She much prefers flying around the world delivering speeches that often end in unintelligible word salads. She has an opportunity to grab the job by the horns, but she’d rather do nothing — and sit around chatting with talk show hosts.
The forgettable vice president will be nothing more than a footnote to history — and (prediction) one of the few who does not win her party’s nomination for president.
But don’t ask her. Ms. Harris was busy Monday doing a teleconference on wildfire resilience funding. Oh, and she sent Dylan Mulvaney a one-year “birthday” note congratulating the biological male turned female for 365 days of “living authentically.”
Warm bucket of spit, indeed.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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