Working for the vice president of the United States has gotta be a pretty cake job. Sure, like any other, there’s pressure, but it’s not like the veep does much of anything anyway (John Nance Garner, who served under President Franklin Roosevelt from 1933-1941, once famously described the vice presidency as “not worth a bucket of warm piss”).
Yet there’s been a steady flow — a torrent, actually — of top-level staffers bailing out of high-paying, cushy positions in Vice President Kamala Harris’ office. Last week, deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh became that latest to bail, announcing she is leaving the vice president’s office to take a job at the Defense Department, according to the New York Post.
The Defense Department? From the veep’s office to the Pentagon? That’s no lateral move. That’s a definite downgrade. Ms. Singh’s departure also means just one of the four top communications positions is left from the original staff on Inauguration Day just 14 months ago.
And consider this: The Post said Ms. Singh “is at least the ninth key official to depart the veep’s office since this past summer — joining director of digital strategies Rajun Kaur, director of advance Karly Satkowiak, deputy director of advance Gabrielle DeFranceschi, communications director Ashley Etienne, chief spokesman Symone Sanders, director of press operations Peter Velz, deputy director of public engagement Vince Evans, and speechwriting director Kate Childs Graham.”
But wait: Literally, as I was writing this column, a tenth staffer bailed. National Security Adviser Nancy McEldowney is to leave Ms. Harris’ office, and, of course, she handled Ukraine and Russia. Good timing.
It’s not like they’re moving up to the White House or some other high-level gig. Mr. Evans, for instance, quit in January to take on a new job on Capitol Hill, CNBC reported. He left to join the Congressional Black Caucus, which is headed by Rep. Joyce Beatty, and which was also clearly less than a lateral move.
Ms. McEldowney didn’t even bother making an excuse and doesn’t even have another job, she just said she’s leaving over “some pressing personal matters.”
Bottom line: They just can’t wait to get the heck out of Ms. Harris’ office — even though she’s only been in for 14 months. If you were job hunting, a prospective employee would most definitely ask this question: “Why did you leave your last job after little more than a year?”
In December 2021, the core of her office, Ms. Sanders and Ms. Etienne bolted. Their exits followed a devastating USA Today/Suffolk University poll that showed Harris earning a dismal 28% approval rating — 10 points behind President Biden, who sat at a not-so-pretty 38% approval.
Yet another report said the two top elected officials in the country are at war, prompting desperate Harris aides to defend their bosses, slamming the media for “gossip.”
“Joe Biden’s relationship with Kamala Harris is in crisis, with her staff furious that she is being ‘sidelined,’ while the president’s team are increasingly frustrated by how she is playing with American public,” the Daily Mail reported. “Harris’ approval rating has plunged even further than Biden’s in recent months, with rumors swirling that the president is considering appointing her to the Supreme Court as a backdoor method of selecting a new VP.”
But apparently, Ms. Harris wasn’t the Black woman Mr. Biden was looking for to appoint to the high court.
The reports about a dysfunctional office emerged first on CNN. “Many current and former West Wing aides say that Vice President Kamala Harris is not being adequately prepared or positioned, and instead is being sidelined, causing frustration among staffers,” CNN wrote.
“Interviews with nearly three dozen former and current Harris aides, administration officials, Democratic operatives, donors and outside advisers — who spoke extensively to CNN — reveal a complex reality inside the White House. Many in the vice president’s circle fume that she’s not being adequately prepared or positioned, and instead is being sidelined. The vice president herself has told several confidants she feels constrained in what she’s able to do politically. And those around her remain wary of even hinting at future political ambitions, with Biden’s team highly attuned to signs of disloyalty, particularly from the vice president,” CNN said.
And an unnamed staffer told The Washington Post, “With Kamala, you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence. So you’re constantly sort of propping up a bully and it’s not really clear why.”
One thing is clear though: People just keep quitting their high-paying, cushy jobs to get away from Ms. Harris.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl