By Arab News
By Dalia Al-Aqidi*
Amid the continuing debate in some circles over whether US President Joe Biden will be physically or mentally fit to continue in office until the end of his term in 2024, there are doubts and skepticism on both sides of the political aisle about the person who would take over in the event of Biden’s early departure.
The vice president of the United States plays a major role in the executive branch of the federal government.They preside over the Senate, although they do not vote unless there is a tie, in which case they have a casting vote.
Contrary to claims made last year, when Donald Trump urged Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, the vice president does not have that power. Under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the vice president presides over Congress’s certification votes from the individual states, but may not decide them.
Most importantly, however, according to the 25th Amendment to the US constitution, “in case of the removal of the president from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office,” the vice president becomes president.
Which brings us to Kamala Harris — the first South Asian/African American woman to hold the office of vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency. Being the first at something, of course, is not a qualification, unless you are running for office as a Democrat using the obvious “identity politics” strategy. From several qualified candidates, Biden picked his running mate based on “what” rather than “who.”
Harris has failed in every mission Biden has given her, causing her approval rating to plunge even among Democrats. Her lack of leadership was illustrated by her action — or inaction — when she was designated “border czar,” the administration’s face of the US-Mexico border crisis.
For months, she was missing in action and refused to visit the southern US border, or even hold a press conference to discuss one of the most important humanitarian issues in her country. When a TV interviewer pointed out that she had never visited the border, she laughed it off and replied, infamously: “And I haven’t been to Europe.”
Although Harris insisted that her approach to the border crisis would focus on the root causes of the migration problem, her first foreign trip to Guatemala and Mexico was such a disappointment that even liberal US media outlets began to question her political adroitness, both as vice president and as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.
Harris’s Southeast Asian tour last month did not improve her national and global profile either, since it was overshadowed by the Afghanistan debacle, with several foreign powers expressing public doubts about the US role as the leader of the free world.
Once again, when Harris was asked about the chaotic exit from Afghanistan and the fate of American citizens there, she at first laughed the question off. Then she said the Afghanistan issue had the highest priority for the Biden administration — a statement that might have carried more weight had she made it in Afghanistan rather than Singapore.
With US citizens still stranded in the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and thousands of Afghan citizens who helped the US and NATO troops for the past 20 years still at the mercy of the radical Taliban, Harris chose to travel to her home state of California to campaign for the embattled Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. During her rally, a small group of protesters waved Afghan flags and carried placards that read: “Californians are stranded in Afghanistan. Where’s Kamala?” This was a reference to 29 California students and their families who are still stuck in Afghanistan.
What all this means is that Harris is, in effect, Biden’s “get out of jail free” card. No matter how poor his performance and policies are, he need not fear the possibility of being impeached before the end of his term — because no one, whether Republican or Democrat, would want to see “President Harris” in the White House.
• Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi