Commentary: Biden’s smart pick for vice president tells us a lot

Kamala Harris with Joe Biden March 9, 2020 just before they appear on stage in Detroit. Photo Facebook

Every smart executive knows that you’re only as good as the team you build around you.

It’s a lesson I’ve learned over my entire career, and a lesson that clearly escaped our current president. Joe Biden just proved he gets it. By picking Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, Biden has selected a strong governing partner for his White House.

At a time when the country is facing the worst series of crises in generations, we have seen how debilitating it is to have a White House that is in a constant state of chaos and turmoil, bouncing from one scandal to another, from one reckless decision to another, from one broken promise to another, and from one petty Twitter fight to another.

The country needs stable, mature, responsible leadership to pull us out of this ongoing disaster – and Harris will help Biden deliver it. With his eight years as vice president, Joe understands the value of having a partner who can complement and balance the chief executive’s experience. Joe’s decades in the Senate proved to be a major asset for President Barack Obama, especially his successful work with legislators to pass the Affordable Care Act. In the same way, Harris’ experience on Capitol Hill – and her leadership on issues of racial equity and criminal justice reform – will be invaluable in a Biden administration.

For instance: As district attorney of San Francisco, Harris created one of the first reentry initiatives in the country, helping to better prepare people who had been incarcerated to apply for jobs and rejoin their communities. She also pulled back the curtain on problems within California’s criminal justice system by making the data more transparent – because she understood the mantra we always lived by at City Hall in New York: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Harris also brings management experience to the job. As attorney general of California, she ran the second-largest justice department in the nation, overseeing some 5,000 employees throughout the state. In that job, and in the U.S. Senate, she strongly supported universal background checks for gun sales – and laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other dangerous people.

I supported her in her race for the Senate in 2016 because it was clear she wasn’t afraid to take on tough fights, and that includes the fight for voting rights. The voter suppression efforts made by Republicans across the country are an affront to democracy – and a major setback for civil rights. I have been supporting organizations like Fair Fight, Collective Future and Voto Latino that are working to clear barriers to the ballot box, but we need a Justice Department that joins them and acts aggressively to secure voting rights for all communities. Harris and Biden will make sure of it.

There are a lot of reasons that Biden picked Harris, including the fact that, over the course of the campaign, she demonstrated she was ready to be commander in chief. But as attention focuses on Harris, it’s important to remember what the selection says about Biden. During the campaign, the two of them had their differences and disagreements. But that didn’t stop him from picking her. In fact, knowing Biden as I do, I’d be willing to bet it made her an even more appealing pick. And here’s why:

Biden knows that in building a strong team, it’s imperative to surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to tell you exactly what they think – especially when they think you’re wrong. Harris has the guts to do that for Biden, just as Biden did it for Obama. It may be the single most important role that a vice president can play. And over the past four years, we have seen what happens when a vice president insists that a naked emperor is fully clothed.

Biden’s selection of Harris bodes well for the kind of president he would be: someone who prioritizes competence, listens to and respects different viewpoints, embraces diversity and builds teams with strong leaders. And given the extraordinary crisis we are in, we need those values back in the White House more urgently than ever.

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Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and a global ambassador for the World Health Organization, is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

 

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