A new report in Politico claims that Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), widely regarded as the front-runner to become Democratic nominee-to-be Joe Biden’s running mate, is coming up against questions of “trust” and whether she could be a “loyal No. 2.”

Former senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who is helping to lead Biden’s search committee, was reportedly perturbed at Harris’s response when he brought up the fact that, during the first Democratic primary debate, Harris had taken a tough shot at Biden’s past opposition to forced school busing. According to a Politico source:

“She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to POLITICO on condition of anonymity.
“Dodd felt it was a gimmick, that it was cheap,” the donor said. The person added that Dodd’s concerns about Harris were so deep that he’s helped elevate California Rep. Karen Bass during the vetting process, urging Biden to pick her because “she’s a loyal No. 2. And that’s what Biden really wants.” Through an aide, Dodd declined to comment. Advisers to Harris also declined to comment.

The article suggests that some Biden allies fear Trump may “weaponize” (in advertisements) the debate-stage clash between Harris and Biden over his record on busing, which was the most notable moment of her failed bid for the nomination. Since endorsing Biden in March, Harris has campaigned energetically on his behalf.

This reported anxiety about Harris, however, suggests a different standard for women as running mates. They are apparently supposed to be window-dressing — demure and apologetic.

I don’t claim to have any special knowledge of where things stand with the vice-presidential selection process. But if Biden were to tap Harris, he would hardly be the first to turn to a rival who had scuffed him up in a primary.

Biden himself stands as an example. Barack Obama picked the then-Delaware senator in 2008, despite the fact that Biden had warned that his colleague from Illinois — who was still in his first term — would be a “naive” commander in chief.

After candidate Obama said in August 2007 that he would be willing to order strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, several of his more seasoned rivals piled on.

Biden at the time was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his comments were especially scorching.

“In order to look tough, he’s undermined his ability to be tough, were he president," Biden said of Obama. “Because if you’re going to go into Pakistan — which is already our policy by the way, if there’s actionable intelligence — you need actionable intelligence from moderates within Pakistan working with you. Now if you’re already going to say I’m going to disregard whatever the country thinks and going to invade, the likelihood you’re getting the cooperation you need evaporates. It’s a well-intended notion he has, but it’s a very naive way of figuring out how you’re going to conduct foreign policy.”

You know who else was running that year? Dodd. He said of Obama: “Over the past several days, Sen. Obama’s assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused. He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options."

That Obama would then turn to Biden as a running mate — and more importantly, a governing partner — was a sign of Obama’s confidence, as well as his understanding that he would need candor and a range of perspectives to be a success as president.

Black women are the Democrats’ most reliable voting bloc. Here’s how seven prominent black female activists and media figures say Joe Biden can win them over. (The Washington Post)

And he was far from the first nominee to embrace a top critic. In 1980, against the advice of many in his camp, GOP nominee Ronald Reagan chose as his running mate George H.W. Bush, who had labeled Reagan’s policies “voodoo economics.”

Compare that with the current situation: an administration of yes-men and yes-women who are banished and branded as disloyal if they breathe the slightest whisper of dissent.

If anything, Harris’s lack of “remorse” should recommend her for the job. She is an able debater, and a tough inquisitor in Senate hearings. Harris also has the perspective that comes from growing up as a nonwhite woman in this country.

Biden should hope that Harris — or whomever he picks — should not be bashful about stating her views, or apologetic when she does not prevail. No one knows better than Biden how important it is for a president to have a strong partner.

Read more: