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The White House held an atypical bilateral meeting Friday between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. What made the bilateral meeting atypical was the pronounced lack of President Joe Biden’s presence.
“A bilateral meeting at the White House between a U.S. vice president and a visiting head of state – followed by a joint appearance featuring the two – is highly unusual,” Fox News reported.
“The event included a photo-op of Harris and Moon walking and talking before the meeting, which included Moon and several of his aides, and Harris and several of hers,” Fox News added.
Today, I met with Republic of Korea President Moon. We discussed North Korea, global health, and how we can address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle. We look forward to working with President Moon to address the challenges we face. pic.twitter.com/6NpvWQKpzH
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) May 21, 2021
DIPLOMACY: Vice President Kamala Harris meets with H.E. Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea. pic.twitter.com/ZHCsjO5jsq
— Forbes (@Forbes) May 21, 2021
To be fair, the president reportedly met with Moon later that day:
I was honored to host H.E. Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea. The alliance between our two nations is stronger than ever and the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity for Northeast Asia, the Indo-Pacific, and the world. pic.twitter.com/J7fdqgoQQn
— President Biden (@POTUS) May 22, 2021
The vice president’s meeting nevertheless marked a pattern of her participating in events typically above the pay grade of her position.
And it wasn’t the first time Harris has spoken with another world leader on her own. That same day, in fact, she took a call with Jordanian King Abdullah II in order to address the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in Gaza.
And since taking office in January, Harris has spoken — without Biden — to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emanuel Macron. Last month, she welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House before his scheduled summit with Biden.
As for her meeting with Moon, it didn’t go as swimmingly as one might prefer. Video footage from their public appearance seemed to show her briefly wiping her hand on her pants after shaking the foreign leader’s hand.
So awkward !! pic.twitter.com/vD2Sv8EaKs
— 🧢מאק (@beingrealmac) May 21, 2021
The video above prompted some comments from Twitter users.
She’s a class act all of it low class of course.
— Bill Oxenford (@billoxenford) May 21, 2021
Remember when the MSM tried to tell us Trump dumped a box of fish food in the pond and created a scandal about it, will the do the same about this?
— Desert Rh1no (@AnonDSV) May 21, 2021
Kamala, always the epitome of grace and good manners.
— Saralee (@Saraleestb) May 21, 2021
She is the classist person in the whole government. You can bet that pic will be all over the Korean news as disrespectful. But that is our Kammy. Classless to the core.
— Alan White (@nomoretweedles) May 22, 2021
Someone never learned how to be professional in public. That’s one of the first rules of a job interview….lmao, but then again, she didn’t get jobs with interviews and “hand shakes”.
— @RatDog_2020 (@2020Ratdog) May 21, 2021
Back in February, Politico claimed that the vice president was purposefully being granted so many foreign policy duties so that she could up foreign policy bona fides in preparation for potentially taking over if Biden doesn’t run for reelection 2024.
But since February, the president has claimed that he’s fully intent on running.
“My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation,” he said during a briefing in late March.
So why is he still allowing Harris to handle so many foreign policy duties?
Just weeks earlier in late April, Glynda Carr, the president of Higher Heights, a group that backs black female candidates, said that if Harris performs well handling foreign policy issues, it would “strengthen her political resume, positioning her as a more well-rounded leader,” as reported in the words of The 19th.
“People are talking about who the next president will be, may that be in four years or eight years. Being able to show her depth and breadth on a variety of issues will be important,” Carr said to the independent news agency in her own words.
Meanwhile, Douglas MacKinnon, a former writer for the Reagan and H.W. Bush administrations, argued in a column for The Hill late last month that, despite the president’s desire to run in 2024, he may not even make it that far.
“While acknowledging that President Biden has made known his intention to run for reelection, let’s default to the politically probable. For age and health reasons, Biden may not run for a second term — and some believe there’s a possibility that Harris might very well become president before 2024,” he wrote.
And that’s why, MacKinnon added, “Harris is doing precisely what appears to be in the best interests of her political future.”
The question then becomes why Biden is allowing the vice president such leeway. Is he too out of it to notice that she’s stealing his thunder? Or is he aware of what she’s doing but OK with it because he’s simply too tired (or “sleepy,” rather) to handle all the duties of his job himself?
Kamala, “I have to meet you, because JOE is napping.” 💤
— Trivett (@Trivett82234013) May 21, 2021