Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin As Vice-President

Late in last night's vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, the latter was asked by moderator Gwen Ifill:

Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

Palin responded

Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.

As this video (at the reference to 10:49 of the site's live blogging) from thinkprogress.org indicates, Chris Matthews, fearing another Dick Cheney. was (appropriately) disturbed about Palin's intent to expand the powers of the vice-presidency. He commented, accurately and as an under-statement, "not too much humility here."

He need not be concerned, however. Sarah Palin cannot have increased powers unless each of two events occurs: 1) John McCain is elected; and 2) President McCain chooses to give Vice-President Palin the increased authority she seeks.

Even if scenario #1 occurs (despite Palin's presence on the ticket), scenario #2 isn't likely. Article 1, Section 3 of the United States Constitution lays out the authority of the Vice-President: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided. " And it's improbable that Mr. McCain has a different view of the role of the vice-president. As this website reminds us, "even John McCain has joked that a Vice President has two main jobs: checking on the health of the President and attending funerals of foreign leaders." Although that regarded speculation that he would be selected as George W. Bush's running mate in 2000, the Arizona senator as recently as April of this year, "joked" that the main function of a vice-president is to check daily on the health of the president.

No, if John McCain wanted a vice-president whose advice he could rely on, he probably would have selected Joe Lieberman. If he wanted a vice-president he could assign important duties to, he probably would have selected Tom Ridge. And if he wanted a vice-president with proven management experience, he probably would have selected Mitt Romney. Instead, he chose as his mate an individual who, in a performance widely hailed as far superior to her recent interviews, declared "it's a toxic mess, really, on Main Street that's affecting Wall Street."

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