Here’s the answer that Sarah Palin gave to a third grader who asked what it is that the Vice President does:
And Here’s the specific part CNN was interested in:
“They’re in charge of the United States Senate. So, if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.”
Here’s the title of the CNN story (as it appears on CNN.com) regarding her comments:
“Palin misstates VP role”
Now, I’m no constitutional law expert but luckily for me the constitution is written in English so I can pretty well understand it.
And to be quite honest, the constitution doesn’t much address what the specifics of the Vice President’s role are…
In fact, here is the one and only provision pertaining to the Vice President in regards to the Senate:
“The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”
Seems to me that being the president of something means you are “in charge” of it, at least formally, and when you’re trying to explain what the VP does to a third grader thats not a half bad way of doing it. So if that wasn’t the offending part of this excerpt it must have been the insinuation that the Vice President, “if they want to”, can influence senators on policy.
But if the Vice President isn’t supposed to influence policy in the Senate then what exactly are they supposed to do? Just wait around for the President to die? I mean, besides outlining how the VP is elected (and revising it in the 12th amendment and several others), impeached, and that the VP assumes the office of the President if the President is unable or unfit to fulfill the duties of that office what does the constitution tell us?
Again, only that the Vice President is the president of the Senate and casts the decisive vote when there is a tie. And, again, I’m left wondering what CNN sees as the gaffe in Palin’s statement…
They quote Donald Ritchie, a historian in the Senate Historical Office for what seems to be the real crux of their argument:
Donald Ritchie, a historian in the Senate Historical Office told CNN that Palin’s comment was an “overstatement” of what her role would be.
“The vice president is the ceremonial officer of the Senate and has certain ceremonial functions including swearing in new senators and can vote to break a tie,” he said. “It’s a relatively limited role. It’s evolved into a neutral presiding officer of the Senate.
Ritchie also noted recent vice presidents have played a behind-the-scenes lobbying role on Capitol Hill for an administration’s policies, but called it “somewhat limited.”
Personally, I find these assertions to be contentious. Who is Ritchie to say what kind of Vice President Sarah Palin will be? And if anything the office of Vice President has been moving away from its “somewhat limited” role of influencing senate policy decisions, you only need to look at Dick Cheney to figure that out. Plus, everything I’ve heard Palin say about the kind of Vice President she’ll be points to one that is very engaged in influencing policy. After all, she has the right to be that kind of Vice President if she so chooses.
So, really, CNN has absolutely no basis for characterizing Palin’s view of the Vice Presidency as a misstatement. But, hey, they’ve got a narrative to keep so any chance they get to paint Sarah Palin as incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above they’re gonna jump at it. Oh yeah, they aren’t the only ones either…
PS. CNN must consider this an important story since they keep bumping it to the top of their “political ticker”…
UPDATE: Oh, would you look at this, Biden said the exact same thing about what he plans to do as VP.