Sarah Palin did not misstate what a VP does

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 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.

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Stephen Gutowski

Stephen Gutowski is an award-winning political reporter who got his start in 2009 when he founded this blog.

7 thoughts on “Sarah Palin did not misstate what a VP does”

  1. Congrats on your epic fail… Your IQ is on par with Palin’s. Looks like you need to take some classes in reading comprehension based on your statement of… “luckily for me the constitution is written in English so I can pretty well understand it.”

    The constitution is quite clear, on what the VP does. The primary duty is that of being the “President in Waiting”. To that end they must remain current on all issue of “State” in the event that they are required to step into the role of “Acting President”. To paraphrase… The VP is “President” of the Senate but they have “no” power over the decisions of the Senate veto or vote, unless there is a tied vote. (That’s pretty clear). Overstating something is the pretty much the same as being wrong, it show’s that you either 1. lack understanding or 2. are embellishing the facts to meet some end (i.e. lying)

    She is wrong and so are you.

  2. Ok Dino…

    Nothing you contend conflicts with my interpretations. Now, I’m sure you missed this but neither I nor Sarah Palin has ever contended that the Vice President holds any power over Senate veto’s or votes (unless there is a tie). And sure “President in waiting” (that term doesn’t appear in the constitution anywhere by the way…) is one of the main purposes of the Vice President but it is most certainly not the only purpose.

    And there is most certainly no constitutional provision preventing the vice president from dealing with and influencing senators. In fact the very fact that vice president is also the president of the senate seems to imply that the founders would have expected the VP to be intimately involved with the senate.

    So get over yourself.


  3. It’s funny how people talk about how stupid Palin is or how stupid they think she is when in fact. Obama picked a vice president that doesn’t even think Obama is qualified to be president. Also, who in fact supported Mccain and I don’t care how many times he tries to deny ever saying such things or says he simply changed his mind. He’s only in it for the sake of trying to help fix the screw ups Obama will cause if elected president. Because there will be a lot of those if he is. And if someday Biden does have to step up and take over as President he will not follow any type of Obama politics. Anybody that doesn’t see that is blind.

  4. The only reason people are bashing on Palin is because they are just scared of seeing such a strong and powerful woman of faith. How horrible for a person to have faith. To believe in something. What the heck is the world coming to?!!? It must be ending if the people in our country have there panties in a twist of a woman who believes in God. It’s typical of the media though to bash on any type of conservative view. Same as those in Hollywood. The Democratic party as very little morals. Hence why they think it’s okay to kill unborn babies.

  5. The fact that Palin is “of faith” does not bother me, obviously, because Obama is also “of faith”. While I do not know whether or not i would ever consider the option of having an abortion(but I can say with certainty that I would if I were raped), I do not think that it is any other person’s right to take away my right to choose.

    Having said that, even if I were a conservative republican, I would not be comfortable with the idea of a Palin presidency, she simply has not shown a good enough grasp of the issues that face our country for me to feel comfortable with the idea of her in charge. There are plenty of other strong, smart republican women who are vastly more qualified than Sarah Palin.

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