Wednesday, September 24, 2008

VP

(Updated!) My latest FindLaw column (now posted here) explains why Sarah Palin's question -- "What is it exactly that the V.P. does every day?" -- is not quite so disqualifying for the job she now seeks as it at first appears. As far as the Constitution is concerned, the answer to Palin's question is, not very much. My column goes on to explain that modern VPs, pretty much beginning with Walter Mondale, have taken on a great deal of responsibility.

On reflection, therefore, Palin's question may well be disqualifying, but in a different way, for it shows that she has not been paying anything resembling close attention to how the government actually functions. How could anyone following national events for the last 7 and 3/4 years fail to notice that Dick Cheney is one of the most powerful people in America? One need not think (as I do not think) that Cheney was the "real" President, with Bush only the front man, to recognize that Cheney was the driving force on crucial decisions, including the most important domestic issue (prior to last week) and the most important foreign policy issue.

If the McCain/Palin campaign were to respond, I imagine that their spin would go something like this: Governor Palin is a Washington outsider. During the last 8 years, indeed for her entire adult life, she has been busy raising a family and serving her community and her state. Her lack of attention to the bickering in Washington is a qualification, not a flaw.

Nice try, but I don't buy it. Sure, the outsider card is a perennial winner. Both Obama and McCain are trying to play it themselves. However, it's one thing to say (whether truthfully or not) that you're not part of the Washington culture. It's quite another to admit that you don't have any idea how it works. Or to put the point as pungently as I can, if you want to clean out the Augean stables, you need to know where all the horse crap is.

So there. My column refers to urine ("warm bucket of piss") and now I've penned an accompanying blog entry referring to feces. My work is done.

Posted by Mike Dorf

12 comments:

Chris said...

"How could anyone following national events for the last 7 and 3/4 years fail to notice that Dick Cheney is one of the most powerful people in America?"

That's qua advisor to (and representative of) the President, though, not qua VP, don't you think?

Michael C. Dorf said...

in response to chris:
1) so what? wouldn't someone paying attention notice that what the vp does all day is whisper in the president's ear?
2) and cheney had/has an independent power base, at least while rumsfeld ran defense.

Chris said...

"wouldn't someone paying attention notice that what the vp does all day is whisper in the president's ear?"

That's what Cheney does, of course, but that depends entirely on his relationship with Bush. And Palin's job as VP will depend entirely on what McCain wants her to do, and how much he takes her advice. You can't figure that out just by looking at Cheney.

"cheney had/has an independent power base, at least while rumsfeld ran defense."

That's not essential to the vice-presidency either, of course. Why would Palin think she'd have a special relationship with the Secretary of Defense, just because Cheney has one with Rumsfeld? That's nuts.

Mainon said...

There's a big difference between saying, "Here's what our current VP does, but I don't know if all VPs have so much power" and saying, "I have no idea what the VP does all day." The latter implies that the speaker is just out of touch-- i.e., has somehow "fail[ed] to notice that Dick Cheney is one of the most powerful people in America."

From having lived in Alaska for the past few weeks, my guess is she just didn't care to notice. Until Palin's nomination, the newspaper here seemed to routinely bump national news below the fold in favor of hard-hitting coverage on the latest moose/SUV collision. Alaskans refer to the lower 48 as "Outside" partly because what happens in the rest of the country often seems... well, remote.

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