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OCTOBER 22, 2008 6:22PM

No Laughing Matter: The Palin Doctrine of Executive Power

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Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s recent statement that she looks forward to being elected vice president so she can be "in charge of the senate" has mostly generated laughter rather than outrage.

Palin was asked by Colorado third-grader Brandon Garcia “What does the vice president do?”

She responded: “A vice president has a really great job because not only are they there to support the president’s agenda, they’re there like the team member, the teammate to the president. But also, 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 that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom. And it’s a great job and I look forward to having that job.”

I first saw a clip of Palin’s answer on Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC, where his take on Palin’s view of the vice presidential power was to assume that she is ignorant of the far more limited legislative role of the vice president, as defined in Article I of the U.S. Constitution: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.” 

Olbermann said “So the vice president is not in charge of jack, Governor, let alone in charge of the Senate, and you are not as smart as a third-grader.”

I don’t think that ignorance explains Palin’s answer.

Instead, I think that there is quite a bit of method to Palin’s madness.

This is the second time that Palin has referenced the Dick Cheney-John Yoo conception of expansive executive power.

As I noted in a blog post on Palin’s stunning articulation of expansive executive power in the vice presidential debate with Joe Biden – where she said that the Constitution provides “flexibility” in vice president’s role, including the power “not only to preside over the Senate” but also to exercise “more authority . . . if [the] vice president so chose to exert it” — Palin’s interpretation of the powers of the vice president is not the laughable  product of ignorance of the Constitution. 

Rather, Palin demonstrated that she has consciously and very specifically adopted the Dick Cheney-John Yoo theory of an Imperial Executive with absolute power outside the Constitutional system of checks and balances. 

As I said in my earlier post, Gwen Ifill’s question regarding the power of the vice president was “one of the very few questions that Palin has answered where one could come to the conclusion that she has thought about this before.”

Much as we love to laugh at Sarah Palin, this is no laughing matter.

Clearly, Palin is not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to the intellectual rationales behind public policy and political theory.

How is it, then, that the often painfully ignorant Sarah Palin is so conversant with a very particular, and relatively obscure, interpretation of the Constitution’s framework regarding the nature of executive power?

I do not know the answer to that question, but I am coming to believe that it might well explain why John McCain ended up picking Palin to be his running mate.

Is it possible that, far from being a completely off-the-wall choice, Palin was picked precisely because she is an adherent to the Cheney-Yoo view of expansive and unchecked executive power, and is willing to implement this view when in office?

Given McCain’s age and health, one could spin a conspiracy theory that it is Sarah Palin, rather than John McCain, who the McCain campaign believes will actually be the president if their ticket wins, and that their plan is to exercise unlimited and illimitable executive power.

Not funny.

Not funny at all.

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I heard about this on Indie Talk. It is disturbing.
I'm the first to dismiss Palin as unqualified and even a little dangerous. Still, I give her a pass on this one. She was trying to avoid constitutional nuance in an answer to 9 year olds. As for the John Yoo/Dick Cheney theory of executive power, if a VP tried to exercise legislative authority to Congressional leaders, I don't think he/she would get very far. Those senators and congressmen are far too egotistical to allow the VP any say in legislative matters. The bigger concern is the executive's unwillingness to enforce the legislation once it becomes law.
Scanning down the left side of this page and swore I saw the title:

No Laughing Matter: The Palin Dominatrix....

Maybe that's not so far off.
I totally agree.....to a point. I don't think the goal of the party/campaign is for her to be the leader. I think it's HER goal. She's very crafty and look at her rise! I was beginning to think I was becoming a nut-job conspiracy theorist in thinking that she has an agenda. But, you are exactly right - that is the only thing she seems to be able to articulate. Couple that with the rantings of her church and how they need her in power and it scares the shit out of me.
Crap.
So what constitution have I been reading? Because I don't remember any of that!!

A mind
@Procopius
I don't think Sarah Palin needs to try to avoid constitutional nuance.
She is a crazy lunatic, appears to be a totally horrific human being and her take on her role as a civil servant is disturbing and frightening. Very frightening. This needs to be harped on consistently. It's a mistake that the Republicans have made, letting her say this. People don't like Cheney, with very good reason. They'll transfer that over to her, and will be right to do so.

I truly believe she has megalomaniacal tendencies.
This ridiculous statement made by a seating United States Governor would be scary enough, but this Governor could be elected Vice President of the Untied States and only a heart-beat away from being President.

It just goes to show that too many children are being left behind in our educational system, even in the small classrooms in Alaska. Just another reason to get out and vote Obama-Biden on November 4th.
I am not the only blogger to have noticed that Palin's view of vice presidential power is not a laughing matter, but shows that she has adopted a particular contemporary Constitutional theory.

Over at the Daily Kos, there is a more extensive piece on this theory and its advocates, entitled "Ignore Palin's "VP is in charge of the Senate" claim at your peril"

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/10/23/15010/972/726/639986

I strongly recommend it.
More frightening than the fact she has no idea what the power(s) of the Vice-Presidential office, she believes based on the past 8 years with Cheney as V.P. that the powers need to be extended. This woman is a moron, but not as stupid as well think. I mean c'mon, don't "misunderestimate" the ignorance of America to put a moron in a powerful position!