10/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

After Cheney, Vice Presidents Matter

Don't tell American voters that vice presidents don't matter.

In the wake of eight years of Dick Cheney, the old assumptions regarding the inconsequence of vice presidential candidates just don't hold up anymore. The oft-repeated fact that Dan Quayle was on a winning ticket makes a point that has been rendered obsolete.

By virtually all accounts, our nation's current vice president has grown the role of that office into one of unprecedented influence and power. Both personally and through his deputies, Dick Cheney has demonstrated the ability of a vice president to take advantage of an intellectually lazy and managerially absent president to drive U.S. policy - both domestic and international - with frightening consequence.

Dick Cheney and his staff have been instrumental in making (fabricating?) the case for the war in Iraq and determining American energy policy. He has provided cover to countless ideologues in the Bush Administration to root out dissenting opinion in the government and has been its strongest champion for torture and Guantanamo Bay.

And this is why the pick of little-known Governor Sarah Palin will doom Senator McCain's electoral chances in November.

Leaving aside the clear and disturbing implications of placing someone as inexperienced as Governor Palin in a position to replace the septuagenarian, two-time cancer surviving McCain, American voters - wary of the Cheney experience - will think long and hard about the next person they trust to uphold the role of the vice president.

Despite Palin's very thin record of achievement in public office, we already know two disturbing facts about her record. These should give voters pause regarding the manner in which she might actually serve as vice president. First - she is under state investigation for abuse of power - the inappropriate firing of a public official who refused to carry out orders to settle a personal score. Second - in her very first speech to the public as McCain's choice for running mate, she patently lied about the fact that in 2006 she publically supported the so-called "bridge to nowhere." Palin unabashedly stated then that Alaska should take advantage of federal earmarks while the state still counted powerful appropriators among its congressional delegation.

Palin's abuse of power and lies about past policy positions: not exactly what America needs in its would-be successor to Dick Cheney.

Couple these concerns with her unequivocal support for a down-the-line conservative social agenda and you have the makings for a frightening cocktail of a vice president.

Notwithstanding the obvious concerns for placing Governor Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency, voters are not likely to overlook Senator McCain's lack of judgment in nominating such an ill-qualified person to fulfill the difficult demands and responsibilities of the vice presidency. As Dick Cheney has made the world painfully aware, it's not just a ceremonial post anymore.

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