During her televised debate with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin actually said: "[W]e know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and we'll take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate. . . ."
OK, I thought she misspoke. She couldn't mean it. But then, on October 20, she stuck to her, uh, guns. She told an interviewer that the Vice President is "in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes."
So, she's serious, and I'm frightened.
It sounds to me as if the perhaps least qualified vice presidential candidate in American history now wants to double down on Vice President Cheney's already preposterous view of vice presidential power.
Vice President Cheney has been the point person in the most blatant, unjustified, and frequently unlawful attempts to aggrandize executive power in America's constitutional history.
Book after book has detailed the central role of Cheney's office in peddling the most expansive view of executive war and national security powers ever advanced. His secrecy and paranoia have utterly poisoned the atmosphere for reasoned debate within the Administration over both strategy and tactics in the war on terror.
His arrogance extends across the whole domain of federal policy making. His penchant for secrecy even cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of litigation dollars to defend his supposed prerogative to keep secret the names of oil industry executives meeting with his National Energy Policy Development Group.
More recent litigation has surfaced his apparent intention to ignore the Presidential Records Act and shred records of his office. Instead of preserving, as the Act requires, all documents that "relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out" of his responsibilities, Cheney would discard anything beyond his legislative duties and "the functions of the Vice President specially assigned to the Vice President by the President in the discharge of executive duties and responsibilities." There's a loophole there designed to drive a truck through - a truck presumably filled with political documents.
On top of all this, Governor Palin now wants to add to the Vice Presidency some wholly imagined "authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate?" This is hallucinatory constitutionalism.
Governor Palin's brief government career already looks too much like a dress rehearsal for the Cheney role. She apparently uses private e-mail to dodge state public records laws. She resists legislative subpoenas issued even with the backing of her own party. She is happy to demonize her opponents and to surround herself with people for whom loyalty trumps qualifications.
But she now reveals herself to be pretender to a throne entirely of her own invention. It is the vice president's job to preserve and defend the Constitution, not to amend it. Anyone who thinks the vice presidency is an expandable tool with which to push the President's agenda in the legislative branch ought not be allowed near the White House.