Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Certain View of Power

Comedians and smirking liberal bloggers have had a field day with Governor Sarah Palin. They've set up funny websites like this one and impersonated her, assembled montages of regrettable interview moments, belittled her intellect and her religious convictions. To be fair, she has provided them with plenty of material, yet even so, if anyone has taken a bigger beating in this election than Barack Obama, it has been Sarah Palin.

We're not getting into all of that stuff. We're concerned about something quite different, and it is bigger than Sarah Palin. If it is entertainment you seek, we'll reward you with some entertaining videos at the end.

Sarah Palin lacks the polish of the professionals who have selected her for this candidacy. For that reason, she may be inadvertently serving as a window onto a certain view of power that is, more and more, dropping the mask and revealing itself in its snarling, authoritarian ugliness. Perhaps the party doesn't need a candidate who is good at covering it up because it is no longer important to cover it up. A veil will do, as long as it is in the colors of Old Glory.

It's an interesting time for our sandcastle republic. For the last eight years, our family secret has been that the Vice-President has been acting as President, even though George W. Bush sincerely wishes us to view him as our leader. This Vice-President has exercised tremendous powers, granted at the pleasure of his President, and has established in our short-sighted public imagination the idea of the Vice-President as a leader of policy. Richard Cheney has actually used the office to make a gap in the separation between the executive and legislative branches, at times literally so.

The erosion of the separation of powers is something this administration has fought for as diligently as their war in Iraq, and they have done so with greater success, even after the Democrats took Congress in 2006.

We now have a candidate who, in July, said she was not sure what the VP does. She did not ask this out of ignorance; she wanted to know whether the role would be big enough for her:

We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position.
--Governor Palin, 31 July 2008

By October 2, in her well-executed debate performance, she had adopted the idea that the Vice-President plays a leading role in the Senate, not a ceremonial one. Her Vice-President would not be a mere tie-breaking vote when needed, but someone who would be on the floor of the Senate steering the agenda and working with legislators.

A Vice-President has a really great job...Not only are they there to support the President's agenda...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.
--Governor Palin, 20 October 2008

Not without a Constitutional amendment, she won't. Yet Sarah Palin has defended this notion and claimed that this is what the founders intended, twice since that debate. She and her defenders blithely pretend, at different times, that Sarah Palin said something other than what she said, or that the Constitution says something that it doesn't actually say. (Don't the Republicans prefer "strict constructionists?") Moreover, in her own words, she described her role in working with the Senate as a guiding influence, "making sure that we are supportive of the President's policies," as she put it on October 2nd.

You see, it all comes back to the "unitary executive" theory, the re-modeling of our President into a constitutional monarch, whose visions are to be faithfully executed by the Congress. If Congress opposes the President's will, they are unpatriotic.

A certain vision of executive power shows itself quite plainly here.

We can laugh about it at the moment because it looks this party is going to get trounced in the election. If there IS an election, and the votes get counted. So, as promised, entertainment.

Two clips here, parts one and two. MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann and CNN host Chris Matthews both address Sarah Palin's view of the Vice-Presidency. Olbermann uses humor and made me laugh here. Matthews does an exemplary job of holding a Republican spokesperson accountable and giving her (and us) a forceful civics lesson. Watch how a rare moment of truth-telling on national television reduces a professional liar to petulant, frustrated sighs.


Andrew said...

I had a conversation with a friend about this the other day. After I was poking fun at Gov. palin, my friend turned to me and said "Well. If you're so smart. What does the Vice President do?" it took me aback, because I honestly wasn't sure at that moment. However, I was able to gther myself and respond "If I was interviewing for the job, like she is, I would definitely find out what the job entailed!"

After having a couple of days to think more about this, I think the best example of what a V.P. does is that it is similar to an alternate juror. An alt juror sits, listens, stays up to date, but does not talk or offer opinion. The alt juror is merely ready to go at all times.

And THAT is the real job of the Vice President. Staying informed and ready to go at a moment's notice.

THAT should be Gov. Palin's answer for the next two weeks.

Debby said...

The thing is, Gov. Palin may be an excellent soccer mom. She may be an admirable woman. This does not qualify her to be VP. She is the governor of a state rich in natural resources and relatively sparse population. She is not ready to step into the presidency. McCain made a very poor choice here, and that demonstrates, more than anything, how out of touch he is. He sought to woo women voters by appointing a woman, as if loyalty to our sex would over ride our thought processes. He underestimated Sarah Palin. He underestimated women as a whole.

So who are you voting for, Algernon, if you don't mind my asking....


Algernon said...

My hunch is that Obama will win the popular vote, and may do so in a landslide that will overcome the votes lost to election-day shenanigans.

But you didn't ask me that. You asked me who I'm voting for. I don't know. Obama might get my vote in spite of my doubts about him as a 'change' candidate. I am still paying attention to the minor party candidates (and may write about them here if I have the energy).

quid said...

You may enjoy the "rhetorically flourishing" Joe Biden's answer on that same question. (And the fifth grader is adorable).