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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Chafetz on the VP

Josh Chafetz of Cornell has a useful discussion in TNR about the odd moment in last night's debate when both Biden and Palin revealed their lack of understanding about the constitutional status of the office they are seeking.

Posted by Ethan Leib on October 4, 2008 at 01:31 AM in Article Spotlight | Permalink

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Chafetz: "The Founders didn't think that the executive role of the vice president would be flexible; they thought it would be almost non-existent."

That doesn't seem right. They didn't give the VP any executive authority as a constitutional matter, but that doesn't entail that the President can't use him as, say, an advisor or spokesman. If the Constitution doesn't require it and doesn't forbid it, that sounds like flexibility to me. (Maybe there is a separation-of-powers argument against the VP acting on the President's behalf, but (a) that wasn't the issue in the debate, (b) Chafetz produces no evidence from the Founders on the question, and, moreover, (c) the argument presupposes that Cheney is right about the VP's legislative-branchness.)

"[I]f we take Palin's support for Cheney seriously, this suggests that she will use the vice president's 'flexibility' (as she sees it) to create her own governing fiefdom, as Cheney has done."

That also doesn't seem right: Cheney's fiefdom comes from his relationship with the President, not the vice-presidency as such. If the President were to say tomorrow, "Nobody listen to Cheney; he's gone nuts," the fiefdom (such as it is) would vanish.

Posted by: Chris | Oct 4, 2008 8:25:30 AM

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