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Sunday, August 31, 2008

MSM and critics mischaracterize Palin as being ignorant of general Veep job duties by taking out of context her statement that she'd want to know her specific responsibilities as McCain's Veep

I had previously seen online references to Gov. Sarah Palin having asked a question during an interview on CNBC that supposedly demonstrated her lack of understanding of the general job responsibilities of the Vice President of the United States. The argument thus being peddled is that Sarah Palin can't possibly be qualified for the job if she doesn't know what it is.

It was not until this morning, though, that I saw a video clip on NBC's "Meet the Press" which included this exchange from an interview she did with Larry Kudlow on July 31, 2008. I immediately set about tracking down the full clip, and here it is. I encourage you to watch it for yourself. The relevant portion starts at 2:16. Here's my transcription of what was said from that point forward:

KUDLOW: ... Is this police flap state investigation going to disqualify you from becoming Senator McCain's vice presidential candidate?

PALIN: Well, it shouldn't disqualify me from anything, including progressing the state's agenda here towards more energy production so we can contribute more to the U.S. Nor should it dissuade any kind of agenda progress in any arena, because again, I haven't done anything wrong. And through an investigation of our lawmakers who are kind of looking at me as the target, we invite those questions, so that we can truthfully answer those questions.

But as for that VP talk all the time, I'll tell you, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers, for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day. I'm used to being very productive and working really hard in the [inaudible] administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position. Especially for Alaskans, and for the things that we're trying to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I could even start addressing that question.

KUDLOW: Well, I worked in the White House during President Reagan's first term, let me assure you — and I've spent a lot of time in the Bush White House as a journalist in meetings and interviews. It's a pretty big job, Madam Governor. It's a real big job. You'd be surprised how big the veep job is these days.

PALIN: Well, this is a pretty cool job here too, as governor of Alaska.

The portion I've printed in blue is all that Brokaw played today on "Meet the Press," and the quotes I've seen elsewhere had only included the first sentence. Nevertheless, after playing the clip, Brokow asked with a chortle: "You don't think, David Gregory, that we're going to see that in some Democratic ad, do you?" And Gregory, chortling back, said he thought it might. Just as if this were an absolutely air-headed statement by Palin, as if she'd said, "Duh, what's any vice president supposed to do anyway?"

But on watching the larger video clip for context — and especially hearing Gov. Palin's emphasis on the phrase "for me," and her deliberate pause before and after it — it's absolutely clear that she was not talking about the job responsibilities of vice presidents in general, but rather about what kind of specific duties she would be delegated in this particular administration.

Thus her references to being a productive and busy person, with an important job now, which she clearly wouldn't want to give up to be a figurehead vice president. Thus her concern that she be part of an administration in which the VPOTUS slot is actually a "fruitful position." Kudlow certainly understood her that way. Why else would he emphasize modern vice presidents like George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and the "how big the veep job is these days"? She didn't argue with him, but again, quite properly, referred to the practical importance of the job she was already doing.

Earlier in the same program, Brokaw had played a video clip from 2000 in which McCain, in disclaiming any interest in becoming the vice presidential nominee to run with George W. Bush, said that vice presidents have two jobs: inquiring daily as to the health of the president and attending funerals. McCain was almost certainly using that joke to evade the question, or rather, to give a glib answer for why he wouldn't be interested in it. But if he wasn't just joking — if he really doesn't intend to let his vice president do anything more than go to funerals while waiting for him to die — then probably nobody would want to be John McCain's vice president.

Thus, I don't fault Sarah Palin for wanting to be know, before agreeing to run for vice president, what kind of specific responsibilities would be delegated to her. That's the kind of conversation that all recent presidential candidates, from both parties, have assured us that they've had with all recent Veep nominees, and we're further told that they've pledged to work as close and real partners, etc.

Bottom line: What the cynics and the critics the MSM are portraying as Palin being clueless was actually just another example of her being thoughtful and savvy.

Get used to this kind of misrepresentation about Sarah Palin. Be suspicious; demand context; consider motives. Then make up your own mind.

Posted by Beldar at 11:47 AM in 2008 Election, Mainstream Media, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to MSM and critics mischaracterize Palin as being ignorant of general Veep job duties by taking out of context her statement that she'd want to know her specific responsibilities as McCain's Veep and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» About that MSM (taken out of context) quote of Palin on VP duties from Hyscience

Tracked on Aug 31, 2008 12:46:04 PM

» Sarah Palin - criticisms that fail from Mark My Words

Tracked on Sep 2, 2008 7:57:15 PM


(1) Streetwise Professor made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 12:23:32 PM | Permalink

Right on, Beldar. I respond to your post on my blog www.streetwiseprofessor.com. It's short and sweet, so I'll reproduce it here:

The worthy Beldar takes well-warranted umbrage at Tom Brokaw’s and the excreable David Gregory’s attempt to twist a Sarah Palin quote to mean that she doesn’t know what the Vice President does. Beldar reproduces the entire quote, but in a nutshell what Palin said was that she knows that the responsibilities of the Vice President are essentially negotiated with the President, and she wanted to make sure that the job would be offered to her on terms that she considered attractive. In other words, she took to heart what FDR’s VP, Cactus Jack Garner, said: the Vice Presidency is “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” [This quote was subsequently softened to "not worth a bucket of warm spit" out of deference to tender ears.] In other words, Palin was making it clear that she would be interested in the job as long as the responsibilities were not limited to guarding the thunder pot (or the spittoon, for you sensitive types.) Smart lady, in other words.

(2) Richard Sharpe made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 12:38:34 PM | Permalink

Palin reminds me of one of my very competent aunties who just got things done.

I think the intellectuals in DC have their heads stuck so far up each other's asses they are out of touch with ordinary people.

Palin resonates with ordinary people. I think she will pull many ordinary people back to the polls this November.

(3) stan made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 12:39:10 PM | Permalink

Does anyone expect anything different from Brokaw and Gregory? Certainly not integrity or competence. As Evans Thomas noted, the news media was in the tank for Kerry. They are even MORE in the tank for Obama.

These are people who spent millions of dollars and years of work trying to establish that one candidate for president might have missed a doctor's appointment (while in the Nat'l Guard). They had no interest in covering the other candidate's leadership of a group that seriously discussed the practicality of killing a group of US senators in the Capitol building. That's news judgment!

Incompetence? Bias? Of course, it's both.

(4) Whitehall made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 12:41:15 PM | Permalink

I've asked the same question on other blogs - it would be a shame to not keep her busy at useful work as VP.

She seems to have a more grounded understanding of energy issues than public figure since James Schlesinger. Can a VP also serve as Secretary of Energy?

(5) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 12:54:23 PM | Permalink

Whitehall: That's a good question, and I don't have a definitive answer for you.

Remember when there was discussion about Gerald Ford running as Reagan's Veep nominee, but them working together as sort of "co-presidents"? That idea got shot down, but I think it was considered impractical and unwise, not necessarily impossible.

I know that there are a LOT of statutes on the books that refer to specific cabinet secretaries by job title, and there's an entire title of the U.S. Code (albeit a comparatively thin one) which contains the legislation authorizing and regulating the various Executive Branch agencies. My guess is that whether there's a strict prohibition or not, trying to put the same person in both VP and Secretary of Energy slots would be very problematic.

I don't think there's any prohibition, however, on a president informally delegating particular authority over one cabinet department to a Veep. The nominal Secretary of Energy could be told to report to, and take orders from, Palin as McCain's designee. Or they could make a sort of diagonal arrangement -- some sort of task force that included Energy and perhaps some other Departments, with Palin as head of the task force.

The bottom line probably is that they could probably find a way to give her as much practical responsibility as McCain wants to give her, even if they have to observe some official channels for formal reasons.

(6) Patrick R. Sullivan made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 4:25:27 PM | Permalink

Brokaw and Gregory should keep it up, because that kind of dismissive attitude of a woman really rubs some women the wrong way. These women for instance.

(7) Publicserf made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 5:44:16 PM | Permalink

We can expect that her requirement that the VP job be more than attending funerals will be scandal fodder. There will be cries of "What secret agreement was made regarding job duties? When was it made?"

If no answer is given the MSM will be on it 24/7 like bloodhounds, because blood is what they'll be after. If given an answer, there will be cries of, "How shocking! Is that even legal? Could a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate conspiracy to commit politics?" And, of course, sly references that there are rumors that the Joo lobby was involved!" By the time they're done,"Palined" will enter the political lexicon as a synonym for "Borked."
Or maybe I've had too much caffeine today.

(8) EW1(SG) made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 6:49:25 PM | Permalink

Patrick R. Sullivan: At the URL linked to by your name, there is a quote that mentions then Mayor Palin's support of locating an Oxford House next to her family's own home in Wasilla.

As an Oxford House associate member, I would certainly appreciate any help you could give tracking down the provenance of that quote.


(9) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 6:53:35 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: For most high level jobs, there's no formal prohibition (an example of one that would be prohibited to Palin would be the Solicitor Generalship (SG). The SG must "be learned in the law" which would exclude Palin, and 99.5% of the population.) The problem is practical: Suppose McC appointed her Secretary of Energy, and she bawled dam the torpedoes, DRILL! Then McC has an arterial spasm, and reverts to his old 'no-drilling' position. He tells her to haul up and go for conservation instead. She disagrees, McC gets mad, sticks his finger in her eye and yells, you're fired! He certainly can sack his Sec. of Energy. But he can't sack his Veep. Nope, it's impeachment or nothing for a Veep. This is why giving formal cabinet posts to Veeps is a bad idea. It's the same reason Hillary Clinton's informal appointment as ramrod for national health care was such a bad idea for Billyboy.

The Veep has one constitutional duty, presiding over the Senate, the greatest gang of gasbags in the world. Leaving Palin in that slot would not only waste her talents, but also drive her to drink, demonstrating yeat another meaning to "getting wasted.". The Veep does have at least one statutory duty, being on the National Security Council (NSC). There may be other statutory duties, but I'm not aware of them. Often, in the last fifty years, Presidents have given Veeps special duties, but not ones that already have a formal "line" in the Executive branch. Examples: Lyndon Johnson chairing the Space Council for Kennedy, Dan Quayle running the Council on Competitiveness for Bush41 (and very well. In my view, it was the best contribution Quayle made to Bush41's administration), and Al Gore chairing the Reinventing Government Initiative for Billyboy. I am sure there are some such duties that Palin could do for McC, but it would be a mistake for her to take on too much, at least for the first two years. The example of Boss Dick being a #2 in the corporate sense is one to give everyone pause. Geo. W. has worked well with Boss Dick, but let a sizable disagreement come in, and the "working" Vice President is in trouble again. Hubert Humphrey as Veep should be cautionary tale enough for any Veep. Had Humphrey stayed in the Senate, he would have won the 1968 election in my view.

The Veep's job has terrific potential for educating someone. I would be content for Palin to stick with the NSC, soaking up all she can on foreign affairs. She would have to keep an invisible profile while doing this, as McC views this as his domain, and might get touchy about it. But learning this way would fill the great gap in her resume, and make her qualified should McC kick the bucket. In my view, Palin's comment was a small error. She is learning that you get one chance with one sentence in Washington. The press, fresh from giving Hillary the sexist works, will have no compunction about even worse tactics with Palin.

So far as the experience question goes, she should say that her experience is comparable to Obama's and let it go at that. If she's not qualified to be #2, he's certainly not to be #1. The 'sudden succession' problem is chronic. For her sake, I hope the press does not figure out that the deadly question is, "What would you do in a 25th Amendment situation?" where the Cabinet and the Veep have to determine presidential disability. Palin, being a Washington novice, would have trouble with this one.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(10) arb made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 7:24:30 PM | Permalink

"Patrick R. Sullivan: At the URL linked to by your name, there is a quote that mentions then Mayor Palin's support of locating an Oxford House next to her family's own home in Wasilla.

As an Oxford House associate member, I would certainly appreciate any help you could give tracking down the provenance of that quote.


The quote is here, Posted by Gary Gagliardi at Aug 29, 2008 10:36:35 PM: link

Posted by: Gary Gagliardi at Aug 29, 2008 10:36:35 PM

(11) EW1(SG) made the following comment | Aug 31, 2008 8:58:30 PM | Permalink

Thank you, arb.

(12) Milhouse made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 12:07:09 AM | Permalink

McCain [...] said that vice presidents have two jobs: inquiring daily as to the health of the president and attending funerals.

McCain was wrong. Neither of these are duties of the Vice President. The President may ask the VP to represent him at a funeral, and generally the VP will have no reason to refuse, but it's important to remember that the Vice President does not work for the President. Can you imagine Thomas Jefferson's reaction, if John Adams had made such a request of him? He'd have told Adams "I'm not your messenger boy, and the only funeral I'm interested in attending is yours". One can similarly imagine Adams's reaction, should Jefferson have inquired daily as to his health.

Modern VPs tend to be on better terms with their presidents than were Adams and Jefferson, and more willing to take on whatever tasks the president asks them to perform. They also tend to be the kind of person who desperately needs something to do, and so are grateful when the president does ask them to take charge of some aspect of policy. But this is all a matter of personal courtesy, and none of it is in the job description.

(13) BT Davenport made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 8:57:41 AM | Permalink

What does the VP do? Very good question that should be asked. I was born during the last days of Silent Cal's administration and I have always wondered about it. We know about presiding over the Senate but that doesn't occupy a lot of time. We read about representing the USA at funerals. What's the job description say?

(14) Milhouse made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 12:04:14 PM | Permalink

The job description is presiding over the Senate. That's it. And since that's optional, there's absolutely nothing to prevent a VP from taking another job, or just spend the entire four years playing golf. Palin could even choose to continue to be governor of Alaska, if she liked and the Alaskan legislature didn't impeach her!

(15) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 12:31:54 PM | Permalink

Dear Milhouse: No, the Veep, as I said above, is a member of the National Security Council by statute. There may be other statutory duties. Also remember that the Veep is completely dependent on the Prez for office support. Any staff that the Veep has comes from a Presidential request to Congress. No request, not likely that there will be any staff. Lyndon Johnson was far too fond of making Hubert Humphrey jump through hoops to get what HHH needed to do his job. Your description of Veep independence fits earlier Veeps far better than today's. For example, Woodrow Wilson's veep, Thomas Marshall, traveled the country lecturing for dough so he would have something to retire on. Worked fine---until Wilson had his stroke in October 1919. The next 18 months were a misery for Marshall, who was waiting on the door, but was viciously excluded by Wilson's wife and staff. He knew nothing, and had he had to take over, would have been starting from scratch. Not for nothing did Warren Harding, the next President, ask his Veep, Coolidge to attend Cabinet meetings, so the Veep would have some idea of what the hell was going on. This began the modern tradition of getting the Veep immersed, but even then, there were backslidings, culminating in Harry Truman's having the atomic bomb fall on him when HE became Prez. Not until Eisenhower-Nixon was a systematic effort made to keep the veep immersed. But again, there were backslidings, notably Johnson-Humphrey, and Nixon-Agnew. Not until Ford-Rockefeller did the "fully immersed" tradition take deep root.

The problem of course, is the office itself. Get rid of it. Have Presidential succession start with the Secretary of State, and down through the Cabinet. If we ever get to the point where the Sec of Veterans Affairs has to take over, don't worry, things will be bad enough that constitutional practice won't be high on the agenda. The Veep is an anachronism. It's never made sense. The original scheme, of having the #2 in the Presidential race be Veep is terrific if you like slapstick comedy. Imagine Good Al as Geo W.'s veep from 2001-2004 and Purple Hearts Kerry as veep today. You'll need a stadium to laugh in. But such a situation is dangerous. Given that, why have a Veep at all? Presidents select their Veeps just as much as they do their Secretaries of State, not much public input allowed. So have done with the archaisms, and bring on the 28th Amendment, abolishing the veep's office, and also making it a capital crime with a mandatory death penalty for federal judges to retain any power or honorifics past their 70th birthday. These hobbyhorses ridden to you by Gregory Koster, Beldar comments a specialty.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(16) The Ancient Mariner made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 10:36:48 PM | Permalink

I would add, this is also an example of her snarky sense of humor. It's probably not helpful in this context, but it's one of the reasons I appreciate her.

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