Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Charge of the Senate

Some people are jumping on Sarah Palin for saying that the Vice President is "in charge of the Senate." (Video here.)

Now, now, let's be fair. It's true that Palin's statement was not accurate. Under the Constitution, the Vice President is the President (i.e., presiding officer) of the Senate, but under the rules of the Senate the presiding officer doesn't really exercise much power -- certainly the presiding officer is not "in charge" of the Senate. And in practice, the Vice President rarely even exercises his (or her) power as presiding officer, such as it is.

But the context of Palin's statement is important too. The question came from a third grader. The statement that the Vice President is "in charge" of the Senate, while not fully accurate, is an explanation that one might appropriately give to a child. The difference between "presiding over" and being "in charge" of a legislative assembly is probably too subtle for a third grader to understand.

Look, there are plenty of reasons why Sarah Palin is unqualified to be Vice President. She doesn't understand or have sufficient experience with national issues, and, for heaven's sake, she can't even face a press conference. We don't need to drum up extra reasons. Jumping on this statement is playing gotcha.

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