Biden and the role of the Vice President

October 3, 2008

I thought both candidates did well in the much-hyped vice-presidential debate last night. Neither had any major stumbles that attracted much attention and both stuck pretty well to their scripts. Palin bounced back well from her uninspiring interview with Couric to show herself able to engage in debate with a Senate veteran and Biden came across as personable in style and reasoned in his arguments. I think Palin was on message more often, but Biden made the better rhetorical points.

In fact, I would have said that Biden won the debate on points if it hadn’t been for his stunningly incorrect answer on Ifill’s question regarding the role of the Vice President in our Constitution. Biden claimed that the Vice President is in the Executive branch because discussion of the VP appears in Article I. There are two problems with that:

1. Contrary to Biden’s assertions, Article I does not deal with the Executive branch (it deals with the Legislative branch);

2. the Vice President does not appear under Article I alone (the Vice President appears in both Article I, which identifies his role as the President of the Senate, and Article II, which deals with the VP’s election and role in taking over the Presidency if necessary).

For a man who has spent over half his life in the legislative branch
(that’s nearly one-sixth of the life of the country since the adoption of the
Constitution), to get these facts wrong but state them with such certainty is a huge error.

I find it hard to believe that Senator Biden was completely unaware of the role of the Vice Presidency in the Constitution, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he was just tired and not thinking clearly at the end of a very long debate. Fortunately, Biden showed a lot of good humor and a willingness to engage in self-deprecation during the debate last night, so I would suggest that Biden put out a brief statement of apology to all high school government teachers for misleading their charges and publicly correct his statement as to the proper role of the Vice President in American democracy.

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