Parsing Palin

Like many of our readers, I was somewhat…perplexed would probably be the word, by Palin’s comments last night about an expanded role for the Vice-President in the Senate. There are two ways of explaining this. The first would be that this was just pure confusion, further evidence of Palin’s vacuity. But that has to be eliminated on the grounds of not being very interesting, so let’s drift into somewhat more speculative territory.

My guess is that some of McCain people are, in fact, talking about trying to see how much they can squeeze out of the VP’s role as President of the Senate. They know that Congress will be badly against them, and so most of a McCain presidency will be devoted to stopping things from happening–either Congress passing its own agenda, or Congress restraining the president in his use of the executive branch. So, there’s discussion around the table about whether it’s possible to use the VP’s presiding officer role to give the president marginally more influence in the Senate, in which he is otherwise considerably disadvantaged. My guess is that some of this was just talk around the table, free-form Addingtonism. Palin picked up on it and this sort of spilled out, somewhat subconsciously, when she was asked this question.

Journalists with contacts might want to follow up on whether my hunch is right, in which case there really is more of a story here.

Author: Steven M. Teles

Steven Teles is a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center for the Study of American Politics. He is the author of Whose Welfare? AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas), and co-editor of Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy (Cambridge). He is currently completing a book on the evolution of the conservative legal movement, co-editing a book on conservatism and American Political Development, and beginning a project on integrating political analysis into policy analysis. He has also written journal articles and book chapters on international free market think tanks, normative issues in policy analysis, pensions and affirmative action policy in Britain, US-China policy and federalism. He has taught at Brandeis, Boston University, Holy Cross, and Hamilton colleges, and been a research fellow at Harvard, Princeton and the University of London.