Friday, October 3, 2008

On Vice Presidential Debates

I watched the Vice Presidential debate from Washington University with great interest. On the one hand, I watched it like "amateurs" watch Nascar races - to see if there would be any big wrecks. On the other hand, I wanted to see if Sen. Biden and Gov. Palin could articulate their positions, draw distinctions between their respective tickets, and generally represent themselves well.

Well...there were no big wrecks...I guess you will have to tune in for the Sprint Cup race from Talladega this weekend for that! And, overall, both candidates articulated their positions, etc with relatively few gaffes. That said, here are my observations...

1. Who voted for what?
I am really tired of hearing politicians of all stripes talk about who voted for this bill or voted against that bill...when Congress ceases to load bills with pork barrel projects and/or the President is able to use a line item veto, I'll listen. Until then, a politician may vote "against" a "good bill" because it is laden with junk. By so doing, it may force the bill to be reworked so there is less junk in it. Currently a bill is before Congress to "rescue" or "bail out" Wall Street...yet, it is so filled with pork that I hear it oinking all the way from D.C. I would vote against such a bill BECAUSE it is filled with pork. But, that is another story...

2. Is the Constitution "flexible?"
I was fascinated by the exchange regarding Gwen Ifil's question about the role of the vice president, in light of VP Dick Cheney's view that the role has executive and legislative standing. (This position surfaced in connection with Executive Order 12958 requiring reporting of the handling of classified and declassified documents.) What fascinated me about the exchange was that it was Biden who took a "strict constructionist" position on the role of the VP - despite the fact that on nearly every other issue Biden would disparage strict constructionists (like Robert Bork, etc). More fascinating was that Palin adopted a "doctrinalist" / "developmentalist" approach in arguing for "flexibility." Yet, on nearly every other issue, Palin's views reveal a "strict constructionalist" approach to the Constitution (i.e. Roe v. Wade). What does this mean? In my view it reveals that, on this issue at least, neither candidate...neither candidate....provided a consistent, legal argument...rather, both candidates simply attacked (Biden) or defended (Palin) the current administration (Cheney). This was very disheartening.

3. The Spin
The news media began its spin on the debate immediately. I was fascinated to hear this morning that a CBS poll reports Biden won the debate by a "2-to-1" margin...that's interesting...especially since FOX NEWS had a group of what looked to be about 50 undecided voters, even split between Democrats and Republicans, who watched the debate from A-B headquarters in STL overwhelmingly state Palin won the debate. It was nice to actually hear from citizens who will vote rather than a media-reported survey...

Overall, the debate did not change my vote. It did, however, reassure me that both candidates have a good grasp of the main issues our nation is facing: the economy, jobs, war on terror, etc.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rob, nice comments, what is your definition of "constructionalist"?

Rob P said...

A constructionist is one who seeks to interpret the constitution as it is written. It is a philosophy that seeks to reduce judicial activism by limiting the inferences a judge can draw from a statute or statement in the constitution.