Friday, June 29, 2007

Hey John Gibson--Next Time Read The Entire Article Before Popping Off

When Faux News' John Gibson feels the need to take a shot at a "tiny" blog you know the blogosphere has arrived.

Last evening I read an article posted at Raw Story entitled "Fox takes shot at Raw Story over Cheney, 'a blog that not all that many people read'" and wondered what was Raw Story talking about. I read further and discovered that John Gibson of Fox New's "The Big Story" had concluded that "far lefties" are contemplating "extremely radical solutions to the 'Bush problem.'" As support he cited a Michael Roston piece published by Raw Story under the headline "Does America need a vice president?"

"Today, Raw Story — a leftist blog on the Internet that traffics in hating both Bush and Cheney — floated the idea of abolishing the office of vice president. . . . I realize this is a blog that not all that many people read, but this is how ideas get started on the left, and I expect we will see it pop up elsewhere soon."
For me that was a stunner. I had actually read Roston's article. I found it to be an interesting, if dry, civics class examination of whether America needs the Office of the Vice President. The article centers on the comments of two law school professors and provides links and citations.

The first professor Roston cited is Sandy Levinson. A professor at the University of Texas-Austin, Levinson blogs at Balkinization. Levinson recently called the Vice Presidency a "deficiency in our Constitution, for which the most obvious remedy is abolishing an office that for much of our history has been useless (assuming that the office was filled at all, as it has not been for a total of approximately 45 years) and now has emerged as a true menace to the republic, both literally and figuratively." Actually Levinson said a lot more, if you are interested read his entire piece at Balkinization.

Apparently for emphasis, Roston quoted a commenter named Xan,' who blogs at CorrenteWire. "Why not go all the way and just abolish the fucking office? The VP has no assigned duties, we already established that. Idle hands are the Devil’s playground..." Xan uses some profanity, which I am sure pleases younger readers, but doesn't really advance the argument.

Roston quoted the second professor, Joel K. Goldstein, at length. Goldstein is a professor at Saint Louis University and is the author of The Modern American Vice Presidency: The Transformation of a Political Institution. Goldstein provided some much needed background.
"If you had told any Vice President before Walter Mondale [Vice President in Jimmy Carter's administration] that in the year 2007, one of the burning issues people would be talking about is whether the Vice President is too powerful, or is the Vice President really running the country, they would say that would never happen," explained Professor Goldstein.

He went on, "In a historical context, the notion that the Vice President has gotten too powerful is totally bizarre. The office was the butt of jokes to the predecessors of the Jay Lenos and Jon Stewarts for generations."
Basically Goldstein argues that constitutionally all of the Vice President's power is derived from the President. What the President giveth the President can taketh away. There is literally nothing to stop the President from pulling the Vice President's chain. He suggests the expansion of the role of the Vice President under Carter was entirely justified given the complexity of the modern world. He concludes
"To the extent that there are aspects of this vice presidency that people are uncomfortable with right now, one question to add is whether this is a function of a particular president's approach to the office, and his or her leadership style? Is that a function of particular Vice President's approach?" he asked. "And, is it a combination of those two things together?"
While the headline might have been provocative, if Gibson had actually taken time to read the entire RawStory article he would have learned something about the history of the Vice Presidency. That seems to be a problem with right wing pundits, they are so used to reading bullet talking points they don't read entire articles.