Last night, Gwen Ifill asked Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden what their understanding of the role of the vice presidency was. The answers were not encouraging. Specifically, Ifill asked whether they agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that the vice presidency is a part of the legislative branch, as well as the executive branch. Cheney has made this assertion largely to evade inspections of his office by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office--one of those inspections, for instance, was scheduled to occur during the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. In essence, Cheney is trying to have it both ways: supplementing his numerous claims of executive privilege with a claim to the legislative privileges that the Constitution lays out in Article I, section 6. Palin had the first crack at Ifill's question. Although she spent most of her time reciting her executive experience (which, she convolutedly claimed, "is partly to be attributed to my pick as V.P. with McCain"), she also said that "our Founding Fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president."
There was little nuance in Barack Obama's news conference Tuesday, as he pronounced himself saddened, angered and even outraged by the antics of his former pastor at the National Press Club a day earlier. "I find these comments appalling," he said. "It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am." It was a far different tone from the finely tuned speech on race that he had given in Philadelphia in March, shortly after some of Jeremiah Wright's most inflammatory comments had first come to light. And it reflected the new political reality that Obama has confronted in what have been the rockiest weeks yet for his presidential campaign.
The most important audience Obama was trying to reach in that news conference was not the voters in the upcoming Democratic primary states of Indiana and North Carolina. He was speaking most directly to 300 or so remaining undecided Democratic superdelegates, the party regulars who are likely to determine the eventual nominee — and who have become increasingly concerned in recent days that the Democratic front-runner lacks the fire and the fight he will need to prevail in November.