THE FOURTH-BRANCH QUESTION…. Actor Matt Damon recently said he wants Sarah Palin to answer a couple of basic questions, including whether she believes dinosaurs walked the earth 4,000 years ago, and whether she tried to ban books from her local library as mayor.

Those aren’t bad questions at all, but given recent history, I’d also like to know if she considers the Office of the Vice President part of the Executive Branch of the federal government.

The Hill asked both Biden and Palin aides this fairly straightforward question. The Democrat didn’t hesitate to offer a direct response. The Republican? Not so much.

“Unlike Dick Cheney, Joe Biden won’t have to create a full employment plan for lawyers and scholars to clear up something that was unquestioned for about 200 years. The vice president is part of the executive branch, period. End of story,” said Biden spokesman David Wade.

In turn, a spokesman for the Republican presidential campaign did not answer the question. Instead, he e-mailed remarks Palin gave at a campaign rally in Golden, Colo., on Monday.

Palin did not say what branch of government she believes the vice president’s office is part of in those remarks.

Look, it’s not a trick question. There’s no reason to be evasive. If someone wants to be the VP, it’s not unreasonable to make sure the prospective VP knows which branch of government he/she will be a part of. Indeed, after Cheney, it should be a required question for the indefinite future.

If Palin weren’t entirely sure on a personal level, that might be almost understandable. She did, after all, recently tell a national television audience that she didn’t understand what a vice president does all day. It’s likely, then, that she isn’t clued in on the controversy over Cheney’s “fourth branch” self-designation.

But in this case, even her campaign aides hope to avoid committing the OVP to the executive branch. Palin already seems rather Cheney-like in her handling of the abuse-of-power scandal she’s avoiding back in Alaska; we didn’t really need another example to reinforce the similarities.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.