The Onion peels Cheney
It was Nixon who was called Tricky Dick. Since he passed on, the title has gone without its rightful claimant, though it occurs to me that no one deserves it more than the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. It always struck me that he has a name that could well be that of a private eye of the kind Raymond Chandler wrote about. He is a quiet operator and unlike vice presidents of the past, not a great deal is seen or heard of him.
This being the age of the Bush-led war on terrorism, the vice president is said to receive as much protection, if not more, than the president himself. A whole book could be compiled of jokes and cartoons about where Dick Cheney is on a given day or night. Does he sleep in his own bed at home or is he whisked off by the secret service to locations across the country that no one knows about?
On the day of the World Trade Centre attacks, the vice president was taken to a hitherto undisclosed location, just in case someone was out to get him or in case, the president fell down from his bicycle while trying to keep both wheels on the track. No one now doubts that the man behind the president is the vice president. The two are like a ventriloquist and his dummy. You can work out who the ventriloquist is — or the dummy. A couple of weeks earlier, when the president finally agreed to appear before the commission investigating 9/11, he did so on the condition that he would bring his vice with him. This was welcome news to cartoonists and the White House joke industry. They had a field day.
You have to admire the man though for his tenacity and never-say-die attitude. He has had four heart attacks and he wears a pacemaker which makes the X-ray machines he walks through go crazy. Despite these infirmities, he is the man who runs the more serious of this administration’s operations. Everyone is agreed that the decimation of the Taliban regime, the invasion of Iraq and things we will only find out after this crowd has taken its leave of us, are to the credit/discredit of Dick Cheney. He is also the one who is the grand patron of the neocons and he it was who was the principal proclaimer of the myth that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. And although none have been found and are never going to be found, the vice president has not considered it necessary to make a retraction. I once suggested that the mission of finding those weapons should be handed over to the Punjab Police which can find whatever it is told to find. It is very simple. You place what you are looking for where your are looking for it, and then you go there with all the TV cameras and you find it.
Let me at this point turn to The Onion, the most entertaining magazine from among the many oddball ones published in this country. I may be partial to it because during Zia-ul-Haq’s time, I published a book called ‘Please Give us Back our Onions.’ (need one add that to date the onions have not been returned; further confirmation may be obtained from GHQ, Rawalpindi). Last week, The Onion wrote that since President Bush’s public-approval ratings had hit an all-time low, Vice-President Dick Cheney had announced that he had been ‘forced’ to throw his hat into the ring for the 2004 presidential race. “Enough is enough,” the visibly annoyed Cheney said at a morning press conference. “George blew the whole Iraqi prison-abuse speech, and he barely did better with his Nicholas Berg reaction. Now he’s below 50 percent in the polls. I’m sorry, but I can’t allow him to drag me down with him in November.”
According to The Onion, “While Cheney has not yet chosen a running mate, he said it ‘certainly will not be the President.’ ‘I ordered him not to get up there and talk about gay marriage last week, but he insisted,’ Cheney added. ‘He said, ‘This will work.’ Yeah, it worked to alienate a ton of voters. I’m sorry, but he’s out.’ Cheney said that while he would rather not run for President, Bush has left him little choice. ‘I was perfectly happy letting George take the spotlight,’ Cheney said. ‘If things didn’t look so grim, I would’ve continued to direct the re-election campaign from the wings. But I could see that it was time to get out — now, before the first debate.’”
Cheney said, The Onion goes on, “I’ve been mulling this over ever since the last State Of the Union address, to be honest. I decided to go through with it last night, when I stopped by the President’s office to discuss a speech I’d dropped off earlier that day and caught him sitting on the couch, watching Fox News and eating Fritos. He hadn’t even picked the damn thing up. I exploded. I said, ‘That’s it. Next year, I’m running this country myself.’”
The Onion gave the best line in the piece to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. It has him say, “Frankly, he’s been very patient with the President. He’s given him every chance to get his act together, but you can’t keep your money on a losing horse.”
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent