—   The sharp point of dissent   —

Section: Media Monitor
16 October 2005

Cheney to Congressman: 'Go f*** yourself'

I'll admit that I'm probably not as dutifully shocked as I should be by this under-discussed story from 2004. I feel that I've been sitting around for the last few years wondering how the Republicans could come up with new ways to lower their credibily as statesmen. They have succeeded in electing a permanently stage-frightened nincompoop as President; they shamelessly resurrected a dead letter in California law to put an even bigger oaf in charge of the largest state in the Union; the Bush administration launched a war based on now proven falsehoods and then modestly awarded themselves the reconstruction contracts. In short, there was little left over to do but come out and plainly admit that they are banana republic caudillos taking the country for a ride. And then the Vice-President goes and 'f***-you's a Congressman on the floor of the Senate.

What brought on Cheney's foul-mouthed outburst? Apparently Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy had been quizzing Cheney about the no-bid contract awarded by the White House to Halliburton in Iraq. Cheney lost his temper and let fly. Which is a perfectly understandable reaction to the scurrilous accusation of war profiteering, especially when it's true. The trouble is, 'Go f*** yourself' is not a response likely to satisfy a roomful of reporters or, say, a Congressional Oversight Committee. So it would appear that Cheney needs to refine his answer somewhat. After all, we've come a long way from that moment on the Presidential campaign trail when Cheney nodded approvingly as Bush (mistakenly believing he was out of microphone earshot) described a New York Times journalist as a 'major league asshole'.

It seems fair to say that a line has been crossed here. There are plenty of Republican-voters who support this awful administration through thick and thin on policy issues, but there's certainly nobody prepared to defend self-demeaning barroom vulgarity on the floor of the US Senate. Right?

Wrong. Step forth, Charles Krauthammer. His article, to remove all doubt, is helpfully entitled 'In Defense of the F-Word':
Washington is abuzz with the latest political contretemps. ... The F-word was used. Washington is scandalized.
       The newspapers were full of it. Lamentations were heard about the decline of civility. The Post gave special gravitas to the occasion, spelling out the full four letters (something that it had done only three times previously). Democrats, feeling darned outraged, demanded apologies.
       Flood-the-zone coverage by investigative reporters has not, however, quite resolved the issue of which of the two preferred forms passed Cheney's lips: the priceless two-worder - "[verb] you" - or the more expansive three-worder, a directive that begins with "go."
       Though I myself am partial to the longer version, I admit that each formulation has its virtues. The deuce is the preferred usage when time is short and concision is of the essence. ... The deuce was made for lip reading.
       Which makes it excellent for drive-by information conveyance. When some jerk tailgater rides my bumper in heavy traffic, honking his horn before passing and cutting me off, I do a turn-to-the-left, eyeball-to-eyeball, through-the-driver's-window two-worder - mouthed slowly and with exaggerated lip movements. No interlocutor has yet missed my meaning.[1]
You will note, dear reader, the bizarre eagerness with which Krauthammer rolls around in this muck. It is as though a suffocating decency has been lifted, and the Washington Post columnist can now comfortably wallow in the crudity which is less taboo today than it was yesterday. To Cheney's self-disgracing act has thus been added a self-discrediting apologia. But then again, this is Charles Krauthammer, a can't-recommend-enough-bombing tough-guy. A paper tiger constantly firing off paper enfilades from the gun-turret of his typewriter. As I said at the start, I should be dutifully shocked, but somehow I'm not.

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1 Krauthammer, 'In Defense of the F-Word', Washington Post, 2 July 2004