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Fighting Words

Crank Call


Published June 30, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

I'm not talking about the "end of occupation" or the farcical "transfer of power" in Iraq. Nor do I mock the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which King himself borrowed from an old Negro spiritual for his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

No, I'm celebrating freedom as only the freed can -- the precious gift granted to all Americans last week when Vice President Dick Cheney, "during a photo session in the usually decorous Senate chamber," exploded in "colorful profanity," according to the Washington Post, and told Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy to "f**k" himself.

I understand there's still some question about the exact phrasing of Cheney's outburst -- whether he said, "F**k you!" or "F**k off!" or "Go f**k yourself!" The Post, protecting some non-existent aggregate reader, was careful to point out on Friday that "the obscenity was published in yesterday's editions" -- apparently it was too hot to print twice, even with asterisks.

What's not in dispute is the word Cheney used in his assault on Leahy. The word was "fuck." Here, you can believe the papers, even if they can't print it.

"I think he was just having a bad day," Leahy said afterwards. "I was kind of shocked to hear that kind of language on the floor." So was Kevin Kellems, "a spokesman for Cheney," who twittered to the press, "That doesn't sound like language the Vice President would use."

Sorry, Kevin -- that's exactly the language the Vice President would and does use, as he confessed the next day on Fox News, adding that he has "no regrets."

"I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it," the VP grunted in an interview with Neil Cavuto. Later, "the White House" -- by implication, President Bush -- agreed that "these things happen." Very astute.

"I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue," said Cheney. After all, Leahy had "challenged [Cheney's] integrity" by suggesting there might be something fishy, or at least oily, about the "no-bid" contracts that Cheney's former firm, Halliburton Co., has managed to bag for itself in the "reconstruction" of Iraq.

Indeed, last week Senator Leahy presided over the Democratic National Committee's "Halliburton Week," a well-intended but completely toothless publicity stunt, "focusing on Cheney, the company, 'and the millions of dollars they've cost taxpayers,'" according to the Post. Leahy also complained "that the White House [had] sanctioned a smear of Catholic Democratic senators over their objections to Bush's judicial nominees."

High time, don't you think, that Leahy noticed the relations between the White House and the Vatican? But when he tried to discuss these issues with Cheney on "the Republican side of the aisle," the Veep smelled a rat.

"I didn't like the fact that... he wanted to act like, you know, everything's peaches and cream," Cheney said.

Like, yeah: "And I informed him of my view of his conduct in no uncertain terms. And as I say, I felt better afterwards." A spokesman for Leahy added perceptively, "It appears the Vice President's previous calls for civility are now inoperative."

So, here are the new rules: You can say whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want and about anything you want, as long as:

a) you have "no regrets";

b) it's "long overdue"; and

c) you "feel better" afterwards.

What could be simpler? And who'd have thought it would be Dick Cheney, that fat Nazi pig, who would become the poster boy for free expression in America? There I was, feeling unpatriotic for calling Attorney General John Ashcroft "a Christian cultist and pious windbag" in this column, when all the time I was just ahead of the curve! I should have called Ashcroft a religious lunatic, a liar, a hypocrite, a sadist, a fascist and a menace to democracy, with a bug up his ass about sex.

Isn't free speech a lark, Dickhead? Oh, this is madness without the moon!

Try this: The President of the United States, George W. Bush, is an incompetent, sub-intelligent, inhuman and probably wet-brained mass murderer with a Messiah complex. If his "patrician" family hadn't connived to get rich with every dictatorship in the world over the past 100 years, he'd be managing -- no, assistant-managing -- a Burger King franchise in Montgomery, Alabama, where he went AWOL in 1973 to avoid being killed in the Vietnam War.

Indeed, if the world were right-ended, Bush would be taking his orders now from Condoleezza Rice, the phoniest black woman ever to have her name inscribed on an oil tanker's booty. Dr. Rice may have to go back to Alabama, where she was born and raised, in order to know what "booty" means -- she seems to have to forgotten a lot about her heritage. And besides, she hasn't got any -- booty, that is.

Donald Rumsfeld, of course, would pop into the burger joint from time to time to tell Dubya and Condi how well they're doing their jobs, before cutting their staff and their benefits by two-thirds and insisting that burgers can be flipped by "precision" machines. And those Likudniks in the White House -- Wolfowitz, Perle, etc., the men who brought you "Operation Iraqi Freedom" -- would be back in the ghetto where they belong. Because, let's face it, Dick, this is what "patricians" do to Jews.

Laura! Hey, Mrs. Bush! What's it like living in the Stepford Wing of the White House? Or haven't you seen The Stepford Wives? Frankly, I'd recommend the earlier, Katharine Ross version, or even the book, since you're such a fan of literacy. Just go to the reference desk at your local library and ask them to help you look it up: The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin. Then settle down for a real treat, Laura, because, believe me, someone's been giving you pills for a long, long time.

It pains me to report that, with absolute frankness suddenly on the loose in Washington, the usual cowards and namby-pambys are trying to put a stop to it. That is, the Democrats, whose timidity and, I suspect, chronic dandruff are more than anything responsible for the Bushmen's hold on power. Again, the Post:

"As news spread on Thursday of the Cheney-Leahy exchange, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) appealed to colleagues of both parties to rise above 'partisan retaliation' and find a 'common ground' for lawmaking." So did Nancy Pelosi, Daschle's counterpart in the House of Representatives, who's apparently squirming in her seat over what the Post calls "the perceived significance of voters' impatience with the partisan squabbling in Washington."

It doesn't occur to either of these flacks to tell Cheney to go "f**k" himself, too, while he's at it. Neither can Senator Leahy be brought to speak an honest word about a punch-up that should have gone much, much farther than it did. St. Patrick is the ultimate backstairs politician, regarded as "a pill" by the Republican radicals now in charge of Congress, and always ready to snap his camera and take the first pen whenever Ding-Dong signs a bill further limiting the rights of American citizens in the so-called War on Terror. He is, in fact, an Uncle Tom, and if Cheney weren't a Republican and a congenital monster, I'd be clapping him on the back right now for calling Leahy's bluff.

Alas, this leads me to the topic of John Kerry, the Amazing Non-Existent Candidate, who, so far in this campaign, has proved conclusively that he can run up the stairs of the Capitol Building and smile at the same time. It was Kerry's "electability," as I recall, that sent Howard Dean back to his tent -- how did they do that? But to this day I haven't heard anyone, anywhere, not even in Massachu-setts, speak about Kerry with more than a shrug and a prayer that he's smart enough not to lose in November.

By this time, we ought to be able to recognize Kerry's voice when we hear it on television, but we can't. He ought to be able to recite the alphabet or read from the phonebook and still defeat that goon in the Oval Office, but something tells me he won't. I hope I'm wrong. I fear I'm not.

I'm glad to see that Kerry has decided not to address the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston, because doing so would entail crossing a policemen's picket line. This shows he knows something about American democracy. And still I want to shout at him, "Wake up, asshole!" Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is the number-one film at the box office -- you have nothing to lose by raising your voice and saying, "F**k you!" to Cheney, Bush, Condi, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and all the new dictators in Iraq.

Go on, John, make my day! I dare you.

Speaking of Crank Call