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I haven't yet weighed in on the crucial story of the day, Dick Cheney's sartorial mishap at the Auschwitz Memorial. Thinking it through over the course of a very cold day in New York, I've come to the following conclusion. Cheney probably wore the parka because it was cold, and parkas are warmer than formal overcoats. I note also the following wrinkle. A good hat does a great deal to keep you warm. It's been widely noted that Cheney definitely does own a proper overcoat. What he probably does not own, however, is the sort of fur hat (see Israeli President Moishe Katsav in the photo next to Cheney) that is both warm and considered acceptable for formal events that one tends to see in the colder parts of Europe but not in, for example, the United States where such hats are regarded as comical. Now shouldn't Cheney have just bit the bullet and shivered a bit, or else bought himself a Polish hat?

Yes. But on the other hand, I feel that this sneering will, like my museum thoughts, merely redound to the benefit of the Bush/Cheney team. If we've learned anything over the past four years its that heartland ressentiment against disresrespect -- both real and imagined -- from the American cultural elite is a power force in motivating conservative politics. So speaking of which, how come no one is talking about the possibility of a Cheney '08 run? He's gotten a reputation as "too old" but he's really not that old at all. Much younger than, for example, Ronald Reagan, who was certainly good at winning elections. As I see it, the wheels will start to fall off the Bush White House circa winter 2006-7 unless the president can unite the party around a designated "establishment" choice for the nomination, and Dick and Jeb remain the logical choices.

January 29, 2005 | Permalink


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» Dick Cheney from Take A Shower Hippy
Matthew Yglasias pretty much sums up my thoughts on the whole parka thing. Sure it wasn't quite appropriate garb, but there are dozens of possible reasons for it. The reaction, on the other hand, has been somewhat out of proportion and amounts to poin... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 29, 2005 2:44:46 AM

» Sartorial Miscue from Doubly Sure
I'd far rather criticize the vice president for his disastrous Iraq policy or his cronyistic (is that a word) energy policy or any number of other things than what he chooses to wear. If the Democrats (or anyone for that matter) makes political hay o... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 29, 2005 11:44:12 AM

» Cheney's Fashion Faux Pas from Freiheit und Wissen
This is the way he decided to represent our country in front of Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin? [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 29, 2005 2:55:32 PM

» Dick Cheney in '08! He's Grim, Pasty, and Ready! from Jim Snowden's Omnibus
Matt Yglesias wonders why people think Cheney is too old to run for President when they didn't think the same about Ronald Reagan. [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 29, 2005 6:54:07 PM


You general point about "heartland"-backlash-to-liberal-snickering is right on the mark, but even the reddest of red Americans understand that there are appropriate times for certain types of attire, and inappropriate times for certain types of attire. In fact one might argue that they have a greater respect for formality of this sort than blue America. You don't wear a parka and ski cap to church or temple, or a funeral, or a wedding, and you don't wear a parka and ski cap at an event commemorating genocide.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 29, 2005 2:29:13 AM

As for Cheney making an '08 run: Reagan was older, but his heart was also in much better shape. If Cheney were to campaign that energetically, there's a real chance that he might suddenly drop dead -- which, officially speaking, would be a tragedy.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Jan 29, 2005 2:47:10 AM

Excellent point Matt. I'm honestly convinced that Cheney could have been wearing a large looped earing and the right-wing noise machine would have come to his aid if the left would have criticized him for it.

Posted by: KC | Jan 29, 2005 2:54:29 AM

I hope Cheney runs. If that's not a fight we can win, well, you know.

Posted by: SamAm | Jan 29, 2005 2:54:33 AM

How about Cheney vs. Hillary in 08? Definitely be some entertaining debates. I think I would have to vote for Nader in that situation.

Posted by: Tihy | Jan 29, 2005 3:05:42 AM

I agree with you that it undermines the credibility of the Administration's critics for them to get hysterical over something like this. The photo doesn't flatter Cheney, but if our overseas allies are really getting offended over gray vs. black, they've become far too petty for us to accommodate. We would not read much into a goofy coat on Blair or Putin, for example. The people at Talk Left sound like they WANT it to offend Europeans, so they can gloat over another Administration mistake, and this is pretty warped.

Relishing the mistakes of the Administration sounds contradictory or hypocritical to the other half of the country (and I think each side should be trying to win over the other, not trying to demonize them). It makes sense to be upset with the Administration for genuine wrongdoing. But it makes no sense to criticize someone one day for making mistakes, and then to gloat or act gleeful when they make more. There is more at stake here for middle America than being respectful of authority; it is about being conscientious about eliminating bad policy. The more conscientious position is to avoid pettiness and stay focused can stay on issues that matter. I applaud you for that.

I really respect your analysis of our policies, and I believe it is part of a healthy discourse. But I think you're reading the Right wrong to see this as an issue about respectfulness. It's about the perceived pettiness, the perceived hoorays at any unflattering photo or fumbled speech. Liberals legitimately thought it was petty when the Drudge Report posted a video of Kerry's running mate fussing with his hair obsessively before a talk show appearance in October (not knowing he was being filmed). Gloating over Cheney wearing a goofy parka is no different.

I can imagine many reasons Cheney did this besides the Talk Left theories that he's either "a pig" or TRYING to offend people. Perhaps he contracted a cold or flu at the last freezing-cold outdoor ceremony and simply needs to stay warmer this time. Maybe he just felt colder that morning. Maybe he spilled something on his black overcoat right before the ceremony (this has certainly happened to me!) and just grabbed the only other thing he could find in his suitcases, or left his overcoat on the plane on the way there (which I've also done). Even if you really think Cheney is evil, you can afford to give him the benefit of the doubt about this one, and focus on real instances of wrongdoing. You'd win more of us over.

Besides, I think lefties are much more likely than conservatives to wear a certain coat to an event just to make a statement or goad opponents. Remember that W appears to be wearing the same light blue tie almost every day, or every time he is photographed in public -I have started to worry that he owns only one necktie. Conservatives make statements by labeling people "evil evil evil," not with their choice of clothes that day.

If I'm wrong, and this WAS a statement of some sort, my first guess would be that it's a clumsy way to protest the flack they got for having Republican women in expensive (?) fur coats at the last ceremony. Perhaps it's a set-up to make middle America feel like the liberals criticize conservatives no matter what they wear, whether they dress too well or too poorly. But mostly I suspect Cheney thought it was no big deal, or spilled something on his black coat, or misplaced it in the airport on the way to the event, or perhaps even lent it to another attendee who'd forgotten to bring something warm enough - etc. Something most of us have done at some point.

Posted by: Dru Stevenson | Jan 29, 2005 3:11:30 AM

Cheney's fashion statement to Holocaust survivors seems quite in line with others in the Bush team:

“You’re all going to hell.”
George W. Bush, asked in 1993 what he would say to Israeli Jews.

"F**k the Jews."
James Baker

For more on needed Bush team apologies to Jews (and virtually everyone else), see:

"Bush's 12-Step Program"

For more fun with the latest Bush scandals, see:

"The Name That Bush Scandal Contest"

Posted by: Jon | Jan 29, 2005 3:16:38 AM

Since GWB's grandfather financed Hitler until 1942, I'm just glad it was Cheney. He also has one fewer arrest.

Posted by: John Isbell | Jan 29, 2005 3:18:37 AM

Jesus. The guy's got a hear condition. He's definitely not my favorite politician, but isn't it possible his condition warranted him being dressed a little warmer than everyone else? I mean, I don't really see him as anti-Sharon or Isreal, do you?

Posted by: KC | Jan 29, 2005 3:53:11 AM

A few months ago Josh Marshall had a post that passed along a report that Cheney had been spotted buying shoes of great width (triple E or some such) along with some conversations with cardiologists whose imaginations leapt instantly from this data point to a potential diagnosis of congestive heart failure. It's easy for me to imagine his docs telling him that he had to stay super extra warm, fashion be damned. (I know, I know, there must be some better compromise than what the photos show.) Giving Old Europe the middle finger is, quite possibly, what's in his heart, but I doubt that he thought of the symbolism that way. In his own mind he's a "cool right wing dude," not some hysterical screecher.

Posted by: NashEq | Jan 29, 2005 3:57:21 AM

Cheney in '08??? Cheney is unlikely to even be alive in '08!!! The man is quite apparently developing congestive heart failure. Not that he had much of a heart to begin with, figuratively as well as literally.

Posted by: Bruce Wilder | Jan 29, 2005 4:32:17 AM

if our overseas allies are really getting offended over gray vs. black, they've become far too petty for us to accommodate.

I look forward to your response, should a foreign leader (say, Chirac) wear a grey parka and branded toque at a 9/11 memorial. Or are we taking it as read that the US has already cornered the market in petty insults towards the rest of the world?

Posted by: ahem | Jan 29, 2005 5:26:49 AM

Health is an issue, but so is electability. Cheney just isn't electable at the top of a ticket. At least Quayle was good looking. Cheney just looks mean.

I'm thinking that Jeb is a no-no as well. I'm thinking he's going to focus on helping his brother out in 2006 by taking Bill Nelson's seat in the Senate. Expect the Republicans to pull out all the stops to win a filibuster proof majority in the Senate in 2006. They've got a shot.

I think the establishment choice will be Frist, and the people's choice McCain or Giuliani. The actual winner may end up being one of the Republicans' star governors, like Mark Sanford or Tim Pawlenty. I'm skeptical of Romney or Pataki being factors.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Jan 29, 2005 5:48:43 AM

Oh, and:

Conservatives make statements by labeling people "evil evil evil," not with their choice of clothes that day.

Gosh, so Bush's flightsuit wasn't making a statement? His prohibition of non-formal clothing from the Oval Office isn't making a statement? Please, don't embarrass yourself with such inaccurate generalizations.

As for Cheney in '08... as if. You're more likely to see Congress vote on VP Condi after Dick's ticker gives out, since she's the exception to the Chris Rock Rule about a black Veep.

Posted by: ahem | Jan 29, 2005 6:28:18 AM

"Gosh, so Bush's flightsuit wasn't making a statement?"

Yeah, it was a statement that, "He'd just been on a fighter, and you wear flight suits on fighters, even if you're President." Some clothes are actually functional.

Now, taking the ride in the fighter could have been a statement...

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Jan 29, 2005 6:56:44 AM

See, it worked on Brett! Bush was nowhere near a fighter that day but Brett thinks so because he wore that suit!

Posted by: Rob | Jan 29, 2005 7:08:55 AM

As I remember, Cheney needs a defibrillator, which is far more serious than a pacemaker. God forbid, we could lose him at any time.

I find it hard to believe that it wasn't deliberate. Protocol is actually important in international relations, believe it or not, and everyone else seems to have gotten the word. But the Republican base hates all foreigners, so he solidified his support in an area which was starting to weaken when the Right-to-lifers found out that they were going to be betrayed for the seventeenth Republican year in a row.

Posted by: John Emerson | Jan 29, 2005 7:12:57 AM

As the WP article points out (Is this more of that liberal bias MSM I read so much about?), Cheney just came from his inauguration where he displayed that he knew how to dress for an event. While it may have been colder at the at Auschwitz, there are black parkas and black caps in whatever style the Vice-President of the United States could ever want. No, this was a statement. This was the Bush’s brain sending a message to foreigner of exactly what we think of them.

This could be a peak at what is to come in foreign policy. The Neocons don’t need no stinking foreigners.

I’ve always considered Cheney out of the picture in ’08, but he does have a massive ego that may cause him to take up the Necons’ banner and run to keep them in control of the government. Sure he’s got a bad ticker that will only get worse over time, but the dark side beckons Darth Cheney.

Posted by: scout29c | Jan 29, 2005 7:17:35 AM

Plenty of Soviet leaders had serious health problems near the end of their regimes and they had to preside over plenty of bitterly cold ceremonies in sub-freezing weather. I don't recall Brezhnev or Andropov on their worst day dressing like a Vermont farmer in a similar situation.

For the Bush Administration R-E-S-P-E-C-T is just another song by a black woman. Forget the parka, what is with the boots? Like he was more than a dozen yards from a heated limousine at any one time.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Jan 29, 2005 7:40:22 AM

This is probably not a big deal (but congrats Dru Stevenson for the effort), but does it matter? sure. The right can kick and (in particular) scream all it wants, but their "we're not highy falutin" rage just underlines that they still have a massive class resentment against what they perceive as an upper class that ignores them. And I'd agree, except the part of that upper class that's doing the most damage is Republican. Cheney's outfit isn't somber enough for the occasion (note that Lynne Cheney is a similarly cut coat, it's just black), and he looks like, well, I suspect he felt - "geez, it's this frickin cold and they make us do this outdoors?" By looking so put out, in his "I must be special" outfit, he also underlines the worst of what Americans come off as to Euro-sophisticates - crass, self involved boors with no sense of occasion. And, well, heck yeah, we can be. Sometimes we're not wrong about that (including at somber commerations held in the bitter cold). But it ain't classy. And that's worth noting, too. If the right wants the power it feels entitled to, it's going to have to make peace with doing things occasionally, with a little bit more class and grace for the way others do things.

Posted by: weboy | Jan 29, 2005 8:23:30 AM

The survivor who told how she had stood naked, naked in that very spot when she was 16 years old was in her shirt. Her shirt. She is 76 at least.

Posted by: John Isbell | Jan 29, 2005 9:38:41 AM

Jesus. The guy's got a hear condition. He's definitely not my favorite politician, but isn't it possible his condition warranted him being dressed a little warmer than everyone else? I mean, I don't really see him as anti-Sharon or Isreal, do you?

True. The guy is a hiccup away from checking out. His doctor may have recommended that he not do it at all, and may have compromised by insisting that he wear something really warm. And the US couldn't have sent anyone of a lower rank.

This kind of flap makes the left look bad. It comes off like a shallow and cynical attempt to fish for Jewish votes by ignoring the speech, and turning the event into "Bitburg II." We should stick to the the more obviously rotton things Cheney has done, and is doing.

But there may indeed have been a canny political message in Cheney's attire. Here is part of the USA today report:

On this day in 1945, inside a prison for the innocent, liberators arrived and looked into the faces of thousands near death — while miles beyond the camp, many thousands more were being led on a death march in the winter cold," Cheney said in his remarks earlier in the day.

"Inside barbed wire and behind high walls, soldiers found baths that were not baths, hospitals meant not to heal but to kill and the belongings of hundreds of thousands who had vanished."

He reminded his listeners, many of them young people, that the cruelty of the death camps did not happen in a faraway corner of the world, but in the "very heart of the civilized world."

"The death camps were created by men with a high opinion of themselves — some of them well-educated and possessed of refined manners — but without conscience," he said. "And where there is no conscience, there is no tolerance toward others.

Cheney touches on the theme of liberation, then pointedly calls attention in his words to how cold it was at Auschwitz. He connected that rhetorically with the indifference and lack of conscience of "men with a high opinion of themselves — some of them well-educated and possessed of refined manners" from Europe - the "very heart of the civilized world."

I would be interested in learning of the response of some of the aging Holocaust survivors in attendance. No doubt many of them were rather more practically dressed than the dignitaries speaking before them, and it is reported that many were "huddled under blankets". Cheney, huddled in a practical military-colored parka, more reminiscent of the uniforms of the soldiers who liberated the camp than the smart attire of the European diplomats who failed to prevent the Holocaust, and surrounded by more elegantly attired European gentlemen, may have been trying to send a message to those in attendance and viewing from afar: In this cold world, America is and has been the country doing the hard hands-on work of liberation - our soldiers are doing more to prevent future Holocausts than the nattily-attired men "with a high opinion of themselves" sitting around me.

Whatever one thinks of this message, it's clever, no?

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Jan 29, 2005 9:56:22 AM

Presumably Bush will want a list drawn up sometime of suitable heirs to the throne. This task will be delegated to Cheney. Last time given such an opportunity, he chose himself.

Now that you bring it up, I'm totally ready to believe that they'll have the brazen gall to run Cheney in '08. These are the same fantasy dreamworlders who parked the Fourth Division on the border with Syria, so they'd be all ready to march in once Iraq was safely pacified, which was only going to take a couple weeks, tops.

To all of you saying "the poor guy probably dressed like this on advice of his doctor" -- look at what he wore to the inauguration.

Posted by: Allen K. | Jan 29, 2005 10:04:53 AM

Dan, that's the fucking dumbest thing I've ever read here, excluding everything written by Al. Nice try, though.

Posted by: Hank Scorpio | Jan 29, 2005 10:15:26 AM

Let's see what George W. Bush has to say:Mr. Bush, who promised during the election campaign to restore "honour and dignity" to the White House, ... and his lieutenants resent the sloppy informality of Mr. Clinton's blue-jeaned army of youthful assistants, whose attire and attitude they considered disrespectful.

From the moment Mr. Bush swore in his staff this week, his deputies made it clear the President expects his staff to dress correctly. No dress code was issued, but there will be no more denim or T-shirts in the Oval Office, where former president Ronald Reagan never even removed his suit jacket."The days of jeans and no ties at the White House are over," predicted Georgette Mosbacher, a prominent Republican activist....Toronto Globe & MailHad Hillary Clinton shown up dressed the way Cheney is the Might Wurlitzer would still be roaring...Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Jan 29, 2005 10:21:46 AM

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