Cheney Politicizes 9/11: Thank God

Posted: Sep 03, 2004 12:00 AM

In the month or so since the end of the Democratic convention, Donkey Party flacks and leftist leaders have been demanding that the GOP not ?politicize? 9/11.  Ignoring those shrill pleas, the Republican Party decided to make 9/11 the primary issue of the campaign.  Thank God.

What most voters at least have a sense of is that George W. Bush and John Kerry have fundamentally different worldviews, and the question of who becomes President has rarely been quite so important. 

Although maybe 15% of voters, on average, rate the War on Terror as the most important issue of the day, with all due respect, the other 85% are wrong.  And Cheney?s speech Wednesday night targeted that remaining 85%.

One of the favorite pastimes this summer was speculation about who might replace Dick Cheney as George W. Bush?s running mate, and after that parlor game proved worthless, conventional wisdom was that Cheney would be a drag on the ticket heading into the fall season.

Although the instant analysis did not seem favorable?including from Rich Lowry of National Review last night on Fox News?this columnist might be the contrarian in believing that it was an outstanding contribution to the cause.  A Vice President not known to be funny?at all?brought the crowd to its feet on several laugh lines, despite less-than-ideal delivery.

A man typically seen as intentionally funny as Jimmy Carter in a sweater vest, Dick Cheney most likely surprised many folks at home with a speech punctuated with many truly funny punch lines.  Self-appointed professionals may not have been wowed, but Cheney?s speech has to be considered a success.

In case anyone was justifiably worried about yet another dull, dry Cheney speech, the Vice-President opened by skillfully delivering one of his best lines of the night: ?People tell me that Senator Edwards got picked for his good looks, his sex appeal, and his great hair.  I say to them?how do you think I got the job??

Even liberal and genuinely nonpartisan nearby journalists were seen laughing or at least smiling after that remark.  The beauty of the quip is that though it likely came across as self-deprecation to the at-home audience, it was a classy way to deal a low blow with a smile on his face.

Cheney was merely following the lead of Rudy Guiliani on Monday night and his own boss for the past several months, and his attacks seemed to resonate more as a result.  The timing couldn?t be better.

Three years after 9/11, the nation is ready to laugh.  Cheney?s imperfect delivery aside, the nation did.

Using Kerry?s own words, Cheney lobbed a delicious broadside: ?[Kerry] talks about leading a ?more sensitive war on terror,? as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.?

Painting Kerry as both weak and indecisive on the war on terror, Cheney effectively portrayed his boss? opponent as a man unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.

But he did so without exploiting attacks of recent weeks?Cheney explicitly applauded Kerry?s war service?ignoring any temptation to build off the success of the Swift Boat Veterans and John O?Neill?s brickbats.

What the White House appeared to understand is that the independent-minded swift boat vets will continue their assaults, and what Bush & Cheney & Co., need to continue hammering away at Kerry?s most glaring weakness: his penchant for taking seven sides of each issue.

The best line from Cheney on the night: ?Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas.  It makes the whole thing mutual?America sees two John Kerrys.?

If Bush maintains what has become his trademark of late?mixing deft humor with deeply passionate, value-based prose?America most likely won?t see either John Kerry after November 2.