Dick Cheney with Alan Simpson and Lynne CheneyPima County Fairgrounds, Thurber Hall, Saturday, July 31
There was something magical in the dusty air of the Pima County Fairgrounds parking lot this past Saturday afternoon. It wasn't the reassuring stink of heightened security--which has a rather bacon-y smell--or the redolence of "White Shoulders," favored by conservative women in Mom Jeans. No, this was the electricity that comes from a hotly anticipated appearance by the World's Most Deadpan Comic (aka the vice president of the United States) on his sold-out tour of Western states.
Initially, our plan was to obtain tickets, which were free, through some legitimate channel. In Albuquerque, certain ticket recipients had to attest to their Bush/Cheney bona fides by signing a sworn oath of loyalty. Incredibly, we're not making that up. Stymied by the "sellout," we briefly considered posing as "journalists" but were fearful that a Jew and a Mick would not pass the racial scrutiny to which the Bush/Cheney campaign had subjected Arizona Daily Star photographer Mamta Popat. So we needed a miracle.
Without any real idea of just how we were going to get in, we got in the slow-moving line that wended up to the entrance of Thurber Hall, a glorified Quonset hut that holds, according to a fairgrounds employee we stood next to in line, 4,500 people. Our chances were improving, it seemed, since we had been told that only 2,000 tickets were distributed.
But then, on the orders of the Secret Service, the gate was closed. We were told no one else would gain admission. After some whining by the 30 or so ticket-holding supporters with whom we stood outside the gates, the Secret Service reconsidered its hard-line stance. We scrambled to the hall, ducking a party official's meek request to see our tickets.
Sweet inclusion! We hadn't missed a note. Even better, we learned that crusty former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson was the opening act! And lesbian fantasy novelist Lynne Cheney would be formally introducing her husband! Being "conservative" doesn't get much more thrilling.
Simpson started off his set with "Be Very Wary of Johnny Kerry," a recent addition. While the internal rhyme of the title was pleasing, the sentiment was insubstantial. But Simpson deserves praise for merely getting out of bed at his archeological age.
While technical difficulties plagued the rest of Simpson's song and dance (somebody tell that soundman to go fuck himself), he touched on some Republican classics to the delight of the white-except-for-Mamta Popat crowd. Oldies like "Hanoi Jane" and "I Knew Jack Kennedy, and Even He Was No Jack Kennedy" were the red meat injections this crowd was craving.
As Simpson finished, the strains of Van Hagar's "Right Now" wafted through the room like a stale fart. Surely, this was in"dick"ative of the arrival of the big man himself. But just then, his wife Lynne--noted for being a field lieutenant in the culture wars (she once actually headed the National Endowment for the Humanities!)--waltzed out on the stage wearing the conservative woman's muumuu: a pastel pantsuit.
Lynne Cheney was in a sentimental mood, immediately trotting out ditties like "I've Known Him Since He Was 14" and "Sweeping Up at Ben Franklin" in an attempt to humanize and soften her man, who has seemed a bit gruff during the last 48 months or so.
Finally, it was time for Dick himself to make his presence felt. Rousing applause welcomed Number Two to the podium. The crowd continually chanted "Four More Wars" with such enthusiasm that it briefly sounded like a good idea (actually, they chanted "Four More Years," but what's the difference, really?).
Cheney began by catering to local sensibilities--it seemed he composed "Tucson Is Bush/Cheney Country!" just for our humble little burg. The local flavor was strong throughout the beginning of his performance; "I Want to Mention Your (Gay) Congressman Jim Kolbe" met with mixed results in this overwhelmingly breeder crowd, but "Senators McCain and Kyl Are Awesome" was a buzzbomb of crowd-pleasing.
"Our Calm President" was next, surely an appropriate plaudit for a man who couldn't be bothered to discontinue a class recital of My Pet Goat on the morning of Sept. 11. "Engaging the Enemy in Foreign Lands to Prevent Domestic Terror" followed. Supporters were reassured by Cheney's ease with pretzel logic. No salty snack would bring him down!
The hits kept on comin'--"Kerry Doesn't Think Our Boys Should Have Funds" was a cover of a ubiquitous Ed Gillespie tune. "Tax Cuts Are Working" was well-rendered, as was "Patriot Act (Terrorists, Watch Your Back)." But "Filibuster" ran aground on the shoals of audience incomprehension. Cheney finished off his set with a little jam session that was an extended riff on the conservative classic, "Curse the Ninth Circuit," which launched into his usual coda, "Building Prosperity." Absconding to his limousine before the applause could die, the Big Man then left the building.
The deputies of the Pima County Sheriff's Department kindly obstructed the view of the layabouts that were protesting alongside Houghton Road, neatly lining up their squad cars in a vehicular barricade as the veep's motorcade passed. With that, Dick Cheney was gone, on to other points West, and then back to the important business of running the country from his underground bunker.