Something about Vice President Dick Cheney really riles reporters at the Times, who delight in making fun of both the veep's alleged lack of charisma and the deluded red-state folk who can't see what a dullard he is.
Mark Leibovich does it on the front page of Tuesday's Times, "Cheney Hits Heartland, and He Can Feel the Love."
"Mr. Cheney's favorability ratings might be in an underground bunker, somewhere beneath the president's (at 20 percent in the most recent New York Times poll). Critics deride him as a Prince of Darkness whose occasional odd episodes - swearing at a United States senator, shooting a friend in a hunting accident and then barely acknowledging it publicly - suggest a striking indifference to how he is perceived. Even admirers who laud his intellect and steadiness rarely mention anything about his electrifying rooms or people.
"But then there are people like these, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel Manor Conference Center in Topeka."
During the 2004 campaign, reporter Rick Lyman wrote of Cheney's convention speech: "There cannot be many people in the world who would confuse Dick Cheney with Elvis Presley, but all of them seemed to be in Madison Square Garden last night....Critics say Mr. Cheney, on the stump, tends to resemble a rock more than a rock star....When the speech built to its Democrat-bashing height, the adoring audience simply willed Mr. Cheney into a fleeting state of charisma, or something quite like it."The Times is again stunned to learn that anyone actuall likes Cheney, and again mocks both the vice president and the robots who love him.
On Tuesday, Leibovich also snarks on Cheney's standard stump speech, as if the vice president is the only politician to repeat lines: "After a sustained and rollicking ovation that inspires a rare smile with both sides of his mouth, Mr. Cheney starts into a variant of the same talk he has delivered literally hundreds of times. He tells how the first vice president, John Adams, enjoyed Senate floor privileges until they were revoked. (Mr. Cheney has told this story at least 48 times in official remarks since 2001, according to the White House's Web site.)
"He skips the bit about how he had been the lone congressman from Wyoming - 'It was a small delegation, but it was quality,' which he has told at least 67 times as vice president.
"He offers his standard homage to tax cuts, a warning about how terrorists are still trying desperately 'to cause mass death here in the United States' and a derisive cataloging of the various 'Dean Democrats,' congressmen including Charles B. Rangel of New York, Henry A. Waxman of California andBarney Frankof Massachusetts, whose influence would grow if the apocalypse came and Democrats took over Congress.
"The crowd boos.
"'Don't hold back,' Mr. Cheney urges.
"The crowd laughs.'
Cheneybots, in other words. Plus, the guy's a real square, man: "The lights over Mr. Cheney's head keep getting dimmer and then brighter, the kind of inexplicable distraction that can get an advance person fired but that also adds sizzle to the floor show. (There were no audible requests for Mr. Cheney to crowd-surf, shed his tie or perform 'Free Bird.')
As it did yesterday, the Times complains that Bush and Cheney aren't bringing up Democratic talking points: "None of the Cheneyphiles here are mentioning Mark Foley, the former Republican congressman at the center of the House page scandal, or the precarious hold Republicans might have on Congress or, for the most part, the problems in Iraq. Nor is anyone mentioning Mr. Cheney's unpopularity in the polls, except in terms of all the unfair attacks from Democrats and the 'liberal media.'"
With stories like this, the quotes around "liberal media" look more and more unnecessary.