Dick Cheney showed up at CPAC yesterday, to introduce his old comrade in arms, Donald Rumsfeld. In many ways, classic Cheney: crooked smile, tells the crowd to “sit down and shut up” with a smile, knowing that Conservatives will eat up this arrogance with a spoon. And yet, if you watch closely, you’ll see how utterly clueless Cheney is about what’s going on in the room, or in the movement.
A vocal group of Tea Partiers, of the Rand Paul variety, begin shouting as soon as Cheney is introduced, but Cheney takes it all for adulation. Even when the rest of the crowd goes into the defensive “U-S-A” chant, trying to drown out the protesters as they’ve been taught, Cheney doesn’t understand that this room is divided in its attitudes toward him.
Only when someone shouts “War criminal!” at around the 1:25 mark does he tip to the ugliness in that corner of the room.
And then the look on his face is confused, and hunted, and at least briefly hopeless. Because he realizes that even here, even in the bosom of the base that he and W. catered to night and day, even there he remains partially in brackets legacy-wise.
It doesn’t last long, and then Cheney’s back to chuckling and joshing and feigning impenetrability. But for that instant he’s hurt, wounded.
And look, you’ll never hear VDB argue that this is a man who’s clearly in decline, with physical ailments too many to mention, and for that reason we should go easy on him. Screw that noise, as McMurphy liked to tell the Big Nurse. Cheney had had three heart attacks when he chose himself for Vice President, and so in for a dime, in for a dollar.
So we don’t pity him for that reason.
We pity Cheney because in a very real way he’s in purgatory, on his way to Hell, and purgatory is, by definition, impossible to contemplate without a sense of the horror stealing the breath from your lungs.