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Jewish World Review August 9, 2002 / 1 Elul, 5762

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
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Consumer Reports

See Dick talk | You have to wonder what the protesters would put on their signs if the vice president's name weren't Dick.

Early Wednesday morning, before Vice President Cheney arrived to speak to the Commonwealth Club, the first 10 protesters stood in front of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, displaying their handmade posters. "Big Oil Dick." "Dick Screwed My 401(k)" (held by someone who didn't look like the owner of a stock portfolio overweighted with energy stocks). "See Dick kill."

Many joined later. As a group, they only reinforced the suspicion that, to this crowd, Cheney was guilty of everything -- and most of all of being a Republican.

"What's the difference between running the country and running a business?" someone asked Cheney. Cheney recalled that years ago, a Department of Defense colleague, who had worked for General Motors, answered that question, saying, "At General Motors, at least we were convinced the board of directors wanted us to succeed."

It was a good line, considering that Cheney had come to a town with no small number of voters who are rooting for the Bush administration to fail. (Only 16 percent of San Francisco voters pulled the lever for Bush-Cheney in 2000.)

During the VP's speech, a handful of protesters began chanting: "Cheney is a corporate crook. No war with Iraq" -- until they were escorted outside. Again, the protest had no focus. And if they truly were morally opposed to war with Iraq, why lead with a reference to corporate accounting gimmicks?

Then there's the media. The buzz among them before the speech went like this: Why won't Cheney take questions from the press? What will he say about Halliburton? How does he feel about GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon, whose company was found guilty of fraud? My question: Why won't Cheney release information on who met with his energy task force?

They're important questions. The Bush administration could do a better job of answering them, to help voters keep faith in the people they've elected.

Yet concerns about Halliburton's accounting practices and the governor's race and the energy task force seem so puny compared to the big issue of the day. The war on terrorism continues, and it may well expand to include incursions into Iraq with the aim of ousting Saddam Hussein.

Critics are quibbling while the Bush administration is stacking the ammo -- and they don't seem to understand what's at stake, or the dangers that lurk around the corner. The Euros complain about U.S. "unilaterism" as if it is more dangerous than a cold-blooded, mass-murdering psycho who has used weapons of mass destruction on his own civilians and waged war on his Muslim neighbors.

S.F. protesters show more contempt for corporate CEOs than for Hussein, who starves children in order to purchase weapons of mass destruction.

Cheney addressed the seriousness of dealing with terrorists. "Such a group cannot be held back by deterrence," he told the audience, "nor reasoned with by diplomats. For this reason, the war against terror will not end in a treaty.

There will be no summit meeting or negotiations with the terrorists. The conflict can only end in their complete and utter destruction."

Cheney understands that millions of people around the globe depend on America's "freedom and overwhelming power." He knows that if Hussein wins, countless civilians will die and the whole world loses.

Meanwhile, there's a woman standing in front of the Fairmont with a sign that reads, "No one wants to see you in a Speedo, stop global warming" -- with a drawing of Speedo bathing trunks.

And they say the military has a preoccupation with things phallic.

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