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Jewish World Review March 10, 2003/ 6 Adar II, 5763

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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White House could use a Department of Humor

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Personally I think it's adorable that Vice President Dick Cheney has loaded his flintlock and come to the defense of his wife, the bright and affable Lynne Cheney.

Adorable, but wrong. And self-defeating, as he doubtless realizes by now.

If you missed the story recently linked by Lucianne.com -- the best watercooler on the Net for news and gossip -- Cheney's people wrote a scolding letter to the creator of a parodic Web site where Mrs. Cheney and everyone else associated with the Bush administration, including Jesus, is skewered, roasted and left for the vultures, one of which has replaced the eagle on the site's mock presidential seal.

The letter caused quite a stir, such that the Cheneys now claim that the letter was mailed without their knowledge. That's what I'd say, too, but I prefer a tale of chivalry to one of bureaucratic blame.

The Web site under assault by the vice president's office -- www.white house.org -- is indeed offensive, irreverent and, lest we tell a lie, bitingly funny. Its features include a Department of Faith, a gift shop where you can buy bumper stickers with favorite Bushisms ("Reading is the basics for all learning"), and a "News and Events" section that offers such gems as:

  • "Statement by Secretary Fleischer Introducing Revised Federal France-Bashing Standards and Guidelines;"

  • "President Bush Graciously Offers Pretty Boy Liberal Traitor George Clooney Front Row Tickets to the Baghdad Shrapnel Orchestra;" and my personal favorite:

  • "President's Message to Muslamoids Celebrating That Giant Mecca Christmas-Wannabe Toga Party Thingy of Theirs."

The latter permits me to note that I have given some Muslims a hard time in the past for a certain lack of humor and a misunderstanding of the Western tradition of irreverence. And, no, I'm not making fun of Islam again.

In fact, I'm such a believer in turnabout as fair play that I write this column as a valentine to the tolerant Muslims among us, one or two of whom wrote me polite letters, and especially to those who have demonstrated a sense of humor.

It seems an appropriate time to point out that extreme sensitivity is not limited to followers of Islam and to suggest that certain Christian Republicans could use a humor booster themselves. Which brings me back to Cheney.

As I said. Adorable. Such conjugal loyalty is rare these days, and knights in shining armor (by which I intend no association whatsoever to the Crusades) are even rarer. Under my dictatorship, a gentleman who dashes to his beleaguered damsel's defense gets rose petals in his path and a free day's pass to the kissing booth.

But really, did Cheney -- or Cheney's "people" as the facts may be -- not have siblings? Brothers and sisters, as I recall, are the first to teach us not to rise to the bait. When you grab hook and line, the sinker is guaranteed to take you down.

Thus, Cheney's comeuppance was swift and far worse than what little he sought to end. What he found offensive was his wife's photograph doctored with a clown's nose and a mock-biography that suggested among other things that Mrs. Cheney was a crystal-meth pusher.

John Wooden, editor of the lampooning Web site, responded inevitably by posting the letter, which is so harrumphingly annotated that it looks like a parody of a serious letter, and left the photos along with a statement: "We are confident that any rumors about Mrs. Cheney formerly being a crystal meth pusher are 100 percent likely to be absolutely untrue."

Wooden and his evil-doing elves are unapologetically, in fact proudly, liberal and poke fun in all the expected places. The rest of us have a couple of choices.

We can take the market approach and ignore Wooden -- this approach works for siblings, too, incidentally. Or, we can take a peek and chuckle gratefully that we live in a country where freedom of speech is protected and even impetuous artists and scribblers can amuse themselves without fear of retribution or threats of legal action. That is right, isn't it?

These are phenomenally serious times, as anyone trying to find duct tape lately is aware, and humor may be our best and possibly our only defense. As I once urged the Muslim community, we all need to lighten up. Meanwhile, Cheney might borrow a page from Chevy Chase and recall that he is vice president of the United States of America, and Wooden is not.

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