Alibi V.13 No.28 • July 8-14, 2004 

Thin Line

The Dick Cheney affair. It's fair to say, the vice president is very popular among GOP supporters, generally. Many actually still believe he is the bland, avuncular pragmatist at the White House who remains cool, even statesmanly, under pressure. Anyone who has read recent books by Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke and Bob Woodward might get a slightly different impression, however—that of a secretive, brooding, physical wreck of a man who drives the neocon agenda with almost deranged passion.

In Woodward's Plan of Attack, for example, he describes Cheney's focus on Iraq after 9-11 as "beyond hell-bent." Considering Woodward has been an award winning journalist and editor at the Washington Post for more than 30 years, one would think he understands the importance of choosing his words carefully. Beyond hell-bent?

Anyhow, when Cheney told Sen. Patrick Leahy recently to "Go f--k yourself" in front of members of the press, the thin veneer of statesmanship and, perhaps, stability was stripped away and newspaper editors were left in a quandary. How would this meltdown appear in print? Surprisingly, The Washington Post chose to run Cheney's exact quote. It was the first time the expletive appeared in the paper since 1998. The Los Angeles Times, for only the third time since 1985, also used the f-word when quoting Cheney. The New York Times, however, tiptoed around the remark, calling it "an obscene phrase to describe what he thought Mr. Leahy should do."

In response to the coverage, raised the question last week: "When do papers print the f-word?" The answer, according to Slate columnist Dan Kois, followed: "Editors weigh the newsworthiness of the event in question against concerns about community standards. Readers can be just as distracted when a newspaper clumsily sidesteps profanity as when a paper uses it; it's up to the editor to decide whether the journalistic purpose of the story is best served by bluntness or decorum."

Yankees fans to Cheney: Go f—k yourself! Meanwhile, when Cheney showed up for a New York Yankees game in the Bronx last week, he was booed by fans when his face flashed on the scoreboard during the singing of "God Bless America." The picture was quickly removed, according to news reports.