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Cheney Rejects Gore's Model for Ex-VP Decorum

March 16, 2009

One day after Dick Cheney claimed President Obama is making the nation less safe, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs joked that CNN invited the former vice president only because "Rush Limbaugh was busy" and Cheney was "the next most popular member of the Republican cabal" available. But when CBS' Chip Reid protested the "sarcastic" tone towards the ex-VP, he apparently forgot that as vice president Dick Cheney told a sitting United States Senator to "go f**k yourself" on the floor of the Senate. And completely absent from the discussion was the almost unprecedented spectacle of a former vice president attacking the successor administration within days of its assumption of power.
Coming as it did just days after he probed Gibbs about Congressional Democrats raising "their ugly heads" over health care, Reid's complaint about the tone "toward the former Vice President of the United States from this White House" should be taken with a large grain of salt.
But at a time when many Republican pundits and politicians alike are actively cheerleading for President Obama's failure, it is easy to forget just how unusual Dick Cheney's vitriolic attacks. For a refresher on what respect and decorum from a former vice president looks like, look no further than Cheney's predecessor, Al Gore.
Vice President Gore's vocal support of George W. Bush as "my president" started even before the man anointed to the presidency by the Supreme Court entered the Oval Office. Despite having won the popular vote and arguably a majority of the Electoral College as well in the most contentious election in modern U.S. history, Gore responded to the Court's 5-4 decision against him on December 13, 2000 with a full-throated call for Americans to unite behind their new President:

"Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: 'Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism,'" Gore said. "Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country."

Al Gore's pleas for the American people, including his own despondent - and indignant - followers, did not end there. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Gore told a Democratic state convention:

"George W. Bush is my president, and I will follow him, as will we all, in this time of crisis."

As the history shows, Gore took great pains to avoid stirring controversy during the first year of the Bush administration. Only later, after the disaster in Iraq, the national taint of torture and the President's betrayal on the environment did Gore emerge as a vocal Bush critic.
But that was then, this is now. In another time of national crisis, key Republicans and many in their amen corner are actively campaigning for President Obama's failure. With spiraling unemployment and home foreclosures as the U.S. is gripped by the accelerating Bush recession, the party of Limbaugh and Cheney is calling on some Americans to wish for the continued misery of their countrymen.
Addressing Chip Reid's defense of Cheney today, press secretary Roberts Gibbs that responded "I hope my sarcasm didn't mask the seriousness of the answer with which I addressed Ed -- that for seven-plus years, the very perpetrators that the Vice President says he's concerned about weren't brought to justice." Of course, if he had been Dick Cheney, Gibbs no doubt would have told Reid to go f**k himself.
UPDATE: Ironically, Joe Biden jogged people's memories about the Cheney-Leahy dustup by inadvertently dropping the F-bomb near an open microphone.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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