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Thursday, July 15, 2004

Character Counts

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Do you recall that the Vice President of the United States told Sen. Leahy to "go f**k yourself" last month? Maybe I wouldn't have if I wasn't subjected to some damage control in the press, again, today.

The vice presidents wife (The Second Lady?) has called her husbands use of the F word "out of character". Its her assertion that he doesn't normally talk like this, that its really Sen. Leahy's fault (he was asking for it I guess) and that it was a private exchange. Private? He was on the Senate floor. With senators.

But lets just give her that. We'll just go ahead and believe that Mr. Cheney felt like he was having a private exchange. So what? Is it alright to curse others in private but not publicly?

It is about character. Not the character of being the sort of person who uses the F word. (I am required by integrity to admit here that I am a frequent user of that word) It's more about being the sort of person who is willing to apologize for having said something truly disrespectful, unprofessional and reprehensible. I am pretty certain that Mr. Cheney does use the F word. It is very rare that someone, who is not suffering from advanced Tourette syndrome, would blurt out a phrase they never use -- accidentally. Mrs. Cheney thinks he was "pushed to extremes". I think that "extreme" exposed his character, not the other way round.

But what has the Vice President had to say for himself? Only that he has no regrets about the outburst. Funny that I can regret it, but he doesn't.

Does it really matter though? I mean who cares what those folks on the Senate floor say to each other when they are feeling "private"? I do. I care. Because these people represent me. And I would like think that even if I was a regular user of the F word (even if?), I could still manage not to blurt it out on the Senate floor, for crying out loud! Is it wrong for me to expect a sense of propriety and decorum in my government?

I am currently engaged in the arduous process of becoming an attorney. All those law shows on TV aside, I am pretty sure that if I walked into a court of law and dropped the F bomb on opposing counsel that I would be in some seriously hot judicial water. No court is going to allow that kind of utter disrespect to go un-sanctioned. And that's the way it should be. We have to hold the line of civility and decent behavior some where. It's not held in the press. It's not held in our schools. People parade around with that word emblazoned on their shirts in public and you can buy it on hundreds of music CD's with out any extra effort. I think that the Senate floor ought to be F word free.

Don't get me wrong, Mr. Cheney has not fallen in my esteem because he knows the word. Nor has he fallen for having accidentally said it. He fell in my esteem for failing to apologize for the gross disrespect for both Sen. Leahy and for himself. For his disrespect of the position that he holds in this country. And for his disrespect of me.

I seem to recall (don't quote me on this) Laker's center Shaq using the same language to a referee last season. What was done about that? I am glad that at least the NBA recognizes that there are certain things you just don't say in polite company.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funny thing about the media is, they can take words out of context and make a mountain out of a molehill. I think our esteemed commentator has done the same. In order to make this a fair fight, it is important to not be the person that takes the proverbial knife to a gun fight – in other words: be prepared. So let me add some facts to your diatribe.

The Vice President was overheard to say, “go f*&$ yourself” in response to Senator Leahy’s salutation while posing for the annual Senate photograph – and in response to the Senator’s direct attack on the Vice President’s integrity. I do not suppose to know where this photograph was taken, but historically it is snapped on the steps of the Capital building – outside the actual building and far from the hallowed Senate floor.

While I agree that character counts, my disparagement of Mr. Cheney will remain at a minimum because it is not the respect he has for Mr. Leahy that matters, but his respect for the institution – the Senate itself. If this language was indeed used in open forum on the Senate floor, then I agree, it is reprehensible; but if in fact the boys got together and one told the other to “go f*&$ yourself” out on the playground that is the Capital steps, then I do not see the significance.

If as you suggest, one used this same vulgarity in open court, it is not the injured person that is vindicated by the court’s sanction, it is the court itself – that is where the reverence lies. If this same incident occurred in the hallway outside the court room, while still appalling to those of us with varying sensibilities, there would be no sanction. The institution demands respect, this is the basis of the sanction.

It is important to be cognizant of the fact that it is indeed an election year and mudslinging is the post-modern campaign tactic of choice. So the fact that the Vice President is locked in a power struggle with Senator Leahy’s Democratic Party should not be glossed over lightly. While the struggle may not change the fact that Mr. Cheney used poor judgment, it certainly makes this minor event newsworthy.

For a self-professed lover of language, you of all people should understand the utility of such a phrase; while vulgar, it can be used to express a feeling that may not be accurately conveyed with the use of less scandalous language.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Girl Ipsa said...

I AM a lover of language. Which is why I have to reject the notion that vulgar language has any utility here. It is just that, vulgar. And Mr. Cheney did make his comment on the senate floor, which is why I bothered to write about it in the first place. For the record, I also think that there is little utility in being contentious for the sole purpose of being contentious ~~ Especially anonymously.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lighter side of this whole sad event comes when you take into account that Mr. Cheney's F-Bomb was ironically unleashed on the same day that the Senate passed the Defense of Decency Act. The Senate voted 99 to 1 to pass the bill that was authored to help us mere mortals understand that we should not participate in vulgar speech and sundry other immoral acts. Way to go Dick! I mean Mr. Vice President.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Girl Ipsa said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Girl Ipsa said...

Just a note ~ The previous comment was deleted not for content but for language. Now Girl Ipsa Loquitur is once again an "F" word free zone.

8:40 PM  

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