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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Fashion Statement

I don’t know if Dick Cheney’s casual, ski-trip attire at the extremely solemn event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp received much notice around the country or overseas, but the Washington Post Style Section certainly riveted local attention on the subject with a couple of photos and some arch commentary.
But Tapped’s Garance Franke-Ruta provides the most thorough and serious discussion of this incident, along with the best sound-bite: “Cheney wore an outfit that made him look more like Kenny from South Park than an international statesman and world leader.”
She goes on to document the extraordinary attention to symbolic detail, particularly in matters of dress, of the Bush White House, and concludes thusly: “There’s no question in my mind that Cheney knew what he was doing when he chose to play the role of ugly American in his embroidered parka and knit cap. Perhaps he was trying to signal something about America casting aside the constraints of history.”
I dunno, Garance. Last time I checked, Karl Rove was pretty focused on chipping into the Jewish-American vote, and particularly on chipping into Jewish-American financial support for the Democratic Party. And this administration has made a true art form out of symbolic support for liberal values in foreign policy, while violating them as often as possible.
My take, which is obviously conjectural, is that Cheney’s sartorial gaffe shows these guys are not the infallible political geniuses that Democrats think they are–ironically echoing the Republican tendency to treat Bill Clinton as an adversary possessing demonically supernatural powers.
Maybe Franke-Ruta is right, and if so, that really scares me, since Auschwitz is a uniquely inappropriate place in which to show contempt for the lessons of history. But maybe there’s no deliberate symbolism here, and it’s a case where stupid clothes are just stupid clothes. Either way, it doesn’t reflect well on the allegedly Very Serious Mr. Cheney.

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