A Capital View: Cheney's holiday hypocrisy
John W. Mashek covered politics in Washington for four decades with U.S. News & World Report, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Boston Globe. His primary beats were Congress, the White House, and national politics. He covered every presidental election from 1960 to 1996. He was a panelist in three televised presidential debates in 1984, 1988, and 1992. In retirement, he is teaching part time at the Medill School's graduate program in Washington.
President Bush was only seconds into his State of the Union speech Tuesday night when we saw our first sign of blatant hypocrisy.
After Bush paid a lofty tribute to the late Coretta Scott King, Republicans and Democrats alike rose in applause. Behind the president, so did Vice President Cheney. He should have remained in his seat.
Perhaps Cheney would like everyone, including the TV viewers, to forget that as a congressman from Wyoming, his vote in 1979 against making Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday helped block the legislation. Four years later, he voted for it when it was an easier choice.
But from the start, it should have been a no-brainer for Cheney.
There are very few African-American voters in the sparsely populated state of Wyoming. Cheney also had nothing to fear from whites because he was a highly popular politician in his home state. And he was something of a national figure already for his service as a young chief of staff in the Ford White House.
Perhaps Cheney thought there were too many national holidays already for the working public. Wrong reason if that was an excuse.
Following King's assassination in Memphis, the nation needed to honor his memory. It was a fitting and proper thing to do for members of Congress of both parties and both races, and from both South and North.
But Dick Cheney took a pass.
It was not a profile in courage for the same man who with his party ripped into Democrat John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, given that the vice president took five student deferments to sit out the conflict at home.