Clothes maketh the man

by Richard on January 29, 2005

Air America Radio carries the controversy Dick Cheney’s attire at the event which marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Blogger La Shawn Barber takes exception to the fuss:

It must be a slow news day. Vice President Cheney’s outfit wasn’t solemn enough for the recent Auschwitz rememberance ceremony. …
With a not-so-subtle implication that Cheney, in opting to stay warm in Oswiecim, Poland, must be anti-Semitic because the cold didn’t seem to bother him on Inauguration day, Givhan says, “[His clothes] had the unfortunate effect of suggesting he was more concerned with his own comfort than the reason for braving the cold at all.”
Good grief.

I’m obliged to disagree. Rightly or wrongly, the clothes we wear are taken as strong indicators of our attitude to the situations we’re in. If the minister turns up to take your wedding or Grandma’s funeral in jeans and a t-shirt I reckon you’d be entitled to feel aggrieved.

I think we are entitled to expect the leaders who represent us on solemn occasions will dress appropriately. If I’d been a US citizen I’m pretty sure I would be feeling let down. I don’t begrudge the fellow the opportunity to dress warmly, but if a parka was the best VP Cheney could manage I’d suggest he changes his tailor.

Much more significant, though, is the story I heard on the radio yesterday that Auschwitz survivors were kept shivering in the cold whilst visiting dignitaries were ushered into relative warmth and comfort. More significant still was the announcement earlier this week by Michael Howard of the Conservative Party that his party would place strict quotas on immigrants and asylum seekers should he be elected. This from a man who himself comes from a family that sought asylum in this country. Truly appalling.

The only comfort is that he has about as much chance as I do of reaching Number 10.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }


James 01.29.05 at 8:34 pm

News flash! Dick Cheney is a thoughtless jerk! Tune in tonight at eleven when we discuss the blueness of the sky and the wetness of water!

In seriousness: Dick Cheney is a twisted, evil bastard who thinks nothing of (for example) the the death and maiming of tens of thousands of people in the name of freedom, or national security, or whatever BS reason he’s come up with this week for being such a warmonger. Why should it come as any sort of surprise that he has zero compassion for those who suffered and died during the Holocaust?

This isn’t a defense of the man, but at the same time I find it almost laughable that this is what people are going to seize upon, when Cheney’s done far worse in the past without causing much of a fuss at all.


Bene Diction 01.29.05 at 8:39 pm

He was wearing an army green parka with a fur edged hood.
It was a bit odd, and yes, inappropriate, there is excellent black cold weather gear he could have worn. The temp would be around -10C. He had to know that. Didn’t he have a heart attack some time ago and would need to be warm?
I read about his clothing, and it appears he did change into appropriate attire for some of the event.
Wouldn’t a head of state or his handlers be aware appearance and image in a significant event does matter?
I wasn’t aware survivors were left outside while dignitaries where taken care of. That is really sad.


Rick O'D 01.29.05 at 9:07 pm

On the contrary James our esteemed VP is not a twisted, evil bastard–rather he is a bald-faced power-worshipping son-of-a-bitch. Other than that, a capital fellow.


Richard 01.29.05 at 9:11 pm

James & Rick: Don’t be polite — tell us what you really think! ;)

How’s things in Florida Rick?


Bene Diction 01.30.05 at 2:54 am

This is some kind of in-party conservative/liberal political thing for some US’ers.
LaShawn Barber thinks I take myself way too seriously (huh?) and Dean Peters nearly took up a page explaining why it was okay for someone who has had a heart attack to wear timberlands, touque and GI parka at a world event in -7C.
How is a Vice President representing his country overseas appropriately at such as place of pain and horror about internal US politics?


Wood 01.30.05 at 5:18 pm

OK, so an American politician makes a - probably wholly unintentional - sartorial gaffe at a solemn occasion. Yeah, *that’s* never happened before. US politicians are all so *very* stylish.

But I have to say, I really do think (prepare for a heart attack, Richard) La Shawn Barber is actually right here. This is a red herring. It’s probably worthy of some sort of note, but in the final analysis, it’s not all that important.

Speaking of red herrings, excuse me: “twisted, evil bastard”? “Bald-faced power-worshipping son-of-a-bitch”? I’m sorry, but while I might be appalled at Cheney’s politics, I can’t accept this. If you really want your own side not to be discounted or just dismissed with invective, this isn’t helping anyone. Even if - and’m finding hard to credit - Cheney is in fact actually described thus, it does political debate - particularly the side of Cheney’s opponents - no good at all to use terms like this. It’s simply unacceptable.


Richard 01.30.05 at 5:56 pm

I’m not going to argue Wood - life’s too short. But I don’t think this has anything to do with the VP’s style. For me it’s the impression that’s created that’s important. And the way that politicians are preened and groomed before going anywhere near a camera makes this kind of gaffe notable when it occurs. I do agree that it isn’t all that important in the scheme of things, and I said as much in the piece. But I’m prepared to wager that if it had been a Democratic VP who’d done this or similar, those bloggers now defending Cheney would be blowing fuses.

Your last point is absolutely spot on. And I’ve never known you go over the top in your descriptions of political opponents. ;)


Carroll Sickles 01.30.05 at 9:08 pm

Right on Rick. I agree with you 100%


Wood 01.31.05 at 11:57 am

But I’m prepared to wager that if it had been a Democratic VP who’d done this or similar, those bloggers now defending Cheney would be blowing fuses.

Well, yeah. But then, who’d be defending the guy? (um, well, probably you and I wouldn’t, because we’d be making points about ignorant Americans, but you get the idea.) Anyway, point is, that’s no excuse for the argument. Not that I’m saying you’d ever use it as an excuse. There are reasons as to why criticising Cheney is OK, but that’s not one of them.


Richard 01.31.05 at 12:53 pm

I’m glad that’s cleared up! :-)


Eugene 01.31.05 at 7:22 pm

Is not the fact that he turned up for the event enough.
As a student minister I do not think poorly about how
someone dresses when they come to church. I am just
grateful that they managed to roll out of bed and come
to worship God.

Dick Cheney went to the Auschwitz memorial service and paid
tribute to what happened to the Jewish people. I did not see
you there! Nor you. Nor you.



Bene Diction 01.31.05 at 11:05 pm

Er, you didn’t see the Canadian representatives either Eugene, although they were there.
They weren’t wearing Root jackets and Sorells or hoodies.


Eugene 02.01.05 at 3:35 am

Fair enough. They probably blended in with the rest of them. Hopefully they actually made an effort to come. I remember the days when Prime Minister Chretien had the worst excuses for avoiding events like King Hussein of Jordan’s funeral.


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