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Securing Dick Cheney

09/30/02 12:00AM By Philip Baruth
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(Host) Vice President Dick Cheney flew into Vermont last week for a Republican campaign rally at the Burlington International Airport. Or at least that's what most people thought . According to commentator Philip Baruth, Cheney spent the previous night at Philip's house, where the two men got down to brass tacks.

(Baruth) Okay, so last Wednesday I'm home cleaning out the refrigerator when the front doorbell rings. Standing there are two guys in dark suits and tinted glasses; both have little curly flesh-colored wires trailing down out of one ear. Now I'm no idiot, I know Secret Service when I see it. So I ask them in, and it turns out Dick Cheney is coming to Burlington the next day for a rally out at the airport. His guards are looking for a secure location in Burlington to stash him until the rally begins.

"Why me?" I ask.
"We understand you've upgraded security at your home recently."

They had me there. For weeks, we'd had this skunk problem: this huge albino skunk had been grubbing in the back yard, just tearing it to pieces every night, and then retreating under our deck when the sun came up. So last weekend I'd made that back porch about as secure as a place gets, boards nailed everywhere and only one little padlocked maintenance hatch up top to get down in there.

So I showed these guys the deck and the hatchway down into the crawlspace, and they seemed satisfied. And about four hours after sunset, a big shiny new car pulls up - one of those PT cruisers, the kind that look like they just drove out of a ZZTop video. And sure enough, Dick Cheney gets out.

Well, it turns out Cheney isn't wild about going into the crawlspace right away, so he and I sit down at the table. There's not much in the fridge, but we finally rip open a bag of Bugles, those little pointy corn snacks, and we get talking about world affairs and such. Finally Dick asks if I mind if he changes into his pajamas and slippers. Mi casa es su casa, I tell him.

Once he's back at the table, I figure this is probably the only chance I'll ever have to ask what I've always wanted to ask.

"Dick," I begin.
"Call me Big-time," he insists.
"How do you know an evil-doer when you see one, Big-time? I mean, you guys just always seem so positive."

Now, you have to remind yourself all the time when you're talking to Dick that the little curled lip thing he's got going has nothing to do with your question. That's just his face. He narrows an eye at me.

"You just know, Phil. Because there are good-doers and evil-doers, and on the evil-doers there's a scent of evil, as it were, something that doesn't require evidence or proof or smoking guns. It's a feeling, here," he taps his pee-jays, right above the pacemaker, "a wrongness that some of us can sense."

He takes another sip of his Sprite and then he says, "Better hit the hay. I've got a twenty-minute speech to give tomorrow." Dick chuckles a little, and then he slowly shuffles out onto the porch in his slippers. I turn the back light on while he levers his big body down into the crawlspace beneath the deck. I hear him turning in that small space, trying to get comfortable, and I can't help but think of the albino skunk, out there somewhere in the night, angry and forlorn, with no place left to sleep.

Philip Baruth is a novelist living in Burlington. He teaches at the University of Vermont. His new book with Joe Citro is "Vermont Air: Best of the Vermont Public Radio Commentaries."
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