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Speak For Yourself, Dick

Remember The Courtship of Miles Standish?

The reason I mention it is because when I first heard that George W. Bush was planning to pick Richard Cheney as his running mate, I found my thoughts turning to the sexy old Longfellow poem about those dashing romantics - our pilgrim fathers and mothers.

Like John Alden in "the Old Colony days" (as Longfellow put it), Cheney was supposed to be the go-between, the matchmaker whose mission was to represent the ardent cause of other suitors.

But at some point, Governor Bush - our modern version of the fair maid Priscilla - must have said to Cheney, "Why don't you speak for yourself, Dick?"

So Cheney dutifully passed the word to the various Miles Standishes - a.k.a. Keating, Ridge, Pataki, Hagel and Frist. What he said to them, in the decorous, formal English of pilgrim times, was "Fuggedaboutit! The dude wants me."

Or, to take a more cynical view, perhaps Cheney was secretly scheming all along to advance his own candidacy. In that case, the literary parallel that comes to mind is not the Longfellow poem but Hello, Dolly!

In that grand and high-spirited musical - based on a Thornton Wilder play entitled, appropriately, The Matchmaker - a wealthy Yonkers merchant named Horace Vandergelder engages the services of Dolly Gallagher Levi to help him find a suitable wife.

Through a series of hilarious twists and turns, Dolly manipulates Horace's feelings in her direction so that in the end the cranky old miser undergoes a Scrooge-like redemption and proposes to her.

So should we think in terms of John and Priscilla? Or Horace and Dolly? Whichever fun couple you prefer to associate with the political marriage of George and Dick, there's no denying that Cheney's extensive search for the "Mr. Right" running mate turned out to be a fascinating exercise in self-discovery.

Or to paraphrase a line from the comic strip Pogo, Dick Cheney must have come to the following conclusion: "I have seen the future, and it is me!"

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