Alex Massie

Cheney’s Lingerie Legacy

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I confess I chuckled heartily when I saw the eyebrow-raising words "Cheney's Lingerie Legacy" at Andrew Sullivan's site.  Two more words popped up, unprompted but irresistably and immediately. No prizes - not even for the bright pupils of Market Snodsbury Grammar School - for guessing that Spode was one and Eulalie the other.

This sort of thing happens more often than you might think and not just to me either. Here, for instance, is how Christopher Hitchens began his review of Robert McCrum's excellent biography of Wodehouse:

I daresay that one can claim, without running overmuch risk of contradiction, to have been reading Frederick Taylor's recent history of the obliteration of Dresden with no intention of looking for laughs. And yet when I reached page 46, I found myself open-mouthed with joy, and eager to share my mirth. Taylor carefully sets the scene of pre-war Nazi Saxony, and devotes several paragraphs to the unpleasing figure of Martin Mutschmann, the party gauleiter. From these passages I learned that Herr Mutschmann had left school at fourteen and had taken "various management positions in lace and underwear companies." I at once laid down the book and wondered whom I should call or e-mail with this precious page reference.

Some of you who are still with me will already have caught my drift. In the climactic scene of The Code of the Woosters, Bertie confronts Sir Roderick Spode, the sinister bully who is "founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a Fascist organization better known as the Black Shorts." He reduces Spode to a jelly by disclosing that he knows the would-be dictator's ghastly secret—his ownership of Eulalie Soeurs, a female underwear consortium. Devotees of this incandescently funny novel may quarrel with my brief summary here. Bertie needs to fail hilariously at least once, and to enlist the help of the invaluable Jeeves before he can bring off the coup. However, I can confidently expect some fellow sufferers to write in, and to thank me in broken tones for this confirming serendipity.

Spode was all bark and no bite; if only the same could be said of Cheney. Please note: I am not suggesting that the former Vice-President was a fascist or even the kind of would-be fascist fond of parading around in footer bags making a frightul ass of himself. Nonetheless, one cannot help but notice that, presumably at his insistence, the United States, well, read for yourself...

From 2003 to 2006, the Bush administration quietly tried to relax the draft language of a treaty meant to bar and punish "enforced disappearances" so that those overseeing the CIA's secret prison system would not be criminally prosecuted under its provisions, according to former officials and hundreds of pages of documents recently declassified by the State Department.

The aim of the global treaty, long supported by the United States, was to end official kidnappings, detentions and killings like those that plagued Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and that allegedly still occur in Russia, China, Iran, Colombia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. But the documents suggest that initial U.S. support for the negotiations collided head-on with the then-undisclosed goal of seizing suspected terrorists anywhere in the world for questioning by CIA interrogators or indefinite detention by the U.S. military at foreign sites.

So, lingerie aficionado or not,  in the end we're in the rather awful position of wishing that Dick Cheney were really as toothless and absurd a perisher as Roderick Spode, the would-be Great Dictator. A sad, vexing business.

You can design women's underwear or you can run the world by your rules alone. But you can't really do both. Cheney, alas, made the wrong choice...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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