The phone rang at 7:45 a.m.

“Get over to the Palm Beach Connection Center.”, the voice said. “I have to tickets to see Dick Cheney.”

The voice was my friend and fellow Gator, Jay. He's in town doing business with the county for the next two weeks as a representative of [$megacorporation].

We planned to go drinking after 3 p.m. but his morning meeting at the convention center was postponed for the Vice President's rally.

“So do you want to go?”, he asked.

“Hell yeah.”

“Ok. Get moving. Call me when you're out front.”

What to wear, what to wear? I collect what I call my “dictator shirts.” For this event, I pulled out the best one. It's my “Batista” shirt. Through a friend of my brother, I acquired a really nice guayabera that belonged to Cuba's corporatist dictator of the '50s, Fulgencio Batista ZaldĂ­var. Without getting into details, I have every reason to believe the history of this shirt.

Corporatist dictator, corporatist rally. Perfect choice. Seriously, as formalwear, I'm paranoid about putting this shirt on for no good reason. It's linen and I like to keep it bright white. Weddings, funerals and rallies for the HNIC-Head Neocon In Charge-are valid reasons for wearing the Batista shirt. Nothing else qualifies.

Within the hour, I arrived at the convention center. Jay came out to greet me. We caught up on events of the past eight months as we proceeded to the security checkpoint.

“Where are we allowed to stand?”, I asked Jay referring to the tickets.

“It's not VIP so I don't know.”

“Regardless, we're getting up front.”, I said. .”Guaranteed.”

We handed our phones and any other metal stuff we could before passing the checkpoint. I was at the Kerry rally at the community college in March. At that particular rally, the Secret Service was wise enough to manually check me instead of giving the metal detector a heart attack by rolling me through it.

No such wisdom this time. I didn't see any Secret Service agents. It looked like local law enforcement was handling everything and I was going to have to roll through the metal detector.

I rolled through and the metal detector had a heart attack. Jay was obviously pleased to see red lights flash and alarms sound as he was laughing. The security guy scanned me. He then asked me to lean forward a bit. He scanned my back. Off the charts again.

“I have two metal rods in my back.”

“They're in your back?”, he asked for confirmation.

“Yes, sir. They're in, as in inside, my back.” Like I'm the Chair Bomber, dumbass.

I smiled and went along with everything but what was the point of doing that? He gave me my phone and waved me through.

“We're going up front. I managed to get into the senator row at the Kerry rally with Keith in March.”, I said.

“Which way?”, Jay asked as we were given Bush-Cheney signs.

“Let's talk to that guy.”

That guy was a long-hair Bush worker. He seemed so out of place. I thought about my sister's remarks about people infiltrating the Bush campaign to disrupt it. I also thought about Elder Bush's idiotic comments about the “proper” punishment for John Walker Lindh. I didn't expect an appreciation of anyone outside the neocon hardcore Alfani Zombie Brigade. My expectation is that internal “loyal opposition” is unwelcome in the Republican Party. If this guy was someone they had to worry about, Obvious Guy(TM) would have saved the day already. Maybe my expectations are wrong because the Republicans I know have a tendency to be paranoid suspicions asshats when I agree with conservative positions but refuse to support Bush and his weapons of mass distraction. Different story. I can talk to long hair freaks. No problem.

“Hey dude, can you get me up front?”, I asked. “I can't see in that crowd.”

The question startled him. He glanced at several positions before answering. “Sure.”, he responded. “Give me just… one minute.”

Less than a minute later, he returned with an older women who took our signs and motioned us into the smaller VIP area. The crowd parted as Jay and I worked our way to the front. When I found daylight, I was front and center. For the record, this kind of stuff is the _only_ thing that can be legitimately considered a benefit of being in a wheelchair. Jay stayed back a bit so shorter people could see.

The stage was six feet away and five feet off the ground. The grandstands were inaccessible to a wheelchair and the dignitary row was behind the podium. I was as close as possible for this rally.

After the pledge and God Bless America, the speakers came and went. They were mostly local figures. I smiled, cheered and chanted because film was rolling, photographers were taking pictures and I like to be a good guest. I also wanted to see _if_ I was welcome as a part of the group.

It certainly felt that way. The Kerry rally was a distinctly unwelcome feeling. Granted, Cappellini essentially stole the seat of the president of the community college but there was more to it. Could it be that Democrats _expect_ me to tow the line and see my wheelchair as a guaranteed vote while the Republicans considered my presence an unexpected opportunity? I chatted with everyone around me at one point or another between various speakers. Everyone was giving off good vibes. To top it off, all the twenty something women in the crowd were hotties. By dropping my phone, I had the opportunity to talk to a _scorching_ hot redhead.

The Republican Party was scoring points in my book on many levels. Then it was almost ruined by a “former mayor of New York.”

As the emcee began his introduction, the people around me wondered if Rudy was going to make a surprise visit. As soon as he said, “and he would walk up to citizens of New York and ask, 'How am I doing?'…”, I knew it wasn't Rudy. That particular former mayor doesn't give a damn what anybody thinks of him. Apparently, this logic didn't occur to anybody else because the murmurs about Rudy continued. People were ready to explode with happiness. I liked the crowd too much to wish something wicked like the arrival of David Dinkins… or the mistaken arrival of a former D.C. mayor like Marion Barry.

And out came Ed Koch. At least it isn't Zell Miller. He's psychotic., I thought while cheering wildly for the converted geezer from the Big Apple.

Koch claimed to disagree with Bush on “just about” every domestic issue and most foreign policy issues but “one issue trumps all others”: Israel and the war on terror. After hearing that, I didn't know if Koch's “one issue” was a sad case of mental deterioration or a brilliantly insightful bumper sticker concept for the Whole Fsck'n Problem(TM). I don't give a damn about the Palestinians or Israel and I'd prefer to see that “one issue” go away. Call me an America Firster. Israel is the beginning and the end of the terrorism problem in the US. Besides, which American president is going to abandon Israel? That part of the argument is critical in making Israel a campaign issue. When anti-semitic (for the idiots out there, Arabs are Semites also) language is the basis of your argument, you are a Nazi. Congratulations to Ed Koch for merging the fringes of Zionist and Aryan philosophy.

All Koch accomplished was a great Jewish adaptation of an angry German art student.

After enduring that disturbing display of hubris, US Representative Mark Foley did the honors for introducing Cheney. Mark Foley is a great man. He managed to get the crowd revved up without slandering any historical ethnic enemies. He should be running for Senate right now and it's an absolute tragedy that he was forced out because he “lied” about “not being gay.” He says he's not but who cares if he is? He's an excellent congressman and would have made a superb Senator. There's no way to vote for the lesser clod when the choices are Ricky Ricardo and Betty Beaver.

I realized that I hadn't told my sister about my crazy random arrival into the Cheney rally so I called her.

“Hey fruitcake!”, I said as soon as she picked up. “Guess where I am.”


“Front and center at the Cheney rally.”


“Thank you for your faith in me.”, I responded. “I think I can behave. They've taken plenty of pictures of me already. I can't hear you. Later.”

With the crowd worked into a froth, the HNIC emerged…

My friend Roger describes Cheney best when he said, “That man is a professional killer.” Cheney is certainly in command of whatever situation he's in. His confidence is off the charts. Cheney is a consummate political player. But you knew that. What you might not know is the the “Cheney is evil” reputation is severely over-rated. I didn't get the vibes of anything remotely evil. In fact, he seems like a pretty nice guy in the same way that Holyfield is a nice guy–just don't end up in the ring with him. While the entire rally was dedicated to the War on Terror to a degree that could qualify as pornography, Cheney seems to have a tremendous reverence for the Republic. His words didn't sound anything close to authoritarian. That could change if he loses on Tuesday but, for now, he soberly informed the crowd that the election is too close to take for granted. Everyone should get to the polls and get others to the polls to vote for Bush. “Regimes” don't imply the possibility of losing.

Cheney is a pragmatist who is on a warpath against terrorism because terrorism screwed up his shell game. Power corrupts. The path to the top of the executive branch is paved with skulls no matter who walks the path or which party sponsors it. Cheney's particular game involves Haliburton and Iraq. His successors will have similar ambitions under different names. It's an unfortunate part of the system but it doesn't make Cheney anti-democracy or the vague label of “evil.”

Cheney is a decent guy. After being just as close to Joe Lieberman in March, I can state emphatically that I would flee the country if Lieberman was vice president. Lieberman gives the “Cheney is evil” bumper sticker a run for its money. Maybe the mark-of-the-beasters can get to work on a conspiracy theory that the dreaded mark is under Lieberman's inch of makeup. Cheney doesn't have the vibes or the prerequisite makeup for apocalyptic standing. Al Gore was smoking crack when he chose Lieberman. Dick Cheney was smoking crack when he chose Bush.

As Cheney concluded his speech, my fellow groupies started getting antsy. “Hey,”, the woman behind me began, “you need to stick your hand out because Cheney is _definitely_ going to shake your hand.”

Really? Kerry wasn't so inspired. “Ok.”, I said. “I'll keep my hand out.”

“If he shakes your hand, we'll be able to shake his hand as well.”, noted the woman to the left of me.

“I'm here to help.” I was amused. “FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!”

As Cheney made his way down the line, a few idiots went overboard and pushed the crowd. Their stupidity almost knocked over the woman next to me. “I almost fell into your lap!”

No comment.

Just then, an agent told me to back up because my feet aren't allowed past the barricade.

“I can back up but I'll probably hurt some people.”

“Back up.”

“10-4.” I complied to the dismay of a few people behind me.

The woman behind me tapped my shoulder. I half-expected a complaint. “Ok.”, she said. “Get your hand back out there.” She's got priorities.

Cheney came in front of me and did something I'd _never_ would have expected under such circumstances. He shook my hand correctly. It's a big deal to me because I'm disabled. If you shake my hand like any other man, that's a tremendous sign of respect to me. Most politicians in Florida, with the notable exception of Mark Foley, have failed in this simple task. Grabbing my wrist or my finger makes me think I'm dealing with an asshat. It's not difficult to do it right. The HNIC Dick Cheney just turned my impression into law. Fail to show me respect on a handshake and you will fail to get a kind word here.

Cheney clearly looked, considered his approach and followed through. It was only a half second longer than others but it was a necessary half second and I'm honored that he spent it.

As the crowd dispersed, Jay and I made our way to the lobby.

“All they talked about was the war.”, noted Jay.

“If that's all they have going for them, that's not saying much.”

“Some of those chants sounded like a Nazi rally.”

“Ed Koch is a Nazi.”, I said. “At best, he's a whore. Cheney is cool though. I'm not sure how to process this change in opinion.”

“Remember the scene in Indiana Jones?”, Jay asked referring to Temple of Doom.


“When Indiana Jones enters a Nazi rally and Hitler signs his book…”, Jay said. “That's you.”

That was hilarious and I definitely had a good time. Next time I'll bring my fedora. I wish the Republican Party was a little more tolerant of anti-Bush conservatives because the Libertarian Party is even less of an organized party than the Democrats and leaves an ocean of voters out of the system.

“Let's get something to eat.”

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