Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Hello, kiddies. Today my column is written specially for you.

Let’s pretend that I am the teacher and you are the students in the first grade class, being cute as little buttons. (For my part, I shall suppress my natural resentment, because being cute is the one thing you can do that I can’t.)

Isn’t this fun? Let’s play a game.

The name of the game is Vice President Cheney.

You have a question, Johnny? Put up your hand, please. That’s better.

“Mr. Henry, does this mean we can shoot ducks?”

No, Johnny.

“But Vice President Cheney shoots ducks.”

Yes, he does, Johnny. That is because the vice president doesn’t have much to do and has to fill in his time somehow. He flies around the country shooting ducks when he is not manipulating something called intelligence. Besides, he believes shooting ducks protects the American people from the feathered evildoers of al-Quacker.

“Is that a bad joke, Mr. Henry?”

Yes, Johnny, and let me just say that you are obviously a smart little fellow. If it doesn’t damage your self-esteem, why don’t you sit in the back of the classroom now and perfect the art of silence. Anyway, Tommy has his hand up to ask a question.

“Mr. Henry, if we can’t shoot ducks, can we shoot attorneys?”

No, Tommy, we are not going to shoot attorneys, either.

“Why not?”

Because attorneys could sue you. Do you know what “sue you” means, Tommy?

“Sure. This is America. I sued my baby-sitter once.”

Explain to the rest of the class what suing means, Tommy.

“It’s like someone does something to you that you don’t like. So you get an attorney and you go to court and then they send all the bad guy’s money to you in big trucks and you can have ice cream and stuff.”

That’s right, Tommy. And we don’t want to send money for ice cream to any attorneys.

Now, is that you again, Johnny? In the back? I see you have your hand up and your self-esteem doesn’t seem bruised by keeping quiet for all of 30 seconds.

“No, Mr. Henry, my self-esteem is very bruised and I’ll be suing you after school. But while we are waiting, couldn’t we play a President Bush game instead of a Vice President Cheney game? We are Gifted in this class, you know, and my mom will be mad if we don’t play superior games.”

Johnny, playing the Vice President Cheney game is actually more interesting than playing the President Bush game. Playing the President Bush game has become very boring.

I am sure you hit a pinata at a birthday party when you were the last kid in line. President Bush has been that pinata for so long that there’s nothing left inside the poor man. It’s sort of pathetic. Mean critics swing at him and only bits of newspaper fall out _ and he doesn’t even read newspapers. You could say he was a lame duck but Vice President Cheney might take a shot at him.

“So how do we play the Vice President Cheney game?”

Thank you for asking. The aim of the game, boys and girls, is to speak in a sort of cool code. All you have to do is say the exact opposite of what is real. For example, if something you hear is perfectly reasonable, you say “it’s hogwash.” If it’s objectionable, you say it’s fine. This game is just like “today is opposite day.”

Tommy, you look confused. Do you have a question? If the vice president were here, he would say you would be “out of line” to ask the question, which means it’s perfectly OK.

“My Dad says we must never tell lies. Shouldn’t we hire public relations people to tell lies for us so that we can grow up and become good corporate citizens?”

That’s very admirable; Tommy, but you don’t understand the game. Vice President Cheney doesn’t tell lies. He just tells the truth in a backwards way so that those he doesn’t like _ liberals, Democrats, ducks _ won’t understand.

Let’s practice together by saying: The insurgency is in its last throes! Tommy, can you tell the class what that means?

“Yes, Mr. Henry, it means it isn’t. Also, I don’t need to go to the bathroom.”

Excellent, Tommy. I am so proud of you. You may go to the bathroom right now.

(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at) For more stories visit

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