The ‘Darth Vader’ of GOP politics

President George W. Bush joked Wednesday that Vice President Dick Cheney, sometimes caricatured as Darth Vader, did not need a costume to play the sinister “Star Wars” villain for Halloween.

Bush’s jibe came as some of the candidates vying to succeed him as president put their own spin on Halloween, and a Senate Foreign Relations hearing was spooked by a “double” of chairman Senator Joseph Biden.

The President enjoyed his jibe at Cheney, who is derided by critics as a malevolent behind-the-scenes influence in US politics.

“This morning I was with the vice president. I was asking him what costume he was planning. And he said ‘I’m already wearing it.’ Then he mumbled something about ‘the dark side of the Force,'” Bush quipped.

Cheney himself has repeatedly joked publicly about his portrayal as the black-armored Dark Lord of the Sith, most recently in an October 21 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East policy.

“I’ve been asked if that nickname bothers me, and the answer is, no. After all, Darth Vader is one of the nicer things I’ve been called recently,” the vice president said.

It was unclear whether Bush or Cheney’s pop-culture knowledge included the fact that, at the end of the saga, Vader redeems himself and saves his son by hurling the evil emperor Palpatine to his death, at the cost of his own life.

On the 2008 campaign trail, candidates never slow to seek a photo-op, or stoop to a pander, got into the spirit of Halloween, which sees Americans spend billions of dollars in fancy dress, decorations and parties.

In a campaign debate on Tuesday, Democrat Barack Obama said he was going trick or treating with his two young daughters, and took a swipe at a top Republican candidate accused of reversing his political positions.

“I am thinking about wearing a Mitt Romney mask … it has two sides to it, it goes in both directions at once.”

The campaign of another Democratic candidate John Edwards emailed supporters a dummy frontpage of a newspaper dubbed “Scary Times” dated November 5, 2008 with the splash story “Giuliani elected in a landslide.”

A picture of the former New York mayor included the caption “Giuliani to Iran, bring it on.”

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel meanwhile sparked hilarity in the Senate Foreign Relations committee, dressing up as 2008 Democratic candidate Biden, and chanting “Biden for President” before a hearing.