STEPHEN SMITH: Cheney's Smirk: 'So?' Comment Takes Some Kind of Prize
I collect quirky quotes, offhand utterances I believe will live on in our language for years to come, and I have to admit that Vice President Cheney's "So?" is an absolute keeper.
Ah, me, such eloquence! Such conciseness -- and it's so beautifully arrogant! Thank goodness we live in a time when men speak to inspire.
Cheney opened his yap in response to a statement about the majority of Americans believing that the war in Iraq isn't worth fighting, and "So?" just popped right out of his face.
The monosyllabic exhalation had obviously been lurking deep within his larynx and was forced upward through the infraglottic cavity, past the Adam's apple, the vocalis muscle, the Ventricularis muscle, the vestibular fold, and the epiglottis. And -- kapowee! -- out it came: "So?" Obviously, the cerebellum was not involved.
(I could use an interrobang to punctuate "So" -- you'll find an example of the interrobang on Wikipedia -- because what the VP said is a true example of an exclamatory interrogative, and it loses a little of its immediacy without the force of proper punctuation.)
By employing the idiomatic "So?" Cheney was actually saying "So what?" -- an informal expression of disinterest, disinclination, contempt and/or implacable arrogance. In layman's language it means "Go to hell; I couldn't care less what you think."
Why did Cheney employee a single-syllable response? Probably because he has nothing to lose. In an ABC/Washington Post poll, 82 percent of Americans said they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and while George W. Bush remains at his career low in job approval, Cheney's job approval rating is lower than whale scat. So why not mouth off to the world, you know, one last gesture of contempt?
When he uttered "So?" I suspect there were millions of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, who wanted to smack him in the kisser. Thus it's well he was on TV. Four thousand dead Americans and who knows how many wounded, and the VP says, "So?" Obviously, he believes there's no need to placate the economically distressed, war-weary American public.
If you'd like to see and hear Cheney's statement in context, you can find him on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SypeZjeOrY4. Notice the quick, cocky, crooked smile. If it's possible to get flipped off by a facial gesture, Cheney does it -- and with aplomb.
Before you grab your poison quill and dip it in hyena blood, understand that I'm not singling out the vice president. I'm also adding Chelsea Clinton's Butler University statement to my list of quirky quotes.
When asked if the Monica Lewinsky scandal had damaged her mother's credibility, Chelsea responded, "Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know maybe, 70 college campuses I've now been to and I do not think that is any of your business."
Because of Chelsea's lack of conciseness, her response doesn't rise to the level of Cheney's monosyllabic "So?" But it's almost as arrogant.
Sure, I understand the inclination to say, "Sock it to 'em, Chelsea!" But Chelsea is no longer a child, and she's on the road campaigning for her mother. Does she truly believe that it's none of our business?
After all, Hillary maintains that her husband's presidency is part and parcel of the experience that qualifies her to be president, and Monica is certainly an aspect of the Clintons' experience -- and, unfortunately, ours. A brave member of the press ought to ask Hillary the question. I'd like to know the answer.
So, yeah, I've added the Cheney and Chelsea quotes to my list, although neither speaker is quite as accomplished as the South Carolina beauty queen who said, "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uhmmm, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, I, education like such as uh, South Africa, and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should, uhhh, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for us."
Or, of course, last year's first-place winner -- "Don't tase me, bro! Don't tase me!"
Stephen Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
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