The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

While other re­porters flocked en masse to Den­ver for the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, one of Wash­ing­ton’s lead­ing word­smiths/an­glers, Weekly Stan­dard se­nior writer Matt Labash, fly­fished with Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho.

“At the risk of be­ing pub­licly ridiculed, quar­an­tined, or stoned, I’ll just say it straight­away: I re­ally like Dick Cheney,” Mr. Labash con­fesses. “In fact, many of the parts of Cheney’s pub­lic per­sona that re­pel oth­ers, I rather en­joy.

“I’ve al­ways liked his ruth­less non-sen­ti­men­tal­ity in an age of lip-biters and te a rsquir ters. I like that you’re never apt to hear him in­voke ‘the chil­dren’ as a rea­son for ped­dling some un­re­lated ini­tia­tive. (‘I’m not a baby kisser,’ he once said on the cam­paign trail.) I like that he doesn’t seem to care about be­ing liked, which is lucky for him, since his ap­proval rat­ing hov­ers at 18 per­cent.”

Ob­vi­ously, it could not have been easy talk­ing Mr. Cheney into em­bark­ing on a 10-mile float trip through God’s coun­try with a Wash­ing­ton re­porter shar­ing his boat.

“Many had warned me of Cheney’s lust for si­lence on the river,” notes Mr. Labash, re­call­ing diplo­mat and jour­nal­ist Ken Adel­man once writ­ing: “De­spite pleas over the years, [Mr. Cheney] adamantly re­fused to take me fly-fish­ing in Wy­oming. When pressed, he fi­nally ex­plained, ‘You talk too much to go fly-fish­ing.’”

Still, the vice pres­i­dent, who likens fish­ing to a re­li­gion, was as­sured by his han­dlers that Mr. Labash was so ob­sessed with catch­ing fish on a fly that he slept in his fish­ing vest while spoon­ing his fly rod. Re­gard­less, the scribe would have to tread — and cast — care­fully.

“He winces when I pull my tape recorder out of my chest­wader pouch,” re­calls Mr. Labash at one point, at which time Mr. Cheney ad­mits: “You know the only rea­son I agreed to this? I wanted to see what kind of re­porter had the co­jones to con­vince his ed­i­tors to pay for him to come fish the South Fork.”

Mr. Labash took the op­por­tu­nity to lunch with Jack Den­nis, a long­time friend and fish­ing guide of Mr. Cheney who has in­tro­duced fly-fish­ing to every­one from Har­ri­son Ford to Arnold Palmer.

“Per­haps the strangest mo­ment for Den­nis,” Mr. Labash now re­veals, “was one af­ter­noon on the river, just days af­ter Cheney had a heart de­fib­ril­la­tor im­planted. Den­nis says Cheney was re­clin­ing in the boat with ‘his head leaned back — he’d never done any­thing like that. I went back to look and see if he was breath­ing.’ Cheney popped open one eye and asked, ‘What are you do­ing?’

“ ‘I’m check­ing to see if you’re breath­ing,’ Den­nis said.

“ ‘Well, so what?’ Cheney snapped back. ‘What would hap­pen if I wasn’t? Will you just not worry about me? Leave me alone and what­ever hap­pens hap­pens. I can’t think of a bet­ter place to

die than right here.’”

Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney is said to liken fish­ing to a re­li­gion, and he prefers to fish in si­lence.

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