Conservatives roasted Dick Cheney in Manhattan on Monday night, telling jokes about waterboarding, war crimes tribunals, shooting people in the face, and vice-presidential aides going to jail — all the classic Bush administration hits from a time when things were going better for the Republican Party. The conservative magazine Commentary hosted the roast, BuzzFeed's Ben Smith reports, and the reaction was mixed, with one attendee saying it was "a very sentimental night," and another saying the jokes were "really tasteless." Former Sen. Joe Lieberman reportedly "said something to the effect that it’s nice that we’re all here at the Plaza instead of in cages after some war crimes trial." The emcee was Commentary editor John Podhoretz, who has an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Post about how today's Republicans like John Boehner are damaging the GOP brand.
"I can see the case for enhanced interrogation techniques after Sept. 11 but I can’t really endorse sitting there drinking wine and fancy dinner at the Plaza laughing uproariously about it," an attendee told Smith. The crowd watched a video (which perhaps needs more explanation) that put Cheney's head on other people's bodies. Podhoretz said he would release it for $1 million.
We must not judge these jokes too harshly. Despite the occasional public outcry over human rights abuses, the Bush era was an easier time for the GOP. For a time, the party controlled the White House, the House and the Senate. Today's Republicans, Podhoretz writes in the Post, misread polls and "think that they’re supported by a vast silent majority of Americans who dislike what they dislike and want what they want... I fear they are very, very wrong about the existence of this silent majority, and that their misperception is leading them to do significant damage to the already damaged Republican 'brand.'" Once you think of the Republican Party as an exclusive club, what's a few waterboarding jokes between friends?