I landed in Jackson Hole with my kids last week for a visit with some friends. There on the tarmac -- Air Force Two. Oh yeah I thought, I'm in Cheney Country. Immediately sent a pic of the plane through my phone to my friend Terry who responded by asking me if the spot on my forehead hurt knowing the Dark Lord was near.
Given the heat that the Veep is getting for the mess our country is in, does Cheney Country still exist? I was curious.
Sure I was on vacation, but I couldn't help engaging in some serious investigative journalism over the next few days. Okay, it was going to be unattributed anecdotal transcribing. But I vowed to be honest. I'd write the good and bad. Wyoming does have a Democratic Governor, but both houses of the legislature are controlled by Republicans and the Congressional delegation is completely Republican and has been since longer than 28 years ago when Dick Cheney was a Member of Congress. I was pretty sure I was going to be in enemy territory -- or at least have some uncomfortable conversations. So for the last few days of our trip and on our drive down to Colorado, I began my work.
-- In the leather shop in downtown Jackson, in walks a couple with polo shirts monogrammed with the VP seal and "Vice President Cheney Summer 2007" (or something like that) embroidered in gold. They pull out a big silver belt buckle with the VP seal on it as well and tell the woman that they are in from California for a big donor party at the Cheney's. They wanted to know if she could make them a belt for their shiny new buckle. Gee "that's cool, I say... how was the party?" "Well it was just a great time, the Cheneys are wonderful hosts and they made us each feel so special." "Did anyone talk about the war or the trouble with the economy that is emerging or the upcoming clash the White House is gong to have with Republicans in the Senate?" "No way", they say, "why would we talk about that when there is nothing good to say about it?"
-- A gas station in Dubois. I talk to a dad in a pickup truck as we are both filling our tanks and watching our kids fight. "I guess you guys in this part of the state are pretty proud of Dick Cheney" I say. "Why would you think that?" he says. "This guy is bringing our country down. I have one cousin in Iraq and we can't keep any jobs around here"
-- The Wind River Indian Reservation. Stop at a scruffy cafe for some cold drinks. A lovely native American woman is at the counter smiling. "Has Dick Cheney ever been through here?" I ask. "He used to come regularly," she says "but he hasn't for a few years. He hasn't shown up on the reservation since so many of our boys went off to Iraq. I suppose it is best for him not to come at this point since I doubt there would be any open arms."
-- At breakfast at the Best Western in Rawlins. Two elderly women at the next table. They are talking to my kids, so I am talking to them. "What do you two think of Dick Cheney?" They laugh. "Not much". "No seriously", I say, "the man has been a Wyoming institution for so many years, surely there must be some pride in his being the vice president?" "Well young lady (love them) we made a mistake. I don't think people should be rewarded for their past. When they are in government, they are supposed to want to help people. That isn't what this crowd is doing."
I had this same conversation a total of eleven or twelve times. Did I mention that all of these people identified themselves to me as Republicans (except the native American woman who told me she was a Democrat but voted for Bush because of Cheney)?
After awhile, this game just wasn't that fun anymore.
Cheney Country no longer exists. And Wyoming is so beautiful.