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Dick Cheney, the constant comedian, lets some good ones fly

June 3, 2008 |  6:18 am

Have you heard the one about the powerful vice president who got up in front of a bunch of people that he probably dislikes the most of any, other than maybe special prosecutors? And he told the most hilarious joke about incest in West Virginia.Vice president and laughmeister Dick Cheney told a hilarious joke about incest in West Virginia

Which couldn't possibly have been funnier unless it was about incest in Mississippi.

But this being an election year, even though not for this vice president, and West Virginians being as totally humorless as everyone knows they are, Dick Cheney had to quickly issue a statement apologizing to the people of the little state without whose five electoral votes in 2000 he would long since be a full-time fly-fisherman or dove killer.

Widely considered the most powerful No. 2 in the country's history, Cheney also absolutely loves the media. Can't get enough of them. Us. Which is why he agreed to present a bunch of awards at a Monday lunch at the National Press Club, the same institution where....

...that other renowned comedian, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, let fly some racial zingers recently.

What a coincidence.

But seriously, folks, Cheney said he has no future political ambitions, which is probably a good thing given that his favorable ratings lie down around the number of Wyoming's electoral votes -- three.

Cheney did say he might write a book after retirement next Jan. 20. Actually, what he said with his trademark loquaciousness was, "Perhaps."

Pressed, he added, “I really haven’t decided. I’ve never written a book. I’ve always said, 'I got this job because I didn’t write about the last one.”

People were falling out of their chairs by now.

Both Cheney and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama have gotten a whole lot of speaking mileage out of the lighthearted revelation last fall by Lynne Cheney that she had uncovered some family linkage between her husband and the man who's so often denouncing her husband and Laura Bush's husband.

Lynne Cheney found the Obama connection through the vice president's maternal grandmother who -- and here's where the humor builds -- was also named Cheney.

“So we had Cheneys on both sides of the family," said Cheney, "and we don’t even live in West Virginia."

Then, he added, "You can say these things when you're not running for reelection."

West Virginians on both sides of the political aisle launched immediate rhetorical grenades, calling the quip "disrespectful" and "certainly not funny" and "pitiful."

Before being hospitalized for an unexplained fever, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, whom you might suspect is a 90-year-old Democrat with absolutely no sense of humor unless it's about both Republicans in his home state, said the Cheney remark showed "contempt and astounding ignorance toward his own countrymen."

By mid-afternoon, however, the laughter had died. And a Cheney spokesman said her boss apologized to West Virginians for his "inappropriate attempt at humor that he should not have made."

Next time maybe he'll tell the one about the Wyoming rancher who was driving to the Casper airport for a flight to Denver. But when he got to the intersection, the sign said "Airport Left."  So he turned his pickup around and went home.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo Credit: The White House