(Host) Recently Pat Leahy was on the receiving end of some unprintable comments from Vice President Dick Cheney. Today commentator Philip Baruth imagines that the vice president receives his come-uppance from the only woman in the world tougher than Cheney himself.
(Baruth) It all began harmlessly enough: Senator Pat Leahy spots Dick Cheney on the floor of the Senate, in a little knot of blue suits. So Leahy ambles over to shake Cheney’s hand.
And that’s when Cheney let loose with The Three Words, three words now as famous as E Pluribus Unum. The Washington Post reported the phrase verbatim, but this is Vermont Public Radio. So let’s just say that what Cheney suggested amounted to revising E Pluribus Unum to something more like E Unum Unum, if you know what I’m saying.
Anyway, later with reporters, Leahy turned the other cheek: “I think he was just having a bad day,” he said. And the whole thing might have ended there. But the next day, when Cheney was quizzed about the cursing, he said he’d only been “forthright” and actually “felt better afterward.”
Again, Leahy let it go. And frankly, so did most of the nation. But there was one woman in America, in the distant state of Vermont, who’d been pushed just one millimeter too far: gardener and VPR commentator Ruth Page.
Now, Ruth has been around the block a few times and she’s battled a lot of powerful men acting a lot of different kinds of childish. But if there’s one thing in this wide world that Ruth Page likes less than corporate polluters it’s an unrepentant potty mouth.
And so, just as Dick Cheney finished not apologizing to Fox News, Ruth was packing a bag for Washington, D.C
“Which corner of the world are you off to save this time?” her husband called from the living room, but Ruth said nothing.
Instead, she went to the unmarked shed beside the garage, removed the padlock, and backed out her own highly experimental hybrid vehicle, the only car in the world green enough for Ralph Nader and powerful enough for Arnold Shwarzenegger.
Four hours later she was downshifting into Washington, D.C. But there’s a problem involved with confronting Dick Cheney: the guy’s as elusive as the Treasure of the Sierra Madres.
Finally Ruth fell back on old-fashioned patience: she drove to the vice presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory and she waited. It took hours, but finally a long black limo pulled up. Out of it stepped the big man himself.
Nothing in their training had prepared Cheney’s security detail for this lone woman who marched up wearing gardening gloves and a grim look. The agents scattered like well-dressed cockroaches.
And then it was just Ruth Page and Dick Cheney, and she said what she’d come to say:
(Page) “Mr. Vice President, using foul language in a gathering of U.S. senators to Vermont’s popular Pat Leahy can’t be forgiven without a heartfelt apology. And then to say you ‘felt better’ after such a remark! Pull yourself together, man, and act like the vice president of the United States. Good-bye.”
And then Ruth turned on her heel, and she drove the experimental hybrid home, where her husband had the tea things laid out in the kitchen.
“How’d it go?” her husband asked. Ruth dunked her teabag.
(Page) “Well, I don’t know if it helped any. But I’ll tell you one thing: I sure did feel a heck of a lot better afterward.”
Philip Baruth is a novelist who lives in Burlington. Philip teaches at the University of Vermont, and he’s very grateful for Ruth Page’s help in putting this piece together.