No Comment — August 12, 2007, 2:20 pm

YouTube of the Day

Last winter, making arrangements for a law of armed conflict conference I was putting together with some friends from West Point and Princeton, I had a lunch with one of the former SACEURs (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) I was hoping to bring in as a keynote speaker. He started talking about Dick Cheney. “I read the statement that Brent Scowcroft made, where he said ‘I don’t recognize this Dick Cheney’ and thought ‘how true.’ I also knew and worked with Dick Cheney for years. He was alert, serious, sober and cautious. And nothing at all like this man who sits in the White House today. It’s enough to get one thinking about the ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ Something happened.”

Well, maybe the something is the physical and psychological consequences of a heart attack and a series of microstrokes. They are capable of having life and thought-changing consequences for their victims, and as Jon Stewart recently reminded us, Dick Cheney and Larry King together could keep a ward of cardiologists going full time. Or maybe we’ll ultimately learn that Dick Cheney really is the Manchurian Candidate. Who knows. One thing’s for certain: he’s not the old Dick Cheney.

So here’s a terrific YouTube: a glimpse at the old Dick Cheney. The one who was mentally alert, intelligent and objective. And not at all like the delusional figure who currently directs foreign and national security policy for our dauphin-president. In an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute from April 15, 1994, Cheney explains that invading Baghdad would have been a bad decision—it would have produced a quagmire and would have cost us the support of key allies. He got that right.

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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