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In October 2013, the boys got together to roast Dick Cheney. I don’t know if they were so shameless as to bring their wives to this event. You know the idea behind a roast. You make fun of the guest of honor with jokes, usually bad jokes, usually the more tasteless the better. Rule number one for the audience: you have to laugh. The guest of honor has to laugh the hardest.

The speakers at the Cheney roast made fun of Cheney’s affinity for waterboarding. That’s right. They chuckled and guffawed their way through multiple gibes about a form of torture that simulates drowning. After they ran that one into the ground, they made fun of Cheney accidentally shooting his friend in the face. They even mocked Colin Powell, who as Secretary of State sacrificed his reputation for Dick Cheney, at Cheney’s request.

This kind of humor reminds me of gangsters, the ones who like to whack people, then get together to joke about it afterwards. You’ve seen the scene in Goodfellas, where the wise guys gather round the bar to celebrate and yuk it up while their victim lies inert in the trunk of the car outside.

Cheney and his buddies resemble these criminals. They cannot seem to conceal their baseness, even when it would be in their interest to do so. Amazingly, they revel in their criminality in public, years after they have retired. They have no perception of the harm they have done, no conscience and no sense of their own corruption. They think strapping people to boards to poor water down their nostrils is funny. If that’s so entertaining, they should have presented a cute little skit at the roast, where all join in the fun while one of Cheney’s wise guys waterboards a waiter or a dishwasher at the head table. That would get a laugh.

We read millennia later about how the Roman emperor Caligula made his horse a senator. It was a great joke at the time. The humor we see coming from Washington’s gang of criminals is similarly tasteless and appalling. I expect Caligula laughed when he tortured people, too.

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Waterboarding Is a Big Joke at Cheney Roast

Event sponsor: Commentary magazine.

A few of the wise guys who laughed it up with Cheney, their capo crimini: former Senator Joseph Lieberman, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby. These jokers provided the evening’s entertainment.