At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.
The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.
Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name....
Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." ...
It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz?...
...Mr. Bush, who promised during the election campaign to restore "honour and dignity" to the White House, ... and his lieutenants resent the sloppy informality of Mr. Clinton's blue-jeaned army of youthful assistants, whose attire and attitude they considered disrespectful.
From the moment Mr. Bush swore in his staff this week, his deputies made it clear the President expects his staff to dress correctly. No dress code was issued, but there will be no more denim or T-shirts in the Oval Office, where former president Ronald Reagan never even removed his suit jacket.
"The days of jeans and no ties at the White House are over," predicted Georgette Mosbacher, a prominent Republican activist....
--Globe & Mail, 1/25/01
A few weeks after I joined the White House, I read a memoir by Clinton's chief speechwriter, Michael Waldman. Waldman described late-night editing sessions in the Roosevelt Room, the big meeting room on the main floor of the West Wing. By midnight, he recalled, the long conference table would be covered with pizza boxes and capsized French fries. Pizza! At midnight! In the Roosevelt Room! In the Bush White House, the idea would have been as incredible as spitting on the carpet.
--David Frum, The Right Man, pp. 14-15
... the Clinton White House [was] a place where opponents' FBI files were read aloud over pizza and foreign contributors with cash invited in the back door. I thought: Something's wrong with these people, they lack thought and dignity. But most of all they seemed to lack respect, a sense of awe....
--Peggy Noonan, 9/14/98, republished 10/5/01
Yes, the Bushies believe in making a great show of "respect." They respect themselves. A lot. And that's about as far as it goes. They aren't Clintons. They aren't Europeans. And they're in charge, while you're not. They say to themselves, "This entitles us to a great deal of respect." And they respond to themselves, "You're darn right it does." And if the rest of the world -- even the survivors of Auschwitz -- doesn't approve, I guess the rest of the world can, er, go respect itself.
(UPDATE: Noonan link corrected. Also, citation corrected.)