Science & Technology

Dick Cheney, Pitchman


Vice President Dick Cheney spent his Sunday morning in the yak show studios, appearing on the home team's Fox News Sunday before settling in for the entire hour on Tim Russert's Meet the Press. Cheney excels at delivering complex and sometimes horrifying news in a soothing way, and he didn't disappoint yesterday. He kicked off the show predicting another attack on the U.S. somewhere, sometime in the future—an obvious point, but one that managed to make headlines.

Yet if he began the show predicting doom, he ended pitching products. "Dick Cheney is a Segway man?" asked Russert after showing a clip of the Veep on the scooter-like contraption. Cheney took the cue to endorse the product with all his heart, which, it turns out, he also owes to the inventor of the Segway, Dean Kamen. The stent that keeps Cheney's heart pumping was also a Kamen creation. Said Cheney, "Heart's Great, Segway's great."

The Vice President is another installment in the symbiotic yet unpredictable relationship between commerce, politics, celebrity and even news. Ronald Reagan retired from a career as an actor and pitchman to do politics. David Brinkley retired from news to front for Archer Daniels Midland, the agricultural giant that loves ethanol subsidies. The Dell computer pitchpunk Steven –"Dude, you're getting a Dell"—has built a robust (and annoying) persona that may lead to more legitimate work. Cheney is in no need of another career, but Segway is in need of another round of hype. Kamen could not have engineered a smoother product placement.