Which way to the bunny hill?

By Mark Follman

Published January 28, 2005 7:54PM (EST)

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, center, flanked by his wife Lynne, right, and Israel's President Moshe Katsav, left on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis' Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops in Oswiecim, southern Poland on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005.

Washington Post fashion columnist Robin Givhan doesn't think much of Vice President Dick Cheney's choice of attire for Thursday's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Cheney's dressing down in a parka and ski cap, Givhan notes, was quite at odds with the solemnity of the event.

"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. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.

"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 was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag.

"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?"

Perhaps not quite the stuff of a diplomatic crisis, but dour Dick's new-and-improved ceremonial dress can't be doing much to mend the old U.S. of A.'s rather shopworn international profile. And when you stop for a moment to ponder what Auschwitz represents -- that is, after all, the purpose of a gathering like this -- the vice president's appearance amid the rest of the world leaders in attendance is nothing less than disgraceful.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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