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It's a zoo out there 

Dick Cheney's Sept. 12 visit to Raleigh served to remind me why, though I have only the greatest admiration for the mainstream media, I no longer have the temperament to be one. Cheney, our vice president, popped up at the Fairgrounds--in the Kerr Scott Building--to plump the U.S. Senate candidacy of Congressman Richard Burr, fellow Republican. Both spoke. Burr's key point: He was never a toaster salesman, as some surly Democrat had alleged. No, he sold appliances for a wholesale distributor, thank you, which made him just as much a regular guy as the regular guy who no longer wants to be our senator, Johnny ("I was born in a small town") Edwards. Cheney promised more pre-emptive military attacks against unspecified evil-doers.

They said nothing else of note, IMO.

Back to you, Pam and David, Larry and--who's with Larry these days? Naturally, all the TV stations were present, cameras and anchors and serious expressions, and The News & Observer too, of course, lending gravity to the event. And I was there, and our photographer Alex Maness, penned in with the more respectful press at the back of the room, where all of us were closely guarded by the Secret Service. Kind of a "Planet of the Apes" thing. I prefer to think they were keeping us safe from the paying Republicans, whose thin ranks were stationed up by the stage. Surely we were no threat to them?

Still, passage to the bathroom was on a case-by-case basis, and no tricks. Stay Away from the Buffet.

From what I could tell, the paying Republicans were bored out there, perhaps because the Senate election is still 14 months away, and the White House picked their candidate for them a year ago. So, nothing to do but cough up the money. They've coughed up $4 million so far, Burr declared.

Scattered applause.

Very few approached to the rear during the hour we were so confined. Tripp Costas, campus GOP leader at UNC-Chapel Hill, sought out The Daily Tar Heel, and we three got to chatting about my theory that Republican men just don't go the gym much. (Hence, Burr's appeal to his president, since both he and W. do.) I did not say this to insult Costas, because he looked like another exception to my rule. But no, he confessed that with his political work and recent attention to his studies, he'd stopped going six months ago.

Nice young man. Said he'd gotten a call that morning from HQ, told he could bring "five freshmen who hadn't been that active so far." Recruiting tool.

A few minutes later, the DTH and I noticed our friend Costas squiring a beautiful young woman by the buffet, and we were congratulating him--from afar--on his choice of semi-active frosh; but then a well-informed newsguy (print media, naturally) told us she was the daughter of a prominent Republican. Either way, you go, Tripp.

So that's how we passed the time, while also making a mental note to--in the future--remain outside with the protesters. Reporting from behind the rope, this is...

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