Here’s an interesting moment from FOX News Sunday:
WALLACE: Did you really tell Senator Leahy, bleep yourself?
CHENEY: I did.
WALLACE: Any qualms or second thoughts or embarrassment?
CHENEY: No, I thought he merited it at the time. And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.
I would fully expect Cheney to acknowledge telling Leahy to go fuck himself and be comfortable with it. He’s an adult. While I suppose we ought to expect a certain decorum from our elected officials, history demonstrates that they are every bit has human as the rest of us. That’s a good thing.
What fascinates me, however, is Cheney’s use of the verb “to merit.” Its denotation is “to be worthy of” or “to deserve.” It seems to me, however, that the connotation of “to merit” creates a bit of a klunker, as if someone just smacked an off-key cowbell.
Whereas “to deserve” has both positive and negative connotations, I’m having a hard time thinking of negative connotations for “to merit.” The noun “demerit,” if verbed, would seem far more appropriate — although the klunk would have been intolerable.
So why the choice of “to merit”?
It could be that Cheney uses this verb in place of “to deserve” regularly. In the context of an interview on a “friendly” cable network, however, could he shooting for a particular rhetorical effect? It seems to me Cheney is tidying up his public use of “fuck” and his moment of indecorum. He’s making it Leahy’s fault. He’s also elevating “go fuck yourself” to the level of a reasonable response — even an expected response.