WASHINGTON—Organizers reported Sunday that the 44th White House Carnival was a rousing success, raising a record $800,000,066,845 for the federal government—$800 billion of which came from a dunk tank featuring former vice president Dick Cheney.
According to Secretary of the Treasury and carnival volunteer Timothy Geithner, the 5-foot-deep tank has provided a much-needed boost to the nation's flagging economy.
"We expected a big turn out, but this is unbelievable," said Geithner, adding that it's tradition for the outgoing vice president to work the dunk tank. "More than half the country has already gone, and there's still about 20 million people stretching all the way to Maryland waiting for their chance to sink Cheney. We'll be leaving this booth open for as long as it takes for everyone to get a turn."
According to carnival sources, a visibly irritated Cheney, clad in sandals and a white cotton robe, arrived at the one-day event shortly before 10 a.m. After removing his robe to reveal a black, 1940s-style bathing suit, the vice president reportedly touched his hand to the water, muttered something to himself, and was then helped up the tank's ladder by several members of his Secret Service detail.
"All right, you candy arms, let's go," Cheney shouted at the line of people, which consisted of Americans, non-Americans, out-of-work autoworkers, teachers, luminaries from the science community, gays, lesbians, military personnel, members of Congress, children, and the entire Arab-American population. "Hey [former British prime minister Tony] Blair. I see you back there. Think you'll be able to stop crying long enough to throw the ball?"
Added Cheney, "You bunch of pansies couldn't hit a barn door if you were sitting on the handle."
Records show that the first dunk of the day came at the hands of Iraq War veteran Ben Hunter, whose throwing technique, Cheney repeatedly said, was reminiscent of his own grandmother's. After being goaded by the former vice president for several minutes, Hunter reportedly struck the tank's target on his third turn, plunging Cheney into the pool below and eliciting wild cheers from the roughly 150 million people on hand.
"That felt really good," Hunter told reporters. "I mean, really good. I'm going to get back in line and do it again."
Established in 1797, the White House Carnival was the brainchild of President George Washington, who wanted to raise funds for the burgeoning new republic. That year, citizens paid two cents apiece to watch Vice President John Adams jump into a nearby pond, an act that ultimately led to the dunk tank tradition.
Although past carnivals have raised anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000—just enough to pay for the carnival itself—tallies indicate that, thanks to Cheney, this year's record-setting proceeds could help steer the nation out of a deepening recession.
"The water's great," Cheney said moments after being dunked by third-grader Sean Biller, who traveled all the way from Denver for his chance to meet the former vice president. "Hopefully your unemployed dad can afford to give you money for another turn."
Unlike Biller, who carefully threw the ball at the bull's-eye, many citzens opted instead to aim directly at the head and chest of the 67-year-old politician.
One contestant who struggled to hit the target was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). After nearly 20 unsuccessful tries, several of which involved Kerry standing well ahead of the thrower's line, carnival officials finally allowed Kerry to just walk up and press the button with his hand.
Other carnival highlights included "Crazy Rahm's Guess Your Weight" game, President Carter's face painting station—which raised $52.75—and Laura Bush winning her third consecutive demolition derby. Still, the main attraction was Cheney, who several times sprayed the crowd with a Super Soaker, suffered an estimated 1,396 assassination attempts, and once suggested that participants with weak arms be sent to Afghanistan "to toughen up."
"I think that son of a bitch was actually having a good time up there," said attendee and former press secretary Ari Fleischer. "Much different than in 2000 when Al Gore refused to take off his T-shirt."
While the dunk tank remained busy throughout the evening, reports from the other side of the White House lawn were less favorable, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice having not yet received a single customer at her kissing booth.