Cheney's big bang

Cheney hunting

Thank goodness it wasn't W!

Vice President Dick Cheney is infamous for his hunting trips. Previously, he went hunting with Supreme Court Justice Scalia before a case was to come before the Supreme Court in which Cheney was an interested party. Now he's gone hunting again, and this time shot and wounded one of his hunting companions.

The Los Angeles Times reports that while quail hunting near Corpus Christi, Texas, Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin. According to Katharine Armstrong, owner of the property where the incident occured, "Cheney picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good." The victim, says Armstrong, is "alert and doing fine" in a Corpus Christi hospital today.

Whittingtonquail
Whittington (left), Quail (right)
It's easy to see how Vice could have gotten confused.

Take a moment to picture it: Cheney and his buds are out hunting, and quail are flushed from hiding. Cheney takes aim at a bird and is "following it" and somehow doesn't notice Harry standing between him and the quail? If the old geezer can't see any better than that, take away his gun!

Never mind: Guns don't shoot people, people do!

It's the cover-up, stupid! The first instinct of this administration is to keep everything a secret, so it was amusing today to listen to Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, try to explain to a room full of reporters with their collective knickers in a twist why it took almost a day for news of Cheney's little accident to surface. (The Washington Post has a video clip in case you weren't watching C-SPAN.)

Scott McClellan

McClellan's tap dance had three motifs: the first priority was to get medical attention for Mr Whittington; it was important to get all the facts; and "ask the Vice-President." The press corps was having none of it. They kept coming back to the central question:

Q But let's just be clear here. The Vice President of the United States accidentally shoots a man and he feels that it's appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell the local Corpus Christi newspaper, and not the White House press corps at large, or notify the public in a national way?

I'm always amazed at how badly this White House can bollix up the public relations aspect of something when they have shown themselves consummate masters of manipulating public relations. The more McClellan prattled on about learning "additional information overnight -- throughout the night, we were learning additional information here in Washington" the more ludicrous it became.

Let's take the issues. First, medical treatment for the victim. The Vice President travels with a medical team who are, theoretically at least, prepared to handle a medical emergency that might befall an old, overweight, multiple by-passed, coronary diseased man with a pace-maker. Surely first aid for superficial gunshot wounds would be a piece of cake. Besides, even in Texas they have hospitals. (Nothing I've read suggests that Whittington's wounds are anything but superficial. The ranch owner describes him as having been "peppered." And how long does it take for the Secret Service to call 911?)

Second, the information. Let's suppose, giving the benefit of the doubt, that the first report to reach the White House was as vague as "Vice was involved in a shooting accident." Would not someone say, "Bloody hell!" and get on the phone to find out what happened? Instead, McClellan gives the impression of a passive White House waiting for information to dribble in. If one were the president and someone came and said, "Vice has been involved in a shooting accident," wouldn't that president demand to know the details? Apparently not. Uncurious George remains uncurious, whether it is "Bin Laden determined to strike in the US" or "Levees have broken in New Orleans" or "Vice involved in shooting accident."

We are given to believe that the President is at the heart of a vast, sophisticated communications system, capable of reaching anyone, anywhere, anytime. Apparently not. Couldn't do it on 9/11. Couldn't do it during Katrina. Couldn't do it when Uncle Dickie "peppered" his hunting buddy.

It makes a person wonder what will happen during the next terrorist attack or natural catastrophe. How many times does this bunch get to show complete incompetence and contempt for the public before they are called to account?

Oh, and hunting without a quail stamp? "Don't need no stinkin' stamps," snarled Vice. And the $7 check is in the mail.

The comics and cartoonists have had a field day. Here are two.

Stuart Carlson cartoon
Stuart Carlson (Click image to enlarge)
Tom Toles cartoon
Tom Toles (Click image to enlarge)