Crime: Cheney Shoots Prominent Texas Republican
What was the real motive behind the shooting? The official accounts of the incident made available so far simply do not ring true.
According to the latest reports, we are asked to believe that on Saturday Vice President Cheney accidentally shot his hunting companion Harry Whittington in the face and chest because he mistook him for a member of a covey of quail.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, "I think you can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job." McClellan was not referring to the Vice President’s hunting technique; he was referring to the fact that the press was not informed about the incident in a timely fashion. Facing a press corps upset that news had been withheld, McClellan said he himself did not know until Sunday morning that Cheney had shot someone.
The “cover-up” is not the only suspicious circumstance in the air. Remember that Mr. Cheney is an experienced hunter and his victim, Mr. Harry Whittington of Texas, looks no more like a quail than you or I do; he couldn’t even be mistaken for Dan Quayle. I saw a photograph of him and allowing for the fact that he is 78 years old, there’s nothing remotely avian about him. Whittington is a prominent leader in the Texas Republican party and is well known to Cheney. And we can assume that at the time he was shot, Whittington was wearing bright orange hunting safety clothing similar to what Mr. Cheney is wearing in the file photo above.
So it is ridiculous for Cheney to claim that he mistook Whittington for a quail. While Whittington is still bedridden in the hospital, the administration has been attempting to place at least some of the blame for the shooting on him. Several hunting experts have been rounded up to tell us that Mr. Whittington ought to have “announced himself” in order to warn Cheney of his presence.
I would have thought such a precaution unnecessary, since Mr. Cheney and Mr. Whittington were both theoretically “on the same side.” And it violates the tenets of common sense to imply that a fellow hunter somehow becomes “fair game” if he fails to regularly remind the others of his ineligibility as a target.
That cannot be the rule; if it were what you would have is a bunch of apprehensive and fearful middle-aged men with guns running around in the long grass all day, shouting in defense of their own lives. And where is the sport in that? I have never seen antics like that on any televised hunting program; it’s not in any of the Hemingway stories, either.
And what are they supposed to shout? “Dick! Don’t shoot! It’s me! Harry Whittington! Remember?” I have always been given to understand that “stealth” is a factor in hunting; such carryings on are bound to tip off the quail.
So these attempts to hold Mr. Whittington responsible for his own shooting are pointless. But not entirely unexpected: blaming victims is standard operating procedure for this White House and for conservatives in general.
Finally, consider this: Pamela Willeford, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and another member of the hunting party, said she has hunted with Cheney before and would again.
"He's a great shot. He's very safety conscious…he's safe or safer than all the rest of us," said Willeford.
Unless Willeford's statements are mere careerist ass-kissing, they make it impossible to dismiss this shooting as accidental. Given what we know of the Vice President’s temperament and stress level, isn’t it more likely that Mr. Whittington inadvertently said or did something that triggered Cheney’s famous propensity to rage? We know that Cheney is not a pacific individual. We all recall his words to Senator Leahy on the floor of the Senate (which will certainly go down in history as the most memorable thing this Vice President ever said.) His temper, within the walls of the White House, is as dreaded as that of the President himself.
So I think that this is what you might have seen and heard, if you had been a quail standing by in the grass that infamous day:
Whittington: “Hey, Dick, I just saw the latest approval polls on the administration—“
Cheney: “Fuck you!” BLAM!
Whittington: “Dick, I got an idea--how about if we take some of the billions your old oil company Halliburton is making off the war in no-bid contracts and kick some back to the surviving family members of all those American kids who are getting killed in Iraq—“
Cheney: “Why, you filthy little son-of-a--” BLAM!
Whittington: “Dick, the boys and I have been talking, and we think it would really help out the GOP candidates in this year’s elections if you would kind of “take the fall” for this whole phony “weapons of mass destruction” thing and resign—“
Cheney: “Here’s your ‘weapons of mass destruction’, you wrinkly old mother--” BLAM!
Whittington: “Come on, Dick, how can we tell them we’re doing a great job on the war on terror if Osama bin Laden’s doing a regular TV spot every other week--”
Cheney: “I’ll ‘war on terror’ your old candy-ass—with THIS!” BLAM!
Until all the facts are in, I think this is the view we must adopt.