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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Sunday, 12 February 2006
The Vice President: His Elmer Fudd Moment
Topic: Couldn't be so...

The Vice President: His Elmer Fudd Moment

Yes, you can just hear the hapless, bald, pudgy Elmer Fudd saying the words, "Be very, very quiet, I'm hunting wabbits." (Actually here you can hear the cartoon character say that - a WAV file you can download and with which you can play around, say attaching it to computer functions like opening Google or whatever.)

Sunday, February 12th, Vice President Cheney had his Elmer Fudd moment. It was all over the news wires, and the Associated Press account is here, reported by Nedra Pickler, who takes a lot of abuse, but not for her name. She's forever spinning her stories to make the administration look heroic and abused, and those who question it foolish and a tad sinister. But there's not much she can do with this one.

In short, Saturday Vice President Dick Cheney, on a bird hunting trip in Texas (he was after quail, not wabbits), accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a seventy-eight-year-old lawyer - sprayed him with shotgun pellets. They took the old coot to the hospital in an ambulance. The victim was Harry Whittington, "a millionaire attorney from Austin" - and a big time Republican donor. As of late Sunday was in stable condition in the intensive care unit of a Corpus Christi hospital.

But he's really okay -
"He is stable and doing well. It was almost like he was spending time with me in my living room," said hospital administrator Peter Banko, who visited Whittington.

Banko said Whittington was in the intensive care unit because his condition warrants it, but he didn't elaborate.
Say what? Something about that is odd. You get a shotgun blast in the face and chest at close range and that has got to smart some.

On the other hand, when George Bush was governor of Texas he named Whittington to the Texas Funeral Service Commission. Somehow it comes together.

This all happened on the Armstrong Ranch, owned by Katharine Armstrong. The Armstrong's are lobbyists, and among other things, are trying to get the government to test for Mad Cow Disease with their client's system, some Swiss process. Apparently the Swiss do more than banking, chocolate and coo-coo clocks.

There are comments all over the web, and here are some questions that come to mind.

1.) Was this staged, as a kind of symbolic thing? The man is tough and dangerous? He's just the kind of "just a little crazy" guy you want on your side?

2.) With the weekend's call, from both Democrats and (gasp!) Republicans, for an investigation - did Cheney really authorize Scooter Libby to leak highly classified information for political ends? - is Dick just grumpy? That story is here - Senator Allen, the right-wing son of the strange Redskins football coach (George Allen), said that on Fox News Sunday! Oh my. With this sort of thing in the air is Cheney lashing out indiscriminately?

3.) Does he have an animus for lawyers, seething just below the surface, that finally surfaced in violence? Think Patrick Fitzgerald.

4.) He's part of the crew that wanted to dismantle Social Security and gave us Medicare Plan B, with all the confused old folks pretty much unable to get their medications. Is he sending a message? When you reach your late seventies you're fair game? "Die, you old parasite on society!" Could be.

5.) Maybe he hates the Swiss. The Armstrong's want him to throw some government contacts at their Swiss clients. Maybe he was grumpy about that. The Swiss didn't send troops to Iraq to help us toss out Saddam and establish whatever it is we've established there. That might have ticked him off. Heck, the Swiss send troops to Rome to protect the damned pope! Not fair! But then, no, the Pope's Swiss Guard at the Vatican isn't supplied by the Swiss Army in some sort of military alliance, it's just a tradition that evolved over time. And anyway, the uniforms of the Vatican's Swiss Guard would not do in Iraq. How do you strap body armor under that stuff? And most of them aren't Swiss anyway.

This is all very curious.

Is Cheney liable in any way under Texas law? See this for a discussion of the relevant statutes, although the man who used to run Halliburton down in those parts is not going to be charged, of course. Not in Texas.

And note this, CNN quoting Katharine Armstrong saying it was the damned lawyer's fault - he snuck up on Cheney and startled him. He should have announced himself. His fault. And that adds to the myth of the toughness of administration. You don't mess with these guys, and you don't ever surprise them. Saddam knows now, and the leaders of Syria and Iran and North Korea and Venezuela should take this as a hint, one supposes.

Ah well, hunting accidents just like this happen all the time, especially with quail hunting. The birds get flushed and suddenly blast up from the ground.

Will Rumsfeld defend him saying, once again, "Stuff happens?"

But drop the Elmer Fudd comparison (the hapless hunter). Switch to Teddy Kennedy -
The accident occurred Saturday at a ranch in south Texas where the vice president and several companions were hunting quail. It was not reported publicly by the vice president's office for nearly 24 hours, and then only after it was reported locally by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on its Web site Sunday.
The vice president's office did not tell reporters about the accident Saturday "because they were deferring to Armstrong to handle the announcement of what happened on her property." And Ted was eventually going to tell the police Mary Jo was dead.

Mary Jo Kopechne. Chappaquiddick. Keep things quiet for as long as you can. And don't drive with Ted. And don't hunt with Dick.

This will, of course, come to little - Whittington will no doubt survive, and he's lucky he didn't lose an eye or anything.

But there will be comments, as the cartoonist Tom Tomorrow notes -
Two Quick Predictions

1. Dick Cheney's new nickname will now be "Deadeye Dick."

2. The Bush Administration will evermore be known as "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight."
The late night comics are going to have a fine time.

Other considerations:

A tidbit from the Dallas papers - there have been other mistakes, by the boss himself -
In 1994, when he was running for governor against then-incumbent Ann Richards, Mr. Bush went dove hunting for the cameras in Hockley, northwest of Houston, and shot what he thought was a dove. The one bird he did hit turned out to be the protected killdeer. He reported the incident to the local game warden and paid a $130 fine.
Oops, endangered species. Stuff happens.

But it shouldn't happen, as in this from Pittsburgh - WTAE ran a letter from the Humane Society, December 9, 2003 -
Monday's hunting trip to Pennsylvania by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he reportedly shot more than 70 stocked pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks at an exclusive private club places a spotlight on an increasingly popular and deplorable form of hunting, in which birds are pen-reared and released to be shot in large numbers by patrons. The ethics of these hunts are called into question by rank-and-file sportsmen, who hunt animals in their native habitat and do not shoot confined or pen-raised animals that cannot escape.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported today that 500 farm-raised pheasants were released yesterday morning at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township for the benefit of Cheney's 10-person hunting party. The group killed at least 417 of the birds, illustrating the unsporting nature of canned hunts. The party also shot an unknown number of captive mallards in the afternoon.

"This wasn't a hunting ground. It was an open-air abattoir, and the vice president should be ashamed to have patronized this operation and then slaughtered so many animals," states Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. "If the Vice President and his friends wanted to sharpen their shooting skills, they could have shot skeet or clay, not resorted to the slaughter of more than 400 creatures planted right in front of them as animated targets."
Yep, it's not exactly hunting. You get a whole lot of helpless living things confined in an area and kill them all. That's what you do for fun and relaxation - and as a foreign policy, it seems. It relieves the stress. It's a "man thing."

At least Scalia hunts duck in the wild, and takes Cheney along on the trips, with the major oil companies picking up the tab (discussed in these pages here) - to show Dick the difference between the judicial (play fair, sort of) and administrative (kill the pesky and trapped helpless)?

But you certainly don't kill endangered species, and you don't blast a major donor in the face with your shotgun. It looks bad.

The week started of badly for the administration, unless the media play this as a manly thing. Life is dangerous (quails?) and stuff happens and you tough it out.

Posted by Alan at 22:19 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, 12 February 2006 22:29 PST home

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