Accidents Happen

by Belle Waring on February 15, 2006

I don’t, generally, subscribe to the paranoid strain in US politics (my mom does and is irritatingly always right about everything. I well remember when de Menezes was shot in London and the initial story was all about how he had jumped the turnstiles in a heavy coat, etc., and mom instantly said, “this is all bullshit and he was some random innocent.” Chalk another one up for mom.)

Still, something is fishy in this whole Cheney story. My first instinct was just to say, there was an unfortunate hunting accident, and Cheney wasn’t adhering to well-known rules of gun safety, but basically his secretiveness created the impression of some wrong-doing where none existed. But. This whole push-back of blaming the victim? Like he was supposed to give a hearty “halloa!” to his friends who were flushing some other birds? Standing behind the shooter when you are hunting birds in a line is supposed to be a pretty iron-clad way of staying safe. Was Cheney in the middle, so that the barrel swung past one of his fellows on the right or left on its fateful 180 movement? Even if he were at one end or the other, right behind him is not supposed to be a good place to fire, especially since he knew his pal was recovering another brace of quail somewhere. And what’s up with the whole scrubbed beer thing? I don’t think Cheney is a brazen murderer or something, but I have to say that recent coverage has made me much more inclined to think that either he was drunk, or he was standing a lot closer to the victim then we have heard. It’s just weird. This seems like something they could have defused with an early statement and apology. Something is going on.

UPDATE: aah, there we go. “In response to Mr. Hume’s questions about the day, Mr. Cheney said that he had consumed one beer earlier in the day, but that no one in the party was drinking as they hunted.” One beer. I’ve done a lot of stupid things after having “one” beer before, too. Classic drunk denial; you can’t just say you didn’t have anything to drink, so…



abb1 02.15.06 at 6:37 am

It was a crime of passion: Whittington used to be his lover, until he broke it and hooked up with much better looking Don Rumsfeld.


Belle Waring 02.15.06 at 6:57 am

well, in the immortal words of John Derbyshire:
PRETTY VEEPS [John Derbyshire]
Isn’t there a trend here? For each of the following ten pairs, identify the prettier one.

Kerry, Edwards
G.W. Bush, Cheney
Gore, Lieberman
Clinton, Gore
Dole, Kemp
G.H.W. Bush, Quayle
Dukakis, Bentsen
Reagan, G.H.W. Bush
Mondale, Ferraro
Carter, Mondale

Coding P, V, or T as the prettier (Prez, Veep, or Tie), I make it V-T-P-V-V-V-P-P-V-V. Seems to me there is a definite bias towards looks in the selection of veeps.

There you have it; Bush and Cheney, equally pretty. As wonkette said, “everything he touches turns to gay.”
he didn’t get into the relative prettiness of defsecs…


abb1 02.15.06 at 7:16 am

Yes, first Patrick Leahy, now Whittington. And did he have to announce the break-up so close to Valentine’s day? Can you really blame Dick for being frustrated? The toughest among us are often the most venerable…


Brendan 02.15.06 at 7:20 am

I’m sorry but I won’t believe that Cheney is guilty until I hear Christopher Hitchens defending him.

I can see it now….

‘Many are the cheap and easy laughs in which one could indulge at the extraordinary, pitiful hysteria of those attempting to see something suspect, or even less than laudable, in Dick Cheney’s entirely justified, indeed, necessary, shooting of Harry Whittington. According to no less an authority than the so-called ‘Daily’ Kos, Mr Whittington apparently had a ‘right’ (granted by whom?) to wander, uncalled for and unmarked, directly into the sites of the man who was praised for his shooting by no less an authority than Lee ‘Harvey’ Oswald, back in the days when the Democratic Party still fought against totalitarianism, before the Jihadist wing of the extremist party of the Michael Moore faction staged their grisly coup ‘d’etat’ (a French word meaning, originally ‘Islamo-jihadist of the Left’, and not as the vulgarian wing of the party of the grammarian faction of the section of the fragment of those who still rejoice in the title of the ‘demo’ ocrats would have it, the ‘state’ (a gloriously neologised pseuo Francisism if ever there was one!)) on the previously inane wisdom of the Kenneyite wing of those responsible for the Red Scare and the Bay of Sows (to translate that jejune phrase into the President’s English).

But no less an authority than an old friend of mine who works and fights high up in the upper echelons of the so called state ‘department’ a man entirely untouched by the vagaries and conspiracies of the thuggish authoritarianism of the so called ‘C’ IA which ran through the cobbled streets of the State like a veritable whirlwhind of Reaganite self-certainty, disenobling the watery flow of power from that much vaunted fountain of secularism best known as the white ‘house’ to those too ignorant to realise its true role as the ‘house’ of the illuminati: as this man, to repeat, told me, myself, and, indeed, I (or as it were, we) this Mr Whittington was on his way, even as Dick unleashed his mighty cannon, to buy uranium from Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, who are, as we speak, meeting on the so called ‘far’ side of the moon in order to unveil a proto-‘ji’ hadist empire of neo-caliphatinism a word that, were it to be real, would be no less real than the threat of apre-jihadist terror that my good friend ‘dick’ had the temerity, indeed, the accuracy to stop….’ (etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.).


jonst 02.15.06 at 7:22 am

Go with your Mom’s hunches. Whatever did, or did not happen out there…..the story line they are feeding the public is pure bullshit. But the public seems to have taste for pure bullshit. So….come on,open wide,………


Laura 02.15.06 at 7:27 am

My theory is that Whittington actually died on Saturday. The story that will unfold, however, is that he will get increasingly worse in the hospital and then die. How’s that for paranoid?


Cybrludite 02.15.06 at 7:29 am

From what ABC news was showing, Whittington had the sun at his back when returning to the group. Quail hunting tends to be a pretty fluid situation, with the birds breaking cover at close range & scattering. This is why the hunters walk line-abreast: you know where your buddies are that way. A simple, “Yo! On my way back!” would have saved everyone a lot of grief, as would have Cheney not shooting while he had the sun in his eyes. Plenty of blame to go around. Notifying the local EMS & cops right away is a rather peculiar way to cover something up…


fnook 02.15.06 at 7:59 am

Whatever the truth I think we can all agree that Cheney’s one really weird dude.


Belle Waring 02.15.06 at 8:26 am

and that my mom is teh hott. c’mon people, click on link and you’ll see what I’m saying.


David Allen 02.15.06 at 8:34 am

I think Dick Cheney had a warm feeling once, but it froze to death.

Thanks for the link!


SamChevre 02.15.06 at 8:47 am


Here’s my guess as to what happened–maybe there’s some news that contradicts it, as I haven’t a TV, but based on my reading this is my guess.

When dove-shooting, the shooting line is fixed; stay behind the line, and you are safe if everyone follows basic safety rules. When quail-hunting, on the other hand, the hunters move around. There’s a “line”–one shoots left, one shoots center, one shoots right–but the orientation of said line moves every covey. Whittington dropped out of the line to look for a bird; the others SHOULD have waited (this is the safety breach), but shooting light was almost over and the dogs were on point, so they walked up the next covey. In doing so, they moved the line, turning it slightly (say, from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock); meanwhile, Whittington moved as he was looking for the bird. When he walked up, he was in front of the line rather than behind it, and quite close.


Erstwhile 02.15.06 at 9:00 am

What, exactly, was ‘paranoid’ in disbelieving ‘the initial story’ of the London shooting? Give your mom a break.

You’re off the ranch on this one, anyway.

Speculation about drunkeness?

This story is about Cheney’s failure to take responsibility. What would mom say about that?


Matt Weiner 02.15.06 at 9:03 am

I don’t know anything about hunting, but from the accounts I’ve read:

Another covey was flushed and Cheney swung on a bird and fired, striking Whittington in the face, neck and chest at approximately 30 yards

it sounds like Cheney was following the bird and may have wound up shooting behind him. And enough people are saying that shooting another hunter is always the shooter’s fault that I can believe it. (And a lot of people are saying that Whittington must have been closer.)

I don’t know if there’s any excessive weirdness here — Belle says this could have been defused with a statement and apology, but the administration doesn’t do apologies. It’s practically lèse-majesté to suggest an apology. And the jokes McLellan and Jeb were making about the incident, before Whittington’s heart attack became public, show the same feeling of arrogant privilege; they can joke about the guy they shot in the face because they’re The Exalted Bush Administration and we and he aren’t.


bryan 02.15.06 at 9:06 am

Actually that Cheney is gay may be an essential part of this whole mystery.


John Isbell 02.15.06 at 9:12 am

Hulaballoo had two interesting comments: one from an MD saying how weird it was for Christus Hospital to allow White House surgeons to take over patient care there – they’re the shooter’s MDs – and the other saying that you don’t get 200 pellets, or half the shot, at 30 yards. You get that at 15 feet. Each comment is more elaborate, but that’s the essence.


C.J.Colucci 02.15.06 at 9:38 am

And the sad thing is, this was all avoidable. Forty years ago, Dick Cheney had an opportunity to learn how to shoot safely and effectively at public expense. But, tragically, he had other priorities.


GKurtz 02.15.06 at 10:07 am

You want paranoid? Here’s paranoid:

1. A week or so from now, once this story has been bounced around a bit and more questions have been raised and not answered, Cheney will resign, blaming the liberal media for making him the subject of a witch hunt, thus making himself look (to many) more like a victim than a villain.

2. Bush will appoint as VP whomever Rove has pegged as the Republican most likely to win in 2008.
3. The R’s then go into ’08 with a pre-selected presidential nominee, while the D’s slog it out in a messy primary. Instant advantage to the R’s.

They’re just thinking ahead, that’s all.


peter 02.15.06 at 10:15 am

I have hunted quail at a hunting ranch before, and was told quite clearly that the rules of the road are that you announce as you approach a group of hunters or rejoin your own.

On the other hand, as a shooter I was always told that when in doubt (eg, sun in your eyes, not 100% sure where a member of your party is, etc.) hold your fire.

As an aside, I have come under shotgun fire, though thankfully at a distance and pellet size where it basically just stung. There is always an element of risk in hunting.

It seems like this was an accident with plenty of blame to go around, and it was just that: an accident. The idea of a cover up is silly. Nothing they did is consistent with that. The Washington press corps is in a snit b/c Cheney didn’t handle the story the way they would have liked. But that does not constitute a coverup.


Belle Waring 02.15.06 at 10:25 am

peter, I have to agree that at first blush it seems like an accident with some blame to go around. but seriously, just as when you rear-end another car it is always your fault; if you shoot someone, it’s your fault. the frantic efforts to shift blame to the victim while he is still in the ICU sit ill with me. if you were to strike a pedestrian and wound her seriously, the appropriate response would not be “she darted into the street!” but, “I am very sorry and wish her all the best in her recovery.”


Richard Bellamy 02.15.06 at 11:16 am

“My theory is that Whittington actually died on Saturday. The story that will unfold, however, is that he will get increasingly worse in the hospital and then die. How’s that for paranoid?”

“According to recent media reports, Whittington has climbed out onto the roof, and refuses to come inside. . . “


Dix Hill 02.15.06 at 11:28 am

Shifting blame is what they do. Maintaining an air of infallibility is what they do. What’s shocking is they don’t know when or how to turn it off.

I think this was basically an accident. The problem is that Cheney’s M.O. as a politician–to stonewall, to spin the facts, never to express regret when an action turns out badly– has taken over his personality. Cheney doesn’t respond like a normal human being with manners and decency, and no one on his staff, even, is empowered to supply the decency on his behalf.

I’d be very surprised to learn that Cheney was drunk at the time. (I guess I just figure he went to a lot of trouble to take this weekend trip; he could tie a buzz on and stay in Washington.) I’d be less surprised if it turned out he was negligent in some other way. It’s been pointed out that the time of day was near dusk; maybe the sun was in his eyes. I’ve read someone speculate that Cheney could have been carrying his shotgun with the safety off, and tripped or stumbled.


peter 02.15.06 at 11:55 am

Belle: I didn’t really think there was a frantic attempt to shift blame. And I heard it was the ranch manager that initially rendered such judgment on the accident. They set the rules of the road on their property (since they carry much of the civil liability). To the extent that Cheney’s office echoed them, it reflects just that. Go shooting someday. I think you will agree with me that the range master is essentially god in those lanes. The same principle applies with private hunting properties.

The rear ending analogy is an interesting one. But I am not sure I fully agree with it: in the hunting environment gun safety is a shared responsibility. It has to be because as a shooter there are elements of risk that are difficult to control, and each party should maintain awareness of the other.

For instance, if I am out hunting duck, I may well be in proximity of other hunters in a blind or otherwise concealing themselves. They have an obligation to notify me of their presence if we appear to getting into each other’s operational range because, even as I follow all due safety procedures, the very nature of their concealment makes it impossible for me to take account of their presence. This is just one example, but it illustrates, I think, the larger point.

My guess is that what happened here is that with daylight fading and the discovery of a few more coveys, both parties cut corners to get their shooting in. That is stupid, but I am afraid all too common in hunting. It happens.


Erstwhile 02.15.06 at 12:39 pm

To the extent that Cheney’s office echoed them

OK, I gotcher paranoia here:

What makes you so sure Cheney’s office echoed the property owner’s judgement? Based on what we’ve been *told*, that may be the case, but aren’t you at least suspicious that’s backwards?
You ought at least to consider the liklihood that the property owner’s ‘judgement’ is an echo coming from the VP’s office…


Ted 02.15.06 at 12:40 pm

#4: A for the day to Brendan.


adam 02.15.06 at 12:57 pm

Cheney can’t admit responsibility until they’re sure Whittington will survive. That’s my theory.


peter 02.15.06 at 1:01 pm

What makes you so sure Cheney’s office echoed the property owner’s judgement? Based on what we’ve been told, that may be the case, but aren’t you at least suspicious that’s backwards?
You ought at least to consider the liklihood that the property owner’s ‘judgement’ is an echo coming from the VP’s office…

No. And I guess I just don’t care. If you want to bring down Cheney and what he stands for, then focus on a real issue. This is just a hunting accident. There is no evidence of any kind of high crime or misdemeanor here. This is just smoke: the kind that has served as a useful distraction for Cheney for his whole political career. What his critics are doing, here and elsehwere, is the equivalent of taking shots at him at 500 yds with a 28g shotgun. Lets move one.


dipnut 02.15.06 at 1:01 pm

Cheney screwed up, and he doesn’t care to admit it.

That’s all.


Morat20 02.15.06 at 1:09 pm

Basic rule of hunting: You shoot someone, it’s your fault. Always.

It is the responsibility of the shooter to ensure he has a clear field of fire. Period.

From the initial reports, it appears Cheney swung around following a bird, left the area he knew to be clear and fired anyways. He shot was shooting at human height and horizontally — no upward angle at all (else he couldn’t have shot someone at 90 feet or even 45 feet — not badly, anyways) — which requires even MORE care.

Actually, what I find most ironic about this is the fact that it was a canned hunt — it takes even MORE stupidity on the shooter’s part to injure someone, since you’re not actually trecking around looking for birds.

You know exactly where they are, and they’re not all that uncomfortable around people.

There’s no blame to go around. The blame is Cheney’s. He had the gun, he pulled the trigger. He failed to verify his field of fire, failed to follow even the basics of gun safety. Boy scounts shooting their first .22 have better training.


whack-job 02.15.06 at 1:09 pm

Belle…where was your mom at the time of the ‘incident’? Just sayin’…


cleek 02.15.06 at 1:11 pm

And enough people are saying that shooting another hunter is always the shooter’s fault that I can believe it.

guns don’t kill people. people who end up between the gun and infinity kill themselves.


Matt Weiner 02.15.06 at 1:14 pm

I’m torn. On the one hand, Peter is right that compared to Cheney/Bush’s many crimes this is nothing; in the last few days we’ve had new Abu Ghraib photos out, and the White House seems to be squelching inquiry into the illegal wiretaps by threatening Republican senators, not to mention some screwing over of the Katrina refugees. On the other hand, images are powerful in politics, and maybe this provides a hook for the administration’s arrogance and callousness that will help the other issues sink in; as with Quayle and “potatoe,” or Carter and the rabbit.

Still, I think if we are going to talk about it we might as well try to get straight what actually happened.


larry 02.15.06 at 1:14 pm

I would bet that drinking was the reason he didn’t want to speak to the local authorities until the next day. The rabid right spin machine understands perfectly what the problem is with shooting a man and not speaking with a sheriff until the next day. That’s why they started with the “I’d rather hunt with Dick Cheney than drive with Ted Kennedy.” Perfect analogy – horrible, calculating, political judgment. That’s why Ted Kennedy was never nominated for President, and that’s why Chappaquaildick Cheney should not be President. And first in line of succession is too close, so get him out of there!


Paul 02.15.06 at 1:20 pm

Peter, you bring up a very important and, so far as I know, ignored point. Should there have been someone in charge of that shooting line? It wasn’t the lady who reported it. She was in the car. If there was someone else I haven’t heard about them.

It looks like something is being hidden because while the report to the police was timely the interview by the police was not timely, the shooter did not accompany the shot to the hospital and it has been reported that police were turned away that evening without seeing Cheney. All look suspicious and my police friends (suspicious by nature) seem to think Cheney was probably drunk and needed to sober up.


Dad 02.15.06 at 1:24 pm

And what does your mom think?


Lionel Hutz, attorney-at-law 02.15.06 at 1:48 pm

“Belle: I didn’t really think there was a frantic attempt to shift blame. And I heard it was the ranch manager that initially rendered such judgment on the accident.”

Yes, how convenient that a private citizen and fawning Bush/Cheney supporter should be the first to ‘independently’ blame the victim…after conferring at length with the nation’s 2nd highest public official and the Administration’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, of course. The Veep was just ‘echoing’ what the nice lady said.

Which makes sense, ’cause we all know this crew is nothing if not deferential and ductile in all things. Just ask Shinseki, Blix, Pillar, Clarke, Scowcroft, Wilson, Lindsey, O’Neill, DiIulio…aw shoot, fingers are gettin’ tired here.

“the range master is essentially god”

Did “god” make Cheney go out shooting in a 3-gun party at dusk, lose track of his partner, wheel 180 and shoot low, and then lose the power of speech when it came time to step up and apologize for shooting a guy in the face?

Maybe it’s all god’s fault. Or maybe god is punishing all of us. Only 3 more years left…

And no, in the larger scheme, this isn’t just so much smoke. Like it or not, metaphorical imagery is the currency of our political discourse. The WH certainly grasps this. Take-charge Bush with a bullhorn at Ground Zero. Wing Commander GW Flightsuit Crotchbulge declaring “Mission Accomplished” from the carrier deck.

And now, we have the wonderful image of Big Dick shooting his load into a friend’s face and telling him to like it.

As Maureen Dowd points out, the incident and official response perfectly encapsulate the Bush Administration’s standard m.o.: go-it-alone macho incompetence followed by finger-pointing and WATB skirt-hiding.

I’d rather see people focus on substantive policy arguments, too, but you fight bad governance with the leverage you have, not the leverage you might wish to have.


Lis Riba 02.15.06 at 1:53 pm

Speaking of de Menezes, anybody else remember the Miami airport shooting by air marshalls a few months ago?

There’s been nothing but silence regarding Rigoberto Alpizar, even though witness accounts at the time didn’t quite add up…


peter 02.15.06 at 2:10 pm

Morato: for your own longevity’s sake, don’t go hunting. You go in with any expectations built around your position and you’ll get clipped. There are just too many reckless people out there.


Doug Page 02.15.06 at 2:10 pm

Try this on for size.
We know that Cheney is very scared of something, hence the secret bunker, the unavailability and unannounced trips with no schedule. He must think somebody is out to kill him. Who?
Cheney was hunting with his custom built shotgun.
There is a pellet the size of a BB near the victim’s heart. This is not birdshot. This is buckshot.
Cheney does not wish to eat the birds he kills,so he always carries buckshot shells for self defense while hunting in case some killer approaches him. (It is possible that he put in a buckshot shell by mistake, but he could quickly confess that)
In his side vision, Cheney sees somebody coming close without warning. In panic, or paranoia, he turns and fires in what he thinks is self defense. The buckshot pellet pierced layers of clothing, the victim’s body and lodged near the heart. Buckshot is too large to travel through veins to get to the heart. The victim is far more badly hurt than we have been told. This version, he cannot confess to and remain VP. Doug Page


peter 02.15.06 at 2:29 pm

Sorry, I meant to write Morat20. And all kidding aside: there really is no basic rule of hunting along the lines of what you propose, at least in any meaningful sense that translates into legal responsibility. If a shooting is deemed an accident, then criminal charges are highly unlikely (and the standard for criminal charges is typically that a person shows depraved or reckless disregard, a stnadard that Cheney’s behavior so far does not appear to meet; occaisonally, as in the case of that Hmong hunter convicted of murder last year, it is a little more involved than that).

So, then what’s left is the civil law question, and that will typically depend heavily on the vagaries of the jury. One factor that probably would way here is the range or lodge rules for the prperty where the incident in question takes place). So there really is no meaningful standard along the lines that you suggest.


Doctor Slack 02.15.06 at 2:38 pm

On the other hand, images are powerful in politics, and maybe this provides a hook for the administration’s arrogance and callousness that will help the other issues sink in

The hardcore Bushistas — whom I suspect account for the bulk of the Cheney Administration’s remaining supporters — aren’t going to be “hooked” by any particular image. A well-designed authoritarian cult survives by being very effective at insulating its membership from competing “metaphorical imagery;” this is as true of today’s GOP as it is of Scientology.

So, I tend to think Peter is correct in seeing this largely as smoke (unless it turns out that Cheney actually murdered the guy, or something).


mark 02.15.06 at 2:52 pm

…you don’t get 200 pellets, or half the shot, at 30 yards. You get that at 15 feet.

Maybe half the pellets came when Cheney let loose the other barrel.


peter 02.15.06 at 3:03 pm

…you don’t get 200 pellets, or half the shot, at 30 yards. You get that at 15 feet.

That does seem perhaps high, but dispersion actually depends on a number of factors. I was shooting a 12 gauge at a target set to 60 feet a few weekends ago and maybe 1/3 of the birdshot was connecting at that distance. And that was with a comparatively (to most hunting shotguns) short-barreled Mossberg 590 with no choke or anything like that.


peter 02.15.06 at 3:05 pm

Sorry, I meant to say set to 75 feet.


Erstwhile 02.15.06 at 3:23 pm

I guess I just don’t care

Which is fine. I wouldn’t ask you to change for me. Belle’s hot mom’s kid has given us our context: paranoia — I offered my best shot.

Your leap to the conclusion that discussion of this issue, even in the fantasy world of this thread, is an indication that commenters have lost ‘focus’ on the real issue of ‘what Cheny stands for’ and are grasping to find ‘high crimes’ is going a bit far. As the most prolific commenter here (even more than me!) your request that we ‘move on’ rings hollow.

To bring it back around, you’re relying on a pretty narrow definition of ‘responsibility’ for firearms accidents. But hey, legalism is also fine. Recognize that there are other standards of responsibility too.

One kind simply demands that people stand up and offer a mea culpa when they seriously injure someone else through actions they might’ve avoided with greater caution. Isn’t that the case with Cheney’s actions here — that he might’ve prevented Mr. Whittington’s serious injury had he acted differently? Undoubtedly.


Antti Nannimus 02.15.06 at 3:40 pm


Look, we need to back off and cut Cheney some slack here. Yes, shooting his friend in the face was all his fault, as he has now finally admitted four days later. But keep in mind, the guy he shot is a Republican politician. Cripes, there probably ought to be a bounty on them all anyway.

Have a nice day,


Morat20 02.15.06 at 4:18 pm

Peter: I didn’t say it was the law. I said it was a basic rule of gun safety.

And you’re right — I wouldn’t be within a mile of a man who didn’t adhere to the belief that an accidental shooting is ALWAYS the shooter’s fault.

A armed man who doesn’t acknowledge that basic rule is dangerous as hell, and I want to be as far away from his as possible.

For the record: Had this man been shot at 200 yards by a deer rifle, I’d be far more forgiving. It is difficult to spot a human at that range and bullets travel quite a ways with enough force to penetrate a human.

He was shot in the face from less than 30 yards away. It was an inexcusable failure on Dick Cheney’s part — and his refusal to take personal responsibilty for it is even worse.

No sane hunter would want to hunt with this man.


cb 02.15.06 at 4:20 pm

Geez, I’ve never seen so much blather about nothing. I’ve been hunting in South Texas a million times, when the story came out I didn’t think anything of it. A day passes and a bunch a people that don’t know shit about hunting are coming up with all kind of crap. Peter is the only person in this thread that knows what he’s talking about, although I quit reading about halfway. If one has to place blame, my gut reaction was it was the lawyer’s, but I wasn’t there, and all this ridiculous speculation here and elsewhere is just that, uninformed speculation by people that don’t know shit.


abb1 02.15.06 at 4:28 pm

Maybe Mr. Cheney could give him his face for a transplant


eudoxis 02.15.06 at 4:48 pm

I don’t think Cheney is a brazen murderer or something, but I have to say that recent coverage has made me much more inclined to think that either he was drunk, or he was standing a ot closer to the victim then we have heard.

Our first thought as well, here, Belle. Just from experience, having spent some time around MRI machines and head injuries related to hunting, two surprising findings. One, an astounding number of people with shot in their bodies, that they didn’t know about. Two, how commonly hunters fall out of treestands when taking a pee. Of course, they always claim two beers, no more, if they can talk.


swift 02.15.06 at 4:59 pm

I think we have a case of karmic reconciliation here. Whittington’s getting shot in the face was payback for the fact that he had Cheney within range and didn’t take him down.

If the secret service allows you to be within range of Cheney while holding a loaded weapon, chances are you’ve probably done enough wrong in this world to deserve getting shot in the face.


theorajones 02.15.06 at 5:21 pm

i agree that something smells here–booze is my guess.

But I’m honestly more disgusted if he had nothing to hide. Because what kind of a jackass shoots his friend and doesn’t go with him to surgery?

Maybe I’m Miss Manners here, but it seems obvious to me that if you shoot your friend, you don’t have a nice quiet dinner at home. You go to the hospital and you wait in the waiting room while he’s in surgery, and then when he’s out, you go see him afterwards.

I don’t know much about the rules of hunting. But I do know the rules of basic human decency. And one of them is that if you accidentally hurt someone, part of taking responsibility for it is going to the hospital even if it means you have to cancel your goddam dinner plans!


Matt Weiner 02.15.06 at 5:41 pm

Antti, I know that that is on some level not serious, but Molly Ivins says that the victim was notably decent, particularly for a Texas Republican.


roger 02.15.06 at 5:51 pm

Well, anybody who has seen The Pink Panther knows exactly what happened. Whittington happens to be Cheney’s faithful Kato. Thus, whenever Cheney retires to his bunker and goes to the fridge for a beer, there is always a chance that Whittington, dressed in his trademark black, will launch a devestating attack. Luckily, Cheney’s prowess at the martial arts is legendary, acquired in the super secret Rambo like guerrilla force that he and the president secretly joined in the 60s, when their country called and they were off to Hanoi, getting many important secrets. Actually, that is where Cheney met Whittington.

So, of course, Whittington saw his old maitre distracted for a moment, and instinct took over. Dropping his quail, he ran on tiptoe and was about to leap when Cheney’s gun went off. All a bad show, really. And it depressed Cheney greatly, reminding him of that incident that, between him and the President, they call “chinatown” — he was trying to save somebody in Haiphong, 1967, and somebody got hurt. Ask anybody from who worked the Haiphong networks.

Hopefully, the President will give Dick the Medal of Freedom to cheer him up.


maidhc 02.15.06 at 6:37 pm

From today’s Smirking Chimp:

Sirius radio’s Alex Bennett just broke a rumor that the delay in reporting the news that Cheney shot an old man in the heart was due to an effort to hide or spin Cheney’s female companion.

Pamela Willeford, ambassador to Switzerland and — yes — Liechtenstein, was part of the hunting excursion with Cheney and Whittington. And according to Willeford’s account, Cheney and the ambassador were side-by-side when the shooting of Whittington took place.

The vice president’s Secret Service detail had to decide what to do with Willeford by way of perhaps covering up her relationship with Cheney, and thus the delay in reporting the news.

The rumor goes that Lynn Cheney isn’t happy with Cheney’s close relationship with Willeford.


derrida derider 02.15.06 at 7:04 pm

“This seems like something they could have defused with an early statement and apology. Something is going on.”
Yes, something is, but it’s simple – Cheney is simply looking to his legal position. His lawyer will have given the usual “say nothing, and especially don’t admit liability” advice. Anything more at this stage is pure speculation.

And I agree it would be a damn pity if Cheney went down for this – in a just world his legal problems would be with that court in the Hague.


J Thomas 02.15.06 at 8:31 pm

And I agree it would be a damn pity if Cheney went down for this – in a just world his legal problems would be with that court in the Hague.

Why not hope for both? It isn’t like one cancels out the other.

And while you’re at it, you can hope for a pony.


AlanDownunder 02.15.06 at 11:56 pm

Drink is the best explanation for —

1 Sheriff’s deputy turned away from the Armstrong ranch on the evening of the shooting by the SS in order to avert a breathalizer test.

2 Unstraight story by Armstrong of drinking which Cheney therefore cannot and does not deny outright.

Alan Dershowitz puts it well.


No Preference 02.16.06 at 7:10 am

With all due respect to Peter and cb, Dick Cheney is not just some guy. The fact that our Vice President shot should raise very serious questions about his judgement. It is also news, big news, and the way it was handled was just bizarre.

cb, you may have “hunted a million times in South Texas}, but this isn’t the sort of thing that happens all the time. The hunting accident rate in Texas in 2004 2.7 per 100,000 hunters. It’s very unusual for a hunter to shoot someone else.

peter, I don’t know much about math, physics, or guns, but it seems to me that the dispersal pattern of Cheney’s shotgun pellets at (allegedly) 30 yards ought to be much greater than your own experience at 20 yards. It would be interesting to hear some unbiased informed opinion about the likelihood, or even the possibility, of half the pellets hitting Whittington at that distance.

The American public has a full right to know the exact truth of what happened.


No Preference 02.16.06 at 7:11 am

Wow, Belle, your mom looks great.


peter 02.16.06 at 9:19 am

no preference-
As I said earlier, no informed judgment can be made until you know more about the gun and the ammo.
I’m not sure what your problem is with my example. The mossberg 590 that I was using in my example is a security/defense shotgun designed for reliability in close quarters fighting. It is not well known for accuracy at distance. In fact, its barrel length (for example) qualifies as just legal, and no more. Most hunting shotguns would do better. Depending on barrel length, choke, ammo, etc., maybe much, much better.
In other words, while one cannot know (without knowing a lot more about Cheney’s gun and the ammo) whether the report is accurate, it is not implausible. I probably don’t qualify as a source of unbiased informed opinion in your mind, but I have been shooting all my life and I can say with that experience behind me that the reports are not implausible.
As for your skpeticism about cb, while I agree that the rate isn’t that high, the true rate is no doubt higher than what you cite. Particulalry with birdshot, I suspect it is only serious hits that are reported. I have personally taken 3-5 pellets out of someone’s hand with a tweezers (an experience that does not speak well to the idea of getting hit with a shotgun) and it was never reported. Too minor.


MQ 02.16.06 at 1:09 pm

It seems to me that the odds are very high that Cheney was drunk at the time. He admitted to one beer (as someone above said, this is the classic drunk response when asked), he delayed any contact with law enforcement long enough for alcohol to clear his body, drinking is common in hunting parties.


Functional 02.16.06 at 5:29 pm

TheoryJones: I don’t know much about the rules of hunting. But I do know the rules of basic human decency. And one of them is that if you accidentally hurt someone, part of taking responsibility for it is going to the hospital even if it means you have to cancel your goddam dinner plans!

You’re not the Vice-President of the United States. I’ll bet anything that Cheney would have gone to the hospital if he were a private citizen, but he’s the Vice-President. Everywhere he goes there’s a contingent of Secret Service guards, assistants, etc., and Cheney’s sudden arrival at a hospital would be more disruptive than could imaginably be worth it. Cheney did the guy a favor by staying away and letting the doctors in the ER get to work without disruption.


John 02.16.06 at 10:59 pm

It appears that the ranch manager actually videotaped the shooting! Check it out here:

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