Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cheney, the guy he shot, and figure skating

I think this is the first time I've ever had a post requested by phone. And definitely the first time I've written one while a pair of figure skaters dance around to an airy rendition of "Mack the Knife" that would make more sense were the song not Mack the Knife.

Anyway. More with the weapons.

As you've all undoubtedly heard by now, the vice president kinda sorta shot a guy. I've heard a lot of terms that appear to be slight euphemisms for shooting a guy in the face and chest, including "peppered," "sprayed" and whatever else you can come up with to lighten the fact that the VP fired a shot gun at a man.

Did he mean to? Absolutely not. No one's contending that. Not being a hunter myself, my understanding is that this is relatively common (though certainly not something one expects when they sign up for quail hunting), but it's not like the VP did something no one's done before. Whittington stayed back (a no no in quail hunting according to Explainer, which clarifies the standard practice of walking three abreast while you're shooting things), and when Cheney saw some quail fly overhead, he turned to where they were flying (which happened to be where Whittington was looking for a quail that had been shot) and pulled the trigger, hitting Whittington. The owner of the land claims it's more or less all Whittington's fault, which isn't the case here. It was an accident, and there's no shame in admitting that yes, Cheney might not have had the best hunting sense about him when he pulled the trigger. The guy lived, and is expected to be fine (and gets to honestly claim to have been shot by a sitting vice president, which has got to be some kind of honor and proof of how tough as nails you can be as a 78 year old lawyer). But placing all of the blame on the guy who was shot isn't right either. Neither he nor Cheney was being Captain McSafety here. Why pretend Cheney had no fault in the matter? It's clearly not as though Cheney runs around middle America shooting everything in sight, or even as though he's not a perfectly safe hunter. But why not say "Hey, I made a mistake. He's ok. We're done here."

It'd be a non-issue if Cheney's people (not the White House, as Scott McClellan is quick to point out) didn't wait as long as they did to tell anyone about it. It took a full day for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times to get on it, and they were before the rest of the nation? Is this the same country where we're constantly obsessing over which "I'm too young to be a has been, aren't I?" celebrity will be leading the Mardi Gras parade in a partially revived New Orleans and still, after how long, give a damn what Jennifer Aniston thinks about the end of her relationship with Brad Pitt (the divorce was finalized in October of last year)? Had Cheney come out an hour or two after the incident (after taking the understandable time to make sure his friend was ok after such a terrible accident) and simply said "There's been a hunting accident. Everyone's ok, and we'll keep you posted with how this guy is doing. I'm going to go somewhere now," that'd have been the end of it.

I just don't see why they felt the need not to tell anyone, I guess. The guy's ok, Cheney should pay whatever penalty the state of Texas lodges against this kind of stuff (evidently he's being warned for failing to buy a $7 stamp, which is more or less irrelevant), and use this as a message to hunters to be really remarkably safe when there are other people about.

So. Long story short:

Cheney shot a man in Texas. The man's ok. That's good. Why all the blaming the man (who definitely deserves his share) and no blaming the guy with the gun? Also, why the coverup for such non-news that'll get buried beneath what sippy cup Angelina Jolie buys in preparation for her kid anyway? Say you made a mistake, however common it might be, and tell hunters to not shoot each other.

And no, Michelle Malkin, I don't believe "the biography of a man who has served this country so well and so honorably for so many years will be overshadowed by a single, ill-fated hunting mishap." That's rather remarkably speculative, no? It'll pass. Now is not the time to start speculating about overshadowing that hasn't happened yet.

UPDATE: Whittington had a minor heart attack after some bird shot entered his heart. The Tribune is speculating as to why they might have waited while hunters criticize Cheney for shooting before he knew what was beyond his target.

EDIT: As I said, figure skating's on. You can completely crash into the wall and almost break your leg and still get a silver medal? What kind of crap sport is this? Good for Michelle Kwan for getting the hell out of this wacky, wacky world of "It doesn't matter if you completely screw up everything. You get a medal."


Anonymous said...

Way to go Ryan...couldn't have said it better...loved your references to what is important in the world...the only thing you missed was a reference to the World Champion "Steelers"!

From the fans in Pittsburgh!

Hal said...

Actually, the guy had a minor heart attack today due to shot lodged in his heart. Not sure if it's life threatening, but the situation didn't improve just yet.

At this point, it's really anybody's guess as to who is truly at fault. Since there were only a few people there, we only have their stories to rely on.

In any event, I don't think the delay is all that significant. The first order of business was to make sure everyone was okay. Call an ambulance first, not the press, ya know? Okay, maybe 12 hours later, Cheney's staff could have mentioned something, but let's face it: Is the delay any sort of big deal? Is Cheney popular with the press either way? If the delay is the biggest deal, I think the pundits might be reaching.

And really, this all goes to show that the deadliest creature of all is Dick Cheney.

Hal said...

Incidentally, I'm also impressed you read Michelle Malkin.

You closet-conservative, you. ;-)

-Murphy said...

Yeah, I saw that about the heart attack. Evidently some birdshot went into his heart (which, evidently, is less than good for it) and he's back in the ICU. The Chicago Tribune reports that "Hospital officials said they were not concerned about the six to 200 other pieces of birdshot that might still be lodged in Whittington's body."

Does that seem like a really huge range to anyone else? A range of 194 seems a bit large when the maximum is 200.

The delay really isn't that big a deal, but if I'm Cheney, I'm going to try to head off as much as possible so that my opponents have as little to work with as possible. And if I'm Cheney, I'm viewed by my critics as kind of a shady guy (I think it's his grimace), and when something comes along like this, I'm not going to exacerbate the "shady" image by waiting around for 24 hours before I let anyone in on the fact that I just accidentally shot a guy. That is, the delay doesn't seem like an issue to me, other than I'm confused by it.

As for who's at fault, I'm willing to say that no one is, really. It was an accident. Yeah, Whittington probably should have alerted the hunters that he was going to dig around in the tall grass for a bit, and yeah, Cheney probably should have gone through in his mind whether a fellow hunter might be where the quail just went, but it's an accident. It just seemed (and this may have been just the sources I was reading about it, mostly Slate Magazine and the Washington Post) that official statements were ignoring Cheney's fault by focusing exclusively on Whittington's error.

Hal said...

One person I read offered up this possibility: Until they knew that Whittington was going to be okay (at least, until the shot-in-heart scenario), they didn't want to go to the press.

I mean, if I'm Cheney, do I want 24-hours of "VP shoots man, death may be imminent!"

Who knows if that's the reason, but I could see that being a factor.

I also read that it isn't exactly a heart attack, but more of a heart palpitation due to the shot in his heart.

Of course, that's probably 6 of one, half a dozen of the other, but that's what I read.

Jenna said...

I have not been reading anything about it, it's just not an interesting story to me.

Good for a couple jokes.

One joke.

Let's just go back to talking about sports.

-Murphy said...

The difference between what happened to Whittington and a "regular heart attack" is that his arteries were fine, and weren't blocked. His blood flow was blocked, as a direct result of stuff getting into the heart itself. It's technically an "atrial fibrillation" evidently, but I'm not sure how that differs from a real heart attack, and the doctors involved seem to be using them interchangeably.

-Murphy said...

I suppose that probably played a role in their decision to wait, by the way, but it leaves open the confusing circumstance that nothing is ever mentioned if the guy isn't going to be ok, or at least isn't said until he is, which might not have been immediately. Let's say it takes him a week to stabilize to the point where it's good. Then we've got the articles reading "Last week, Cheney shot some guy, but he's good now. We just didn't want to say anything until we were sure he's good now."