Cheney: Caught in the Act of Being Himself
by Jeffrey Steinberg
During the weekend of Feb. 11-12, Vice President Dick Cheney was caught in the act of being himself. During a quail shoot at the elite Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, Cheney shot a fellow hunter, 78-year-old Texas attorney and Republican Party fundraiser Harry Whittington. While precise details of the incident may never be publicly known, and there are reliable reports that some of the shooters, including Cheney, had been drinking, one fact is certain: Cheney reacted according to profile and immediately went into full damage-control mode.
News of the incident was blacked out for 18 hours, and sheriff's deputies responding to the "accidental shooting" were blocked by Cheney's Secret Service detail from interviewing the Vice President or any other witnesses until the next morningthus preventing any evidence of alcohol abuse from being obtained.
When Cheney's office finally did issue a statementafter local media reported the shootingthe statement was full of lies. Cheney's claims that he had authorized the Armstrong family to alert the local press were vigorously denied by the Armstrongs, who said they called the press without informing the Veep.
When Whittington suffered a heart attack as the result of the bird-shot, fired by Cheney, lodging near his heart, the Cheney-mandated coverup collapsed, and a media feeding frenzy ensued, which has yet to die down.
The reaction to Cheney's arrogant mishandling of what should have passed as an unfortunate, garden-variety hunting accident, peaked on Feb. 16, with a pair of opinion pieces, demanding Cheney's immediate resignation.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert summed up the verdict in his headline, "Mr. Vice President, It's Time to Go." Herbert wrote, "It's time for Dick Cheney to step downfor the sake of the country and for the sake of the Bush Administration." Cheney "got his war, and while the nation's brave young soldiers and marines were bouncing around Iraq in shamefully vulnerable humvees and other vehicles, dodging bullets, bombs, and improvised explosive devices, Mr. Cheney (a gold-medal winner in the acquisition of wartime deferments) felt perfectly comfortable packing his fancy 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun and heading off to Texas with a covey of fat cats to shoot quail." The shooting incident, Herbert continued, "was the moment when the legend of the tough, hawkish, take-no-prisoners vice president began morphing into the less-than-heroic image of a reckless, scowling incompetent who mistook his buddy for a bird. This story is never going away.... Dick Cheney is a constant reminder of those things the White House would most like to forget.... Mr. Cheney would do his nation and his president a service by packing his bags and heading back to Wyoming. He's become a joke. But not a funny one."...
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