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Monday, February 13, 2006


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Point for point, an excellent post.

And you're not the only one to wonder about the drinking.


Point for point, an excellent post.

Why, thank you. I was more than a bit trepidatious to post this because, well, it's the vice president of the United States. And, although I don't know for sure, I think a majority of the regular Left of the Dial readers skew conservative.

But one of the things I've noticed in the past twenty-four hours is the number of hunters who are upset by what's clearly negligence on the part of Dick Cheney, as well as the underhanded tactic of blaming the victim. Even those hunters who've made it clear that hunting accidents happen (as, of course, they do), have tended to take great pains to stress that even if the victim maybe should have announced himself as he was rejoining the group, if you shoot someone it is your fault. Always.

Before I go any further, a clarification and an update:

1) I referred to the property as being a game farm, meaning these were pen-raised rather than wild birds. I'm no longer sure that's the case. Vice President Cheney has taken part in such events before—the 450 birds bagged a few years back in Pennsylvania, for instance—but this may not have been such an occasion and, if so, I regret that mistake. After all, I'm all about the transparency. God knows I'm more transparent than Top Management would like sometimes.

2) The victim has apparently been moved out of the ICU. I say "apparently," because that's what the hospital has said. Neither the victim nor anyone from the victim's family has yet spoken to any reporters, nor been seen by anyone.

Next, there have been a considerable number of questions raised about just how far the vice president really was from the victim when he shot him. Given that there have been conflicting reports, with some saying the victim had approximately ten pellets embedded in his face and other newspapers reporting up to 200, it's more clear than ever that the vice president needs to come clean.

The sheriff's office in Texas is also reporting that the Secret Service refused to allow deputies to interview the vice president on Saturday night, but insisted they wait until the next morning. Had the situation been reversed, and Cheney been the one who was shot, I am extremely skeptical, to put it mildly, that such a thing would ever have been allowed. Double Standard Time again. Not to mention, why was such a thing necessary? And how can the official finding be that no alcohol was involved, when they didn't even see the veep for at least fourteen hours after the event? No matter how drunk a person is, fourteen hours is certainly enough time to sober up (he says, speaking from experience). And, finally, the veep is on medication for his various ailments. Did any of them impair his judgment or ability in any way? How do we know? (Answer: we don’t, of course.)

Furthermore, some have tried to spin this sort of accident as a common occurrence. That's not true. According to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, there were only 2.7 such instances per 100,000 hunting licenses. That officially translates into "rare" no matter how you slice it.

And in an outstanding example of how spin can affect perception, some news outlets are referring to the vice president's shotgun as a "pellet gun." Oh. My. God. What's the origin of that, you think? Can it be attributed to simple (but astounding) incompetence, or a planted lie?

Oh, and a bit of context—even assuming (and that's getting to be more and more difficult…and it started out tough) that the story's true, the victim was thirty yards away. That's the distance from home plate to first base. How hard is it for, say, Mike Piazza to tell the difference between, say, Jeremy Giambi and a bird?

Yes, yes, different teams and all that, but you get the point. If you can't tell the difference, you shouldn't be out there.


Further updates:

1) The hunting party may not have been accompanied by dogs, as earlier reports indicated.

2) The victim, Harry Wittington, may or may not have quite such superficial wounds as has been claimed. CNN's current ticker (no pun intended):

Man shot and wounded by Vice President Cheney suffers "minor heart attack" after birdshot becomes lodged in his heart, hospital spokesman says.


High-larious must read from he Daily Show:

Jon Stewart: "I'm joined now by our own vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst, Rob Corddry. Rob, obviously a very unfortunate situation. How is the vice president handling it?

Rob Corddry: "Jon, tonight the vice president is standing by his decision to shoot Harry Wittington. According to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the brush. Everyone believed at the time there were quail in the brush.

"And while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that today, Mr. Cheney insists he still would have shot Mr. Whittington in the face. He believes the world is a better place for his spreading buckshot throughout the entire region of Mr. Whittington's face."

Jon Stewart: "But why, Rob? If he had known Mr. Whittington was not a bird, why would he still have shot him?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, in a post-9-11 world, the American people expect their leaders to be decisive. To not have shot his friend in the face would have sent a message to the quail that America is weak."

Jon Stewart: "That's horrible."

Rob Corddry: "Look, the mere fact that we're even talking about how the vice president drives up with his rich friends in cars to shoot farm-raised wingless quail-tards is letting the quail know 'how' we're hunting them. I'm sure right now those birds are laughing at us in that little 'covey' of theirs.

Jon Stewart: "I'm not sure birds can laugh, Rob."

Rob Corddry: "Well, whatever it is they do ... coo .. they're cooing at us right now, Jon, because here we are talking openly about our plans to hunt them. Jig is up. Quails one, America zero.

Jon Stewart: "Okay, well, on a purely human level, is the vice president at least sorry?"

Rob Corddry: "Jon, what difference does it make? The bullets are already in this man's face. Let's move forward across party lines as a people ... to get him some sort of mask."

Scott Peterson

First updates of this morning:

Bush is now trapped. If he'd admitted that no one woke him up to tell him, and that’s why McClellan didn’t know until Sunday morning, that would have painted a very troubling (though not fresh) picture of a disengaged #1 man who is actually, at best, #2. But at least it would suggest that Bush took action and ordered the story out when he did find out about it.
Yet in declaring that he did know about Cheney’s role at 8 p.m. Saturday—and did absolutely nothing to tell anyone about it—an even more disturbing, and perhaps sinister, picture of the true arrogance of power may emerge.
Wait until more evidence seeps out. Here's a fresh tidbit: Late Tuesday, the Secret Service related that the shooting actually took place at 5:50 p.m. Saturday, 20 minutes later than previously stated--and therefore, right up against sunset.
How can an armed man (Whittington) advance on the VP without intervention by the Secret Service? If he separated from the party did the Secret Service lose sight of him? You know, the other guy with a *gun*. The secret service team's primary purpose is to protect the VP and they probably categorize other hunters as a far greater threat than Al Qaeda terrorists popping out of the grass. My point is that the Secret Service must have seen everything.
Karen E.

Again, a post that is on target, on all counts.


a post that is on target

So to speak.


Another Update:

So here we are on Day Five and Vice President Dick Cheney still hasn't said a word about the fact that he shot a man. Why not?

Well, perhaps it's because he was too busy pressing senators during a Republican-only meeting, twisting arms to get them to pass a bill retroactively sanctioning illegal wiretaps.

And, stunningly, they're seriously considering it.

Cheney clearly has no respect for the law. He shoots a man and refuses to talk to the police or the American people—his employers—about it. He authorizes a subordinate to leak classified information so as to discredit a political opponent. And he strong-arms the senate into stopping investigations into illegal wiretapping but instead sanctioning it. And he gets away with all of it

Sweet Jesus in Heaven, what has happened to our nation?

And I'm not taking the Lord's name in vain; I'm truly asking Him. Maybe He understands. Because I sure don't. But, frankly, I'm not sure even He could really understand this one.

Why, why, why, is anyone listening to this man? Why are our elected officials so scared of saying no to him that they refuse to do their jobs?

Obvious jokes aside--because he'll shoot them, of course--I don't understand. I don't understand.

I don't understand.


Wondering how shooting incidents are normally handled in Tejas. The owner of the ranch--you know, an eyewitness and the only person to person to speak to the press about this so far (but then again, it's only Day Five)--is Katharine Armstrong is the former Chairman (Chairwoman? Chairperson?) of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division, so chances are she's got a pretty good notion, no?

Maybe she knows they're normally handled like this.

If, you know, you're not the vice president of the United States.

No wonder they delayed the investigation and then rushed it to a close.

An undocumented Mexican immigrant was shot and killed Sunday evening in an apparent hunting accident on a Webb County ranch owned by the family of former U.S. diplomat John G. Hurd.

"The illegals were crouching out in the brush. They said they mistook this guy for a hog," said Webb County Sheriff Juan Garza....

Juan Garza Mendoza, 34, an employee of the ranch, was charged Monday with manslaughter, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison....

Mendoza had apparently hit Barrera Vasquez while shooting at a feral hog, and immediately contacted authorities after the shooting, Hurd said.

Sheriff Garza said interviews with three of the victim's Mexican traveling companions and the others in the ranch hunting party led him to rule out anything but an accidental shooting.

"They mistakenly shot a human being," he said. "It's reckless. It's inexcusable."

So. They were hunting legally and shot an illegal immigrant hiding in the bushes and got wound up getting for manslaughter. Cheney shoots his hunting partner and has to pay a seven dollar fee.

Class? Race? Sheer power? Some unGodly mix?

Oh, and if you go here you'll see that MSNBC reported earlier that Armstong admitted there may have been some beer but that version of the story was later deleted. Fortunately, someone took a screen shot. Ain't the internets amazing?

Keep in mind, this was a direct quote from Armstrong. She said it. And now MSNBC is hiding it. Kinda weird, innit?


Latest update:

Vice President Dick Cheney is giving an interview with Fox News's Brit Hume--well, at least by choosing this venue, they're pretty much admitting that it's friendly territory. Excerpts will be shown at 2pm and a fuller version at 6pm. I'd rather it had been live so we can know what was actually said rather than what they chose to show, but as one of the veep's employers, I clearly have no say in the matter.

Oh, and Katherine Armstrong, the lone witness to speak out so far? Turns out at the time of the shooting, she was a hundred yards--the length, of course, of a football field. She sure seemed to be able to see everything that happened mighty well. So if she could see it all so well from that far away, why couldn't the vice president, given that he was less than one-third that far away?

Furthermore, if she were that far away, how can she know for sure that the victim DIDN'T announce his presence? Since they were hunting, he would have been making an effort to be quiet. So perhaps he spoke loudly enough for someone thirty yards away to hear him, but too quietly for someone who was one hundred yards away to hear.

Loudly enough for someone thirty yards away who was sober, that is.


So what’s the latest on Vice President Dick Cheney?

Regarding the hunting accident where he shot a man in the face, Cheney admitted this yesterday:

"I had a beer at lunch."

Interestingly, Fox News not only didn’t air the video of the vice president saying that, they omitted the statement from their transcript. Fortunately, we have the White House’s official transcript for that.

Kind of amazing, isn’t it? The White House officially admits Cheney was drinking that day, but a news channel scrubs that section of the interview. In what universe can someone pretend that Fox is a credible, objective, impartial news channel? If the vice president of the United States shoots a man in the face on the same day he admits he’d been drinking, that’s news. And any news channel that doesn’t realize that is not a real news channel.

Okay, so he drank before he went hunting. And afterwards? Let’s listen to what his host has to say about that:

Armstrong, a longtime friend of the Cheney family, told CNN before the vice president's interview that she never saw Cheney or Whittington "drink at all on the day of the shooting until after the accident occurred, when the vice president fixed himself a cocktail back at the house."

So. He drank before he shot a man and he drank afterwards. And this is the same guy that all the initial news reports declared to be a teetotaler ever since he racked up his second DUI several decades back. I guess he’s not really so much an abstainer, now, is he? That sounds to me like what we folks around here call "a drinker." Maybe they got a different definition once you’re a millionaire who shoots people while drinking and gets away with it.

Well, thank God the Secret Service didn’t let the local police interview him until the next day. Jehovah only knows what they might have found.

Like an intoxicated vice president of the United States.

Scott Peterson
Hunting With Texas Pols

by Glenn Smith, Thu Feb 16, 2006 at 03:19:21 PM EST

I thought it may help to provide a little background on political hunting in Texas. It's everything you think it is, and more. I've actually been on these hunts, as a journalist, staffer, and consultant.

The closest I've ever come to witnessing the horror of a downed hunter was many years ago, not too far from Vice President Dick Cheney's shooting of Harry Whittington. A reporter accidentally shot a jeep with his rifle. The jeep was empty. The jeep's radiator was blown to shit.

When I learned to hunt, my father took me to the Texas Brush Country, up the border a bit from real South Texas, just north of Eagle Pass. You've heard of Eagle Pass. On the Mexican side now the city of Piedras Negras has been taken over by drug dealers. Many people are killed there each month, none of them in hunting accidents.

Anyway, this was many years ago. My father was from Kentucky. He grew up on a farm, and hunting was about food. He was old school. He never did talk to me about the facts of life. I think he sang gun safety lullabies to me from my infancy. He was damned serious about it.

Once, a friend's son shot a deer in a deep canyon after sunset. The kid didn't know if the deer was dead or alive. He walked back to camp, shrugging it off. My father never said a word. He just ducked his head and motioned for me to come with him. He and I tracked that deer in the dark of night for hours. We found it. It had died. We hauled it out of the canyon. You didn't shoot a deer a leave it wounded or dead.

Well, hunting with politicians, lobbyists and hangers-on isn't like that. By the time I'd gone on one of these political safaris, I had quit shooting anything, anyway.

I was put off hunting in my 20s by the new breed of hunters. A sorry, sorry bunch they were. Weekend posers who overcome their accurate views of their miserable, weakling lives by dressing in fatigues, drinking, and ignoring the ridicule of the destitute, enslaved prostitutes in Mexico who would take them to dark rooms. You just know most of these guys kept on their black socks with the worn out elastic.

Once, some up-and-comers from East Texas went bird hunting (one was an elected official who I covered as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle). They never did hunt. Just drank and partied in Mexico. They bought some frozen quail at a grocery store on the way home so they'd have something to show their wives. Trouble was, they'd left their guns in one of their garages, a little oversight discovered by the women-folk. I think that was their last hunting trip.

Another time, and I'm getting to the part about political hunting, a justice-of-the-peace I knew in Huntsville was trying to make friends in high places. He started a little hunting guide business on the side. He took a party of hunters from Brown & Root (now more famous as Haliburton) to an East Texas ranch owned by an old man but run by the old man's son. The first morning of the hunt, before daylight, the son loaded the oil equipment execs into the back of his pick up. The old man was asleep on a rug in the back. The hunters were careful not to disturb him. The son drove the execs around the ranch, letting each off at his appointed deer blind. When the last hunter stepped from the truck, he remarked to the son on what a sound sleeper his father was. "Oh, Dad died last night," the son said casually. "I just wanted to get you out in the stands before I drove him to the funeral home."

This was during period of transition in Texas, when colorful families hadn't yet been overrun and undone by Haliburton goons and their Italian firearms, by suburbs and agribusinesses tycoons. The newcomers were worse than barbed wire or fire ants. Right behind them came the politicians.

LBJ might have started this trend. But he had a real ranch. Johnson got a kick out of watching city slickers step in cowshit and get wide-eyed at a howling dog they were certain must be coyote. Special interest lobbyists who made a fad of hunting simply figured out that a hunting lease was a great place for a little male bonding, a few invisible pay-offs, a place to do serious bidness.

By the time I made it to one of these political hunts the specialists and experts had turned most hunting leases in Texas into petting zoos, except when the pen-raised or corn-fed game nuzzled in close enought to get petted, they got the shit shot out of 'em.

It wouldn't do to have it so a politician might miss. That might make a politician feel bad about himself. He might blame the lobbyists that brought him hunting. Bad bidness.

More than once a sharpshooter was along to squeeze a round off at the same time as the unsuspecting guest (a neophyte's ringing ears hid the sound of the sharpshooter's shot), just to make sure the game went down. Legend has it that freshly killed deer are sometimes propped up in oat patches just to be shot dead again by drunken politicians who never figure out they've killed deer that had a-risen from the dead. I said they were taking there to do serious bidness.

Here's what you do on a hunt with politicians. You go to a great big, really big ranch with a great big ranch house, Mexican servants, comfortable beds, and you play cards (nowadays you can watch cable t.v.) and drink at night. It's generally true, by the way, that politicians no longer drink as much as they used to. I haven't noticed that the laws have gotten any better.

You wake up and tell stories about everybody else's snoring in the bunkhouse (or guest quarters, whatever, bundle up, split up into teams and head out to the petting zoo. You take a mid-morning break. You head out again. Servants go and pick up any game that got petted to death. Sometimes the ranch hands will know the dead deer or wild hog by name. I'm not kidding.

The politicans get congratulated on their marksmanship. Bidness is talked about over a lunch served on the veranda. The politicians, full, happy and certain they are the greatest hunters ever, tell the lobbyists, "You got a point there." Then everybody goes out to a deer blind or a sunflower field and sleeps away the afternoon.

Now Dick Cheney was not on this kind of hunt when he shot Harry Whittington. This was a very exclusive hunt, and, Harry Whittington is a very nice man who never did like this pat-a-butt part of Texas politics. Harry is a businessman, a lawyer, a reformer, and a Republican. He probably had more fun taking his family to real petting zoos where guns aren't allowed.

No, the Armstrong Ranch is a quiet little spread of a gazillion acres nestled in the heart of Deep South Texas' Prickly Pear Heaven. It's more civilized, you might say. You might.

This is the final transition in Texas. Hunting by auto, shooting by autocrat. Those who own smart bombs never need to learn how to aim or shoot.

But the Cheney incident is the first time, the very first time, a politician in Texas refused to take credit for what he shot.

Scott Peterson

1) The hunting party may not have been accompanied by dogs, as earlier reports indicated.

Nope, I was right the first time. The police report says there were dogs on the hunt.


Breaking News: Even Vice President Dick Cheney Doesn't Believe His Own Story!

Finally, Hume suggested that since this was obviously a national story, Cheney should have informed the national press and gotten the word out sooner. Cheney's reply: "It isn't easy to do that. Are they going to take my word for what happened?"

Seriously? Cheney's story is that his own credibility is so poor that a statement from him would have been worthless? Is he really going to stick to that as his explanation?


Good Point: What Were They Thinking?

Here's a painfully obvious observation. Untold millions of tax dollars are spent on secret service agents and what-not, and the veep is prancing around the wilds with a bunch of other men of a certain age, all carrying GUNS? Let's assume that there isn't anything particularly different about Mr. Cheney that would cause him to make this kind of mistake, which then means that any of his hunting buddies could have been the one to go oops, and he could have been on the business end of the fire-stick. Boom! What were they thinking?

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican and Vietnam war veteran, told The Omaha World-Herald, "If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety."

But that's just crazy talk from the good senator.

I think the veep himself put it best.

"I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."
—Dick Cheney
April 5, 1989
To Hunters, Safety Is Dead Serious

By Fred LeBrun

Getting shot while out hunting isn't even remotely funny.

After the inevitable feast day of hooting and cackling and late-night monologues over Vice President Dick Cheney's mishap with a 28-gauge Perazzi on a Texas quail hunt, the public finally got the drift of how serious this really is when the victim of the vice president's errant birdshot, Harry Whittington, had a heart attack as a result of his wound.

Honestly, I think so few people have actual firsthand knowledge of guns, and how they should and should not be used anymore, that we get all our information from cartoons and action movies. Elmer Fudd peppers Bugs, and the wabbit wiggles his ears and makes a sassy quip.

I'll tell you, in real life, you get peppered with birdshot, anywhere, and you are in no mood to quip if you are lucky enough to be in any mood at all.

A review of the accident and incident report of the shooting filed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department indicates just how close this came to being a grave incident. Had Whittington taken the full brunt of the load a little more to the left and down, at his neck and upper torso -- a matter of just a few inches -- he could have been a goner.

Of course, it was an accident; no one should dispute that. But that is an explanation for what happened, not a justification. People are in jails all over the country for accidents. Not that I'm suggesting Cheney belongs in jail, not over this, at least. But I must say, as a supposed ardent hunter and role model for hunting and a stellar light of the National Rifle Association, he has barely saved himself from being a major embarrassment and dismal failure.

Wednesday afternoon, after four days of silence, he finally took full responsibility for what happened on the quail hunt. ``I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry,'' Cheney told Fox News. ``You can talk about all of the other conditions that exist at the time but that's the bottom line and . . . it was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.''

Uncommonly candid and appropriately somber, finally.

Why Cheney didn't say all this right up front is a mystery to us all. It was, as a reader, Bill Sarbello of Schenectady, N.Y., put it, ``a teachable moment'' that the vice president let slip by. Cheney was the featured speaker at the last NRA convention. During the last election, he ridiculed John Kerry for posing as a hunter. All the rest of the political stuff aside, Cheney is a very visible champion of hunting and has a responsibility to demonstrate accountability under these circumstances. At last he's done that.

Before that, though, the media generally got it dead wrong as to whose responsibility it was to take a face full of birdshot. It is close to never the victim's.

It was a riot to see all the top-ranking Republicans at the Armstrong Ranch who were hunting with Cheney, including the lobbyist/owner, Katharine Armstrong, brush off the incident as nothing, and Harry's fault on top of that for having the audacity to pick up one of his kills. The media bought the malarkey wholesale, parrotting Armstrong's line about how that darn Harry had broken protocols. As if to suggest he deserved to get shot. There was the vague suggestion as well that ``getting peppered'' happens all the time.

Absolutely not true and a huge disservice to hunting. Many of us here in the vineyards are trying to promote hunting as an obsessively safe sport -- which it is -- and these clowns dismiss safety to promote a protect-your-butt partisan agenda. Boy, it gets my goat. Never mind whether the offender is Al Gore or Dick Cheney. Take responsibility, for goodness' sake.

Well, for the record. Even in Texas, the man with the gun is always responsible for what that gun does. If there are 10 rules of gun safety, those are the first nine. Only under the rarest of circumstances is the victim an equal partner in the event, and this is not one of those. Anyone who wants to disagree can check out the entire report, and the Kenedy County sheriff's comments, online at

I note with some chagrin that in Texas, non-fatal gunshot wounds need not be reported, even though this one was.

In New York, all gunshot wounds have to be reported. If a comparable situation happened here, apart from any criminal charges that might be filed after an investigation, the state Department of Environmental Conservation would hold a hearing. Yanking the shooter's license would be the likely outcome, for up to 10 years. The commissioner of the DEC also has the discretion to revoke a hunting license for up to 60 days before the hearing.

But back to Texas. A few unresolved issues remain for which I can't find answers. Normally, even released quail are hunted with valuable dogs.

I mean, valuable. Just like that shotgun Cheney is carrying is close to $10,000 in field grade. Shooting low at quail, and therefore potentially in the face of your partner, is discouraged, for the health and protection of the dogs. Of all the accounts I've read, I haven't found any references to dogs.

And finally, a disquieting thought for a disquieting event. Why is the vice president willingly within mortal range of another gun? What if the accident had been reversed, which is not out of the realm of possibility? The Secret Service must be going nuts over this.

As a postscript to the gravity of the Cheney shooting incident, consider this: I don't know of a single gentleman's hunting club up here in the effete Northeast, no matter how Republican, that would let Cheney in to shoot after this incident. He'd be confined to the bar and pool tables.

What we have here is the original zero-tolerance event as far as the hunting community is concerned. That's how seriously we take it.

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