Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hot Lead On A Cool Texas Evening

I wasn'’t going to comment on Dick Cheney'’s waxing of a good Republican supporter the other day, but the ongoing controversy has just gotten a bit to rich too ignore.

First, for the record, allow me to say that Cheney, who at one time seemed to be a reasonable man, has behaved like an idiot in this incident. Make that a callous idiot.

First, we have the shooting itself. Now I am not an overly experienced hunter but I have taken up the sport in the past few years, and I can tell you that very few things can be as rewarding as bird hunting. Waking early in the morning, witnessing the sun rise, walking the fields in coordination with your pals and the dog; well it may not seem like much, but life'’s true pleasures rarely do from the outside. Hunting puts you at one with nature….even if you'’re out their trying to kill it.

Clearly though hunting is about more than pleasant walks with your pals. It'’s about killing. Woe to anyone who ever forgets this simple fact. It is the basic truth of the sport; something is gonna die, and it better not be you or your pals. This fact is what separates hunting from hiking, and I can tell you as a person who enjoys both activities, it makes all the difference. Hunting requires your attention, it forces the party to work together, and it unites man and beast in a common quest.

Accidents happen, and when they do hopefully somebody isn'’t going to pay for them with their life. This seems to be the one happy outcome of Cheney'’s weekend ambushing of his bud. Yet the truth remains, accidents happen almost always out of stupidity on behalf of one or both parties.

In reading the reports of events that led up to Cheney gunning down his lawyer pal in the cold Texas evening, it seems clear that several things went wrong. First and foremost of these was that the group separated. Apparently, Cheney'’s human target went looking for a bird he had shot, and instead of waiting for him, or more appropriately, GOING TO HELP HIM, Dead Eye Dick and his trigger happy pals went off in search of more game.

I think I know why they did this and the time of day at which Cheney filled his pal full of lead has a lot to do with it. According to the Wall Street Journal this morning, Whittington became Cheney'’s unwitting victim at approximately 5:30 p.m. in the evening. I'’m not sure what time the sun sets down there, but I think it is safe to assume that daylight was on the wane. Trigger happy Dick and his band of bird blasting maniacs no doubt didn'’t want to waist any of the remaining time trying to find one bird when so many more were waiting to be shot.

So, probably without even thinking about it they took the risk to move and leave their pal behind. This to me is the most profound question of all that happened, and one that the press will never ask. Why did they leave their buddy behind? Hunting is supposed to be about the group. The dynamic between the men and the dog(s) is critical, and an outlier can cause enough disharmony in an otherwise well functioning team to create real danger.

Funny things happen to men though when the smell of gun powder and pop of shotguns fills the air. The excitement builds, and you simply can'’t wait to get another shot off. The combination of adrenalin, skill, violence and death is a heady cocktail that tempts the hunter away from his balanced center and into the realms of potential disaster. Quails complicate the matter because they'’re quick and they'’re smart enough to remain in the air for only a very short moment until they land again and hide in the grass. Split second decisions are required, and mistakes come at a high price.

The second issue in this matter is Cheney'’s handling of the shooting itself. The idea that some sort of cover-up was involved here seems silly. Accounts I'’ve read indicate that the Secret Service informed the local authorities almost immediately, and while fools such as Andy Sullivan may want to ignore this fact, it does tend to burst the whole idea that there was a cover-up. Why the press wasn'’t informed until the next day, from an "“it'’s just good PR"” point of view more than anything else, though is inexcusable. While I harbor no ideas that immediate public disclosure would have calmed the presses outrage, I think it is safe to say that they wouldn'’t have been able to paint Cheney with such diabolical motivations.

This isn'’t what bothers me though. What bothers me is that the man shot somebody and then left town the next day. This is incredible to me. If I shot a guy (other than that dude in Reno; I just wanted to watch him die), especially a guy who was part of my hunting party, you can darn well bet I'’d stick around to see how he was doing. Heck, I'’d even take this one step further. If I shot some guy, and for some reason didn'’t give a hoot, I'd still stick around and pretend to care just so it would look good!

Incredibly, this never occurred to Cheney, who sends his victim his "“best wishes and prayers"”. I'’ll tell you what, if this lawyer fella recovers and the decks the S.O.B with a good right hook the next time they meet, he'’ll get a little cheer from me.

Finally, we have the press. God, just when you think these people can'’t sink any lower.

I have a slightly different view on their reaction than I'’ve heard elsewhere so I'’ll present it here for your consideration. I have been under the impression for several years that whenever the VP traveled he had a press core that traveled with him and reported on his activities. Because of this arrangement we citizens have been treated over the years to the various feckless goings on of great Americans such as Dan Quayle and Algore.

So my question is, "“where was Cheney'’s press entourage?"” Did they not notice a flurry of Secret Service activity that evening? Did they somehow miss the fact that the Veep'’s medical team was a little pre-occupied? Is it possible that they could have missed the flurry of activity surrounding the HELICOPTER EVAC OF ONE OF THE VEEP'’S SHOOTING PARTNERS? Good lord, I'’m left here wondering what in the world these people must do all day if something like this doesn'’t even register on their radar screen.

Of course we all know that the press no longer reports the news, but instead waits to have it spoon fed to them by the various press secretaries that fill out the administration. Here then I think we have the real source of the media'’s outrage. Instead of getting a notice on their Blackberry at Saturday'’s cocktail party, they had to find out through the Sunday edition of the local Texas paper that something big had happened the previous day.

Most of us, being normal and decent human beings would have silently bowed our heads in shame that we had failed at the most basic requirement of our professions. Not David Gregory and the rest of the Washington corps though. No sireee. Instead of shame they felt the adrenalin rush of outrage and began peppering the air with their ill considered questions, shooting their mouths off at will.

Come to think of it, the press at least did us the favor of providing us with the final irony of this whole sorry event. This indiscriminate firing of theirs was the same reaction that got ole Dick in trouble in the first place!

They'’ll never learn, will they?

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