But Cheney is above all the rules. Consequently his hunting expeditions aren’t fair bouts with woodland creatures; rather, they involve piling up the highest possible body count in the shortest possible time. Some guys just can’t leave the office behind.
So screw the formality of getting properly licensed, and to hell with that quaint custom real hunters follow of actually pursuing prey on foot. Quail-gunner Dick has no time for such niceties. When he loosens his cowl for a weekend of relaxation, he crams in as much drinkin’ and drivin’ and huntin’ as possible.
When Cheney mistook 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington for a quarry of quail and blasted his associate in the face, he was again exempt from the rules — the ones requiring that he explain himself to the authorities. This is an option not generally available to those designated in police reports as “the shooter.” If any of the rest of us were to wave off a police inquiry into a shooting, the next person we’d be speaking to would be a SWAT negotiator, just long enough for a sniper to draw a proper bead.
The only witness to this mishap who talked at all was Katherine Armstrong, heiress, lobbyist, and hostess of the South Texas manor now famous for its Peppered Whittington. Cheney decided the best possible way to inform the American public that its vice-president had shot a guy in the face was to have Miss Ellie notify the Hooterville Gazette. Why? Because, unlike the national media, Miss Ellie knows the difference between a shotgun and a rifle.
I’m in the national media and I know what a rifle is. A rifle is what I never want in Dick Cheney’s hands.
Aside from Bush press secretary Scott McClellan, who got pied like a high-society dame in a Three Stooges short, the only other Cheney sympathizer we saw much of for a few days after the blast was Alan Simpson. The retired jackal who used to represent Wyoming in the US Senate explained to us that Cheney was done in by his own extraordinary skills as a hunter. Absent Simpson’s candor, who’d have ever known?
The vice-president finally materialized to face a tough pre-recorded, carefully scripted grilling in an infomercial hosted by Fox News Styrofoam anchor Brit Hume. Cheney didn’t apologize, but upon his release from the hospital, the properly chastened Whittington did.
Cheney’s cold-bloodedness deepened the February freeze, but cruelty was everywhere all winter. In South Dakota heartless legislators even made birth in that godforsaken state mandatory.
Invaders at the gates
One can only estimate how much worse Bush’s poll numbers would be if so many people didn’t figure that their remarks to strangers on the telephone were being overheard by the NSA. Fortunately, there are still plenty of brave souls who will phone their coordinates directly into the White House to lodge complaints. This line of communication should soon be cut when Bush uses his powers as the first unitary executive of the United States to un-list the White House phone number. But for now, 202.456.1414 is still ringing, and it’s still receiving comments about everything from coal mining to data mining. Unfortunately, the president has shown himself to be much more concerned with the safety of the latter.