Dick Cheney's Smoking Gun

For those of you who were glued to NBC’s continuing coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics — and you two know who you are — here’s the gripping tale of political intrigue that threatens to swallow a political party whole:  Vice President Cheney accidentally shot a guy while hunting.  

The Secret Service notified the White House within the hour, the press was notified the following morning, and the victim is well on the road to recovery — other than a slight case of befuddlement over all the attention this non-event has generated.  That’s it.  That’s the entire story.  

Yes, a man was shot, but there’s no evidence of neglect or recklessness on Cheney’s part, much less the intent that would make it a crime.  (Although the slight myocardial inflammation the victim experienced a few days later is, technically speaking, a “heart attack,” it’s the asymptomatic kind, not the “It’s the big one — I’m comin’ to join ya, Elizabeth!”, Fred Sanford kind). A garden variety, never life-threatening hunting mishap that, in a saner age, would have merited maybe one reference in Johnny Carson’s monologue poking fun at the errant shotgun blast the way Jerry Ford’s wayward tee shots used to be spoofed.

Instead, our fair and unbalanced media are in the grip of mass hysteria because, being largely incompetent, they imagine they’ve stumbled onto Dick Cheney’s “gotcha” moment.  Attempts to acquaint them with the exculpatory facts of the case elicit the same, full-throated response: “But he shot the guy — IN THE FACE!”  (Also untrue: most of the bird pellets landed in Whittington’s neck and shoulder). After five-plus years of scrutinizing Cheney’s every move the bleating harpies think they’ve found the proverbial “smoking gun” that will be his undoing, which in this case is an extremely small bore shotgun. Unfortunately for them this dog of a scandal, like the ones which preceded it, simply won’t hunt.

“Silly” is probably the best word to describe this pitiful excuse for a political imbroglio.  Usually when the left tries to make a scandal mountain out of a molehill they at least start with a molehill.  Here they’ve dispensed with even that minor requirement.  

Like so many of Bill Clinton’s misadventures, this was nothing more than an accidental, messy discharge between two consenting adults.  As scandals go this comic interlude is sillier than the uproar over the make-believe outing of a CIA agent who was operating about as covertly as Paris Hilton at the time.  It’s far sillier than the conniption fit over Mr. Cheney’s decision to meet with energy officials without first clearing his guest list with the New York Times.  It’s even sillier than the outrage observed after Cheney, during a private conversation and speaking on behalf of many, strongly advised partisan hack Pat Leahy to go perform a particular procedure upon himself.  

Hearing the same left-wing vulgarians who can barely utter a declarative sentence without using the “F” word feigning trauma over Cheney’s use of that same term was pure camp.   

Which is not to say that this pageant of faux umbrage is without its rewards.  For example, the sheer joy of watching reporters struggling not to openly guffaw while Hillary Clinton expressed her grave concern over what she called a “troubling” pattern the Bush White House has of withholding information.  Yes, that Hillary, the woman who once made a box of legal billing records disappear into thin air, then re-appear, David Copperfield-like, two years later.  The same Hillary whose sworn testimony regarding the various Clinton scandals consisted mainly of the phrase, “I don’t recall.”

There are also hours of fun to be had watching liberal Democrats pretending to be avid gun enthusiasts, the better to weigh in on this minor flap.  (A reliable barometer of their sincerity is that queasy look liberals always have on their faces while talking about guns and shooting things — the same look they get when they’re pretending to believe in God.)  Oh, sure you’re a big-time gun-lover, Liberal Pundit Guy.  Next you’ll be telling us that you own an American flag, and that you know all the words to the Star Spangled Banner.

Then there’s the highly entertaining speculation as to what Republicans would have said had Vice President Gore done something like this.  Guess what: our reaction would have been immediate, vociferous…and entirely positive.  The news that Al Gore — the same guy who while running for president had to take ‘man lessons’ from Naomi Wolfe, then make out with Tipper on live TV to establish his guy bona fides — actually knew how to operate a firearm would have boosted his approval rating among Republicans to new heights.  

I can scarcely think of anything Vice President Gore could have done that would have impressed me more, other than maybe buying a Chevy Suburban or taking up smoking. Had I witnessed Gore’s camouflaged mayhem I would have offered him my firmest chest bump, followed by a hearty, “Dude!  You just bagged a lawyer!  Hey, let’s ditch the wives and go to Hooters for Happy Hour.  Bro, do you like cigars?”  Come to think of it, didn’t Gore lose Arkansas, West Virginia and Tennessee — and with them, the 2000 election — for being too soft on gun rights?  Who knows how much good a well-publicized hunting accident could have done him then?  In fact, why mince words?  I’ll say it here and now: If Al Gore had shot somebody during the 2000 campaign he’d be president today.  OK, he’d president of the Islamic Republic of the United States.  But that’s still a kind of President.    

For more laughs there’s always the liberal Democrats’ second-favorite game, “What Did He Know And When Did He Know It?” — named for their favorite line from their favorite work of fact-based fiction, “All The President’s Men.”  (Their favorite game is “Six Degrees of Global Warming,” in which any weather pattern — hot, cold, wet, dry, plague of frogs, whatever — can be linked to so-called “global warming” in six moves or less).  In “What Did He Know…?” two or more players concoct a timeline for an incident of which they have no knowledge, based on their own personal biases and wild speculation.  

In this case Mr. Cheney’s critics want to know what happened between the time of accident and the time they heard about it.  Like, why did Cheney waste valuable time administering first aid to his friend before notifying David Gregory of NBC News of the accident?  What happened during the 25-minute “gap” while they were waiting for the ambulance?  Did it have anything to do with Haliburton?  Did the vice president try to gauge the victim’s level of consciousness by asking him for a campaign donation? Did Mr. Cheney fire the shot while standing on a grassy knoll?  Was there, in fact, a second hunter, as Oliver Stone has undoubtedly already suggested?  And of course, why wasn’t Harry Whittington wearing the proper body armor during this “friendly fire” incident?    

Much has been made of the 14-hour interval between the accident and its first appearance in the press.  It’s amazing how many journalists seem to actually believe that taking a trauma victim to not one, but two hospital emergency rooms for treatment is a relatively minor task easily accomplished in just a few minutes.  For you “What Did He Know…?” fans currently playing along at home, remember: if you’re ever involved in a non-fatal hunting accident you’re supposed to call a press conference immediately, ideally while the victim is till bleeding.  Whereas if you drunkenly drive off a Massachusetts bridge with a woman you’re not married to in the back seat of your car you can wait up to nine hours before reporting it.    

While this event has generated plenty of irresponsible hyperbole, in terms of shrill desperation it’s pretty hard to beat the recent cries for help issuing from disgraced media hyphenate Lawrence O’Donnell.  Possibly driven mad by the cancellation of “The West Wing,” the formerly reputable O’Donnell subtly hints that alcohol may have been a factor in a recent internet posting entitled, “Was Cheney Drunk?”  

As evidence that the vice president engaged in a stuporous shooting spree O’Donnell claims that several attorneys (numbering somewhere between five and twelve; it varies with each re-telling), none of whom he will name, have speculated about such a possibility.  As if even more proof than that were needed he tosses in this rhetorical coup de grace: “How do we know there was no alcohol?”  Yes, exactly.  For that matter, how do we know that Lawrence O’Donnell didn’t fatally shoot rap icon Tupac Shakur?  His refusal (so far) to present evidence to the contrary would seem to implicate Mr. O’Donnell, at least by his own lofty evidentiary standards.  

It’s sad when otherwise bright, reasonable liberals become so obsessed with their hatred of Dick Cheney that they literally go insane as Lawrence O’Donnell so obviously has.  Fortunately for us, it can also be pretty entertaining.  

Harry Whittington’s televised statement last week appeared to be Quail Gate’s death knell for all but the most delusional, and that’s too bad.  This footnote in the annals of quail hunting history has dominated the media for almost two weeks to the exclusion of actual news that, in some cases, reflected poorly on the administration.  

Like a child’s favorite video played over and over, this pageant of irrelevancy has kept the Cheney haters occupied while the grown-ups continue to run the country, fight terror, keep Courtney Love off the streets, and so on.  In the meantime a relaxed, more humanized Vice President Cheney made a heartfelt mea culpa on FOX News which, if anything, shored up support among his supporters without adding to the ranks of his detractors.  

Which brings us to my plan to boost the Vice President’s approval ratings: Dick Cheney should accidentally shoot somebody every week.  Not fatally, of course—that would be ridiculous.  Instead, he could just use his trusty 28-gauge to shoot rock salt at people, the same way farmers sometimes drive off poachers and scavengers.  

Eventually we’d have to revoke Mr. Cheney’s hunting license, of course, but until then this whimsical, nay, quixotic shooting spree I propose would probably help him with stout-hearted, God-fearing, gun-loving hunters — you know, his base — and might even put the fear of God into a few of his loonier enemies.  After all, what could be more dangerous than a lame duck vice president who’s had four heart attacks (and so far, caused one) who doesn’t care about approval ratings and, oh yeah, has a gun and (arguably) knows how to use it?  

Far be it from me to suggest the names of people Vice President Cheney should consider shooting; I’ll leave that to the experts.  But I think we can all agree that there are plenty of people who richly deserve a face full of rock salt, at the very least — and you know who I’m talking about.