Last week's column filled my e-mail in-box with responses. You know, the column about the vice president of the United States shooting 78-year-old lawyer Harry M. Whittington in the face, neck and heart with a shotgun?
Sounds harsh when you put it that way, so let's double-check. Shot him in the face - check. In the neck - check. And heart - double-check. Well, at least they found a pellet there. In fact, close-up pictures reveal that Cheney dang near shot Whittington's face off - which face subsequently apologized on TV—honest, I saw it.
The media overplayed this story only in relation to the way they've downplayed lots of the vice president's other mistakes - or whatever. It's become ever more apparent to those who consult lots of media that Dick Cheney:
* Literally betrayed an American undercover agent, illegally or not.
* Dealt secretly with energy interests in a way damaging to American consumers, the nation's independence and the health of the planet.
* Engaged in war profiteering that included offshore deals with blacklisted tyrants from the very axis of evil he so opposes.
And much more. I've documented such mistakes - or whatever - in the past, complete with sources and dates, and I'll come back to them, but for now let's just say the media has been incredibly soft on Cheney, and so the hunting event stands out in the way New Orleans stands out. It woke up a sleepy Washington press corps, which mostly had applauded through the nightmare known as the first term.
Maybe now they've woken up, which brings us back to the quail-hunting event. How could anyone be upset with the vice president's behavior, some e-mailers wanted to know. Such accidents are commonplace, right? Let's see--man down, birdshot in face, neck and heart. Heart attack follows.
Commonplace? I don't think so, except that violence appears to be commonplace with Cheney. He's been known to blow away scores of quail and ducks in a single afternoon. Maybe not in Corpus Christi, but in other settings, he's shot them like so much live skeet, according to articles in the Humane Society and many other publications. Handlers release them from cages and scare them into his path, and Cheney massacres them. He's been known to treat friends in high places - such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia - to such excursions.
He's also shown a tendency to facilitate the dropping of lots of bombs, resulting in collateral damage to hundreds of thousands of actual people. He's been on record supporting the creation of new types of nuclear weapons for tactical use on future battlefields. Oh, there's no end to Cheney's many endearing quirks and proclivities.
Given such penchants and such public responsibility, Cheney's secrecy and poor hunting judgment during his Texas weekend are surely fair game, so to speak. Are these qualities we want in the man who stands a heartbeat away from the really big trigger? You know, the trigger to the mushroom cloud machine?
I'd say the media have gone extremely easy on the vice president, starting with Brit Humes' genteel questioning on Fox News. And because there was no public investigation - not by Texas deputies, not by Bush, not even by the press (surprise), every aspect of this case is open to speculation, such as that which found its way into my in-box over the weekend.
Chuck Bowers, of Powell, wrote, "You won't need a dog to point to the 12-hour delay that's plenty of time to let alcohol wear off . Funny how an 18-minute erasure contributed significantly to Nixon's downfall, while this 12-hour obliteration looks like it will be ignored." Another reader pointed out the 28-gauge shotgun and No. 7 1/2 shot that Cheney allegedly used were more typical of women hunters, who often prefer smaller guns and ammo.
Lucy Davis, across the Smokies in Murphy, N.C., wrote, "It was doubtful the gun could've done the damage alleged from 90 feet. Plus, the cover story just doesn't make sense. They never did explain how Whittington was shot on his right side - they said Whittington came up from the back and to the right side of Cheney? Walking backwards? Another thing, Clinton had consensual sex with an adult, yet the Republicans felt this was reason enough to spend $6 million tax dollars trying to impeach him. Guess he should have shot someone."
Mark Harbinson, a history teacher from Taylorsville, N.C., had this to say: "My personal opinion is that the deputy did not gain entrance to the ranch in order for 'the party' to give Cheney time to sober up. When did it become possible for any citizen to make the decision not to give access to a law enforcement officer dispatched to a shooting investigation? This is the area that should really be investigated."
John H. St. John, of Spring Valley, Calif., was blunter. "I am 85 now and can't hunt any more, but I got a double-barreled sixteen-gauge shotgun for my fourteenth birthday. I have trained pointers and - being an artist - painted them. One of my paintings was in 'The American Field' magazine. The very idea of an experienced hunter accidentally blasting someone in the face is absurd. He had to have either done it on purpose or been drunk. I believe that he was drunk."
And I believe that's serious business, but the least of his many sins against our world.