Vice President Shoots Some Guy

I don’t usually jump into the political realm with this blog, but this story of Vice President Dick Cheney shooting Austin attorney Harry Whittington during a quail hunting trip is just bizarre. Apparently Whittington came up behind the group unannounced and Cheney turned around and sprayed him with buckshot. Whittington is still in the ICU (at last report) but they say he’s doing fine.

Of course conservative bloggers will shrug and move on, but the liberal bloggers will lap it up with post after post after post after post after post after post (whew). I guess that’s what you’d expect from the liberal/conservative divide, but I find the whole thing coincidentally strange.

This Land is My Land
First there’s the “coverup”: Washington didn’t report the shooting, deciding to defer to the property owner. Sheesh, if the Vice President of the United States was strolling around my property and shot somebody, I’d expect the feds to be doing the legwork. I didn’t realize being a property owner gave me the responsibility of reporting shootings on my land (or maybe that’s just Texas). It’s a good thing I don’t have any catching up to do.

I Didn’t Do It
Second, there’s the reporting that seems to blame Whittington:

Whittington “came up from behind the vice president and the other hunter and didn’t signal them or indicate to them or announce himself,” said Armstrong [the property owner], who was in the car.

Of course Josh Marshall (bias disclaimer: he’s a liberal blogger!) talked to a bunch of hunters (no word if they’re liberal or conservative hunters, but I thought only conservatives went hunting) and it seems pretty clear that it was all Cheney’s fault:

One point that comes through really clearly from everyone is that when you’re hunting and you hit a person — that’s your fault. Period. End of story. …

Now, this happens. One TPM Reader actually describes watching the same thing happen to his father-in-law. But when it happens it’s a matter or carelessness and/or recklessness on the part of the shooter and it involves ignores some of the most basic rules of gun safety.

So, from the information available, Cheney screwed up — a relatively common hunting accident, based (as most accidents are) by not following basic safety guidelines and being careless. Trying to blame it on the guy who got shot just doesn’t wash.

But then a Cheney advisor, Mary Matalin says:

“The vice president was concerned. He felt badly, obviously. On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the [rules]. He didn’t do anything he wasn’t supposed to do.”

Yeah, OK.

Now hunting accidents happen. It’s sad, but it happens. But when Cheney, not exactly the most trustworthy person, shoots someone in a hunting accident, well, I just can’t help but wonder what the poor guy did.

3 thoughts on “Vice President Shoots Some Guy”

  1. Kev,
    You have some interesting comments on the Cheney/Whittington hunting accident, that, I find, well kinda “bizarre”. First, I don’t see anything about the accident that is bizarre. In my experience in talking to other hunters, it’s a fairly common accident. Whittington should not have re-joined the other hunters without letting them know he was there and Cheney should not have fired if someone was in his line of sight. And we really don’t know if Whittington was in Cheney’s line of sight. When shooting at moving targets such as Skeet clay pigeons or a covey of Quail you sight on the target and as you pull the trigger, you have to keep swinging the gun in line with and then ahead of the target. Since we are using a shotgun, you are putting out a shot “spray” that you hope hits the target directly and also by swinging the gun through the target you hope the target flies into the shot pattern. If you sight on the target and do not swing the gun but instead stop, you will always miss and shoot behind the target. It is one of the very first basic lessons of Skeet shooting. We certainly don’t know all of the facts here but I think it is very plausible for Whittington to have walked into the end of Cheney’s “firing and swinging on the target” and got sprayed by some of the shot. As far as blame, Cheney is certainly responsible for part of it but so is Whittington. No way can you say it is all Cheney’s fault, even if he accepts full responsibility which I believe he has. I would also take issue with your claim that Cheney, the lady witness, or any of the spokesmen were blaming Whittington. I didn’t read it that way at all.

    For you to state that “Apparently Whittington came up behind the group unannounced and Cheney turned around and sprayed him with buckshot.” is irresponsible even if you are quoting the newsreports. The picture I get from that statement is that Whittington walks up behind Cheney in full view and Cheney turns around and shoots him. I doubt very much it happened that way. Now maybe I’m as guilty of mis-reading your statement as I think you are of doing the same with the press reports?

    As far as the reporting, I’m not sure whether the word “coverup” in quotes is your own tongue-in-cheek expression done as humor or that you are actually quoting someone who actually thought of it as such. My take on the reporting of the incident is that it is a beautiful example of a humorous jab at the media. I really don’t think it was planned or intended that way. And I don’t mean to ignore or minimalize (is that a word?) Whittingon’s pain and suffering or that there is anything funny about the accident itself. Why do you think Washington should have reported it? There is no law or requirement that says you have to call up the media and report an accident. If there had been a fatality, certainly it would have to be reported to law enforcement but not to the media, to take it to the extreme. I got a big kick out of the lady property owner simply calling her local newspaper and reporting the accident. That was cool and I’m sure she nor Cheney really thought about it from that aspect. No doubt the national media went nuts when they realized THEY were not immediately informed because, well by gosh, they’re the national media and that darned evil Cheney did it to them again! And no doubt it really tweaked them that the local media had the story and they didn’t. My first question of the national media is where was the reporter(s) who normally cover Cheney? I suppose they don’t cover every second that Cheney is out and about but looks to me like the media dropped the ball here. Where did you get the idea that being the property owner gave you responsibility for reporting the accident? It doesn’t. The lady was an eye witness and any witness there should have reported it to law enforcement since a person got shot. But as I said before, there certainly isn’t any requirement to report to the media. And yes, I have so far ignored the fact that we’re talking about an accident involving the Vice-President of the U.S. and that certainly is very news-worthy. It simply got reported to the public in a unique way that I personally found humorous at the expense of the national media. The primary concern at the time of the accident was to get Whittington medical care which was done. No doubt when a person suffering gun-shot wounds arrives at the hospital, law enforcement is informed and the circumstances are checked out.

    Well, this was fun. I got a laugh out of the way the story was reported in the first place and I also had to laugh at your take on the accident. As I re-read my response before posting to your blog, I’m hoping it doesn’t sound harsh or critical as I don’t intend it to be that way, including my “irresponsible” statement. I’m simply responding to your comments with a counterpoint.

  2. Dad, if you read the Josh Marshall posts I linked to I think you’ll find all the sources for a) what appears to be blaming Whittington or at least minimizing Cheney’s responsibility, b) hunters talking about how it’s totally Cheney’s fault, and c) the detail that Cheney’s office deferred to Armstrong to report the shooting since it took place on her land.

    The stuff about hunting is Josh Marshall’s explanation of what hunters supposedly told him, so take that for what it’s worth. The other two items, however, Marshall is quoting from media accounts. You could see the same thing in the Star Trib article I linked to, though it looks like they’ve updated their article since I linked to it and it doesn’t have all the same information.

    Finally, you can look at this report from CNN which says even Bush was a little miffed at the timing of the announcement: “Senior aides to President Bush, who was notified of the accident Saturday night, expressed unusual and increasing frustration about the way the matter was handled.”

    So I think I’m commenting on pretty solid facts. You can call them the way you see them, but that’s the way I saw them. And yes, this is all in a rather tongue-and-cheek manner. The Vice-President shot some guy while hunting. With all respect to the poor guy who got shot, when a defense hawk VP accidentally shoots somebody, well, it is rather ironic.

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