With the President’s Day holiday upon us it is apropos that our nation collectively let’s our very secretive, dour, and quite scary Vice President off the hook for the egregiously handled shooting of fellow Republican fat-cat Harry Whittington. However, before we turn the page on what is now being dubbed as this administration’s “Monica Lewinsky” affair let us not forget the many discrepancies in the story told to the nation and the world. Quite frankly, Mr. Cheney’s story has more holes in it than his victim.
The Designated Witness
Ranch owner Katharine Armstrong was the only “witness” to speak to the investigating authorities even though more than a half dozen other people were present at or near the scene of the accident. Ms. Armstrong initially stated that she was sitting in a jeep “about 100 yards away” from where the hunters were; yet she was designated by Mr. Cheney and his Secret Service detail to be the voice for the group. She also initially stated that when she saw everyone running toward Mr. Cheney she thought he was having heart trouble and did not realize that Mr. Whittington was lying on the ground and had been shot. The furthest away from the scene is certainly an interesting choice for the lone witness.
No one was drinking
When initially asked if anyone in the hunting party had been served alcohol on her property on the day in question; Ms. Armstrong said that only Dr. Pepper had been consumed at a barbeque lunch which her staff prepared for the hunters. Ms. Armstrong later recanted this statement by saying that there may have been beer in the cooler that was supplied by the ranch to the hunting party. Mr. Cheney also admitted on the Wednesday following the shooting that he had one beer during lunch but that “no one was under the influence”. It is also reported that among the very first things Mr. Whittington adamantly reported to the Kenedy County Sheriff at the hospital was that no alcohol was consumed during the hunt. It is curious to this blogger that this was among the first statements offered by the victim and the ranch’s hostess.
While the shooting allegedly happened on Saturday February 11 at 5:30 PM; local authorities were not permitted on the ranch until 8 AM the next morning. The local Sheriff was also not allowed to interview any one present at the scene including the shooter Mr. Cheney. The authorities were also not permitted to examine the actual scene of the accident. In any shooting, accidental or otherwise, it is usual procedure to speak immediately to all witnesses, victims (if possible), and shooters. It is also standard procedure to immediately examine the accident scene.
A standard accident report filed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) also had checked the box for “No” to the question of whether Mr. Cheney was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the shooting. It made no mention of alcohol being consumed by the Vice President at lunch prior to the incident or other members of the hunting party drinking that day. The report also depicted the wound pattern on the wrong side of the victim’s body.
Cheney’s Hunting License
While Mr. Cheney did have the necessary licenses to hunt in Texas, as stated by the TPWD on Sunday February 12; the very next day it was learned that Mr. Cheney did not have an upland bird permit as required to hunt quail and other woodland birds by all states. Mr. Cheney was therefore hunting illegally.
While it was initially reported by Ms. Armstrong that Mr. Whittington was alert and responsive when all present rushed to his aid just after the shooting; Mr. Cheney later revealed that when he got to where Mr. Whittington lay he had only one eye open and was unresponsive but conscious. It was also reported that after being treated at the scene by Mr. Cheney’s traveling medical staff he was taken by ambulance to a small local hospital where he was alert and cracking jokes with nurses. However, shortly after checking in to the local emergency room, Mr. Whittington was evac’d by helicopter to a larger hospital in Corpus Christi and placed immediately in intensive care. It was in this hospital where Mr. Whittington suffered a mild heart attack as a result of some of the pellets penetrating his heart.
Harry was about 30 yards away
The distance that has been given between the shooter and victim does not seem plausible for several reasons. A 28 gauge shotgun, as Mr. Cheney was using, is not a very powerful weapon especially when loaded with birdshot. For those tiny pellets to have entered Mr. Whittington’s heart and cause his heart attack this distance seems to be very overstated. Also, the scatter pattern on Mr. Whittington’s body was not consistent with a shot of that distance. At 90 feet, or 30 yards, the pellets would have scattered over a wider area of the victim’s body and not been so concentrated in his neck, face and upper torso.
Telling the President and Nation
The delay in telling the nation and his boss, President Bush, is now legendary. It is in fact now known that Karl Rove had to call down to the ranch on Saturday evening to find out what had actually happened to report back to the President. Mr. Cheney and his staff also made a curious choice by allowing the story to be told only by Ms. Armstrong to a small local paper. The shooting was also not made public until some 18 hours after it happened, a curious delay to say the least.
The rift between Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Cheney’s staffs in the days following as a result of the mishandling of the reporting of the accident is very obvious to the country. It also speaks to the degree to which Mr. Cheney, an elected official, regards himself as being answerable to no one, even his boss and the people who elected him.
So on this President’s Day we can all take peace in knowing that there are really two presidencies running in our country: one that is accountable to the American people and is doing a horribly incompetent job – Mr. Bush’s; and the other which operates secretly and has no regard for the law or Constitution which it has sworn to uphold – Mr. Cheney’s.
In Mr. Cheney’s case, this is just another example in a long litany of devious backroom dealings that have made him the scariest and most powerful Vice President in our history. Couple this shooting incident with his secret energy commission which he has refused to release the notes on, the outrageous and yet unproven link between 9/11 and Iraq, the supposed WMD which no one has ever found in Iraq but he still insists exists, the secret prison system run to torture alleged terrorists, his direction to Scooter Libby to “out” a deep cover CIA operative in retaliation for her husband’s New York Times article refuting the WMD claims, and his bizarre claim last week (which will turn out to be his own defense when called to the witness stand in Mr. Libby’s trial in January 2007) that he, as Vice President, has the sole authority to declassify any intelligence data he sees fit – makes this man the most dangerous figure on the world scene in a long long time.
It is time for Mr. Cheney to step down – he is unfit to lead our nation any longer.