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         February 17/06

         OPINION   

         Well, what else is new?  A media feeding frenzy about a shooting accident, brought about by the delaying tactics of  Vice President Cheney--the other half of an administration that complains about damaging leaks while it selectively leaks intelligence to hurt political enemies.

   The Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept earlier this week blamed the V.P. for the shooting of another hunter, and the Kenedy County sheriff's Dept, who didn't interview the V.P. until the next morning, cleared him of wrongdoing.  President Bush said he was satisfied the V.P. did the right thing and praised him.

      And so now we have V.P. Cheney, who had been under pressure to publicly discuss the hunting accident which occurred several days ago in the tiny town of Kenedy, in the great Lone Star State of Texas where men are men, at the huge ranch owned by Katherine Armstrong, the woman who released the news of the event.   But later, after much PR agonizing hair-pulling (of what he has left), it was finally arranged for Cheney to have a very safe haven interview with the friendly Fox news' Brit Hume, with Cheney declaring: "One of the worst days of my life," not to mention Mr. Harry M. Whittington's worst day, he being the recipient of the birdshot pellets. 

         None of which has satisfied anyone who cared about the interview's timing  and the lack of overall exposure.  The frustration with the Bush/Cheney administration's general inclination to hunker down and withhold information on just about any subject of interest to the lawmakers, the media, the public, was early on expressed by Hillary Clinton.   N

 

        Nobody doubts, having shot his friend, or acquaintance, or I hardly knew him (you choose) that Cheney is embarrassed and seriously remorseful, even though he tends to maintain that single facial expression, whatever the moment, the emotion, which seems to convey a generalized resentment for the intrusion into his rarified atmosphere.  An accident like that is painful for all concerned. But it's the usual administration stonewalling, often blatant and downright stupid, considering how often it backfires, that smacks of a cover-up; bearing in mind the owner of the ranch and Cheney agreed that she would inform the editor of the very local Corpus Christie Caller-Times (as opposed to the Washington Times or the NY Times) who released the story on the newspaper's web site. Wow!  That's getting it out there! 

      Mr. Cheney said he had a beer at lunch; no reason not to believe that, but the sheriff didn't get to see him 'til the next morning when a blood alcohol test would be difficult. (badly handled or purposeful?)  We were informed on February 14th that the birdshot pellet had smacked Mr. Whittington's heart, whereas the doctor stated that, heck, he knew that from day one, or as he said it: "from the get-go," which again smacks of a reflexive curbing of info on Cheney's part, considering the wounds were initially described as "minor," Cheney delaying as if unrealistically hoping the media would by then be onto something else--like cartoon-prophet violence or Iraq, or hopefully Mr. Abramoff or Scooter Libby or Tom Delay. Well, maybe not Scooter.

       

        It was stated that Cheney was about 30 yards from the victim.  Shooting experts, of which I'm not one--not having squeezed off a serious round since 60 years ago--have suggested that in light of the heavy clothing worn by the hunters (unlike heavy duty buckshot), for a tiny birdshot pellet to penetrate clothing layers as deep as Mr. Whittington's heart, the shooter would have had to be closer than what was described. A minor discrepancy?  Maybe not.  But it's easy to speculate.

      

        No one for a moment believes Cheney tried to assassinate Mr. Whittington, but here you have an intimidated local sheriff who (absent the usual and immediate careful questioning of the shooter, and the blood alcohol test required in gunshot wounds), declares it to be just another shooting accident, and that's it.  Why?  Well, for one, holy shit, the sheriff's dealing with the imposing Secret Service hunks and the steely-eyed Vice President of the U.S.  And also consider where the event took place:

 

  The U.S. Census Bureau says:  

Teeny Kenedy County--   in 2002 the housing units totaled 282 

                                              in 2004 the population totaled 407

    

          

       Which means the sheriff's responsibilities and position are relatively small, no doubt matching his influence, especially in the face of the influence of Katherine Armstrong, a lobbyist,  whose ranch is anything but small:  50,000 acres.  Property of this size commands respect in most places, especially in Kenedy. Cheney said Ms. Armstrong was a witness, saw the whole thing, whereas she said she saw the Secret Service running toward the V.P., meaning she didn't see the accident.

       We are not all equal before the law, folks, which I guess I didn't have to tell you.  But it's a wonderful country, right? Because I'm allowed to express that view.  As long as I don't say it on the telephone, or e-mail it.

              

 

       Except for the bunch at Fox News, V.P. Cheney has always been disdainful of the media,  and seemingly even more so lately, perhaps because he'll not be running for office ever again.  Or, on the other hand, the folks in the administration may be too exhausted by the war and the scandals for them to now have to deal with the shooting, to expedite a more credible time frame and the usual spin, at the least to make the V.P. look less like--or behave less like--a guilty man; which is not to suggest otherwise, but appearances are everything; certainly the Bush/Cheney spin doctors had agreed with that, had previously mastered the discipline and often made real what wasn't, for us and the spineless media who've only recently found their balls.  Perhaps Cheney's loss of Scooter Libby is a factor.

    A contributing element in this matter is the disconnect between Cheney and Bush; to a great extent Bush's fault, in that he took as his partner a bull of a man who was accompanied by Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle and Donald Rumsfeld, all of whom came armed with a major neo-con agenda--A churning, ignorant and costly fantasy to unilaterally, and by force of arms, democratize the Middle east and  stabilize the flow of crude.  The disconnect, I believe, due to a great extent to Bush's allowing of what turned out to be two equal points of command--his and Cheney's-- probably as the result of Bush's lack of experience, of knowledge, ceding too much power to a strong man with a relentless focus, which in the end proved injurious to the President; i.e. (allegedly?) delegating Scooter Libby to inadvertently create  Plamegate.

 

       And now these points of command no longer converge in the way they used to: Bush first saying there are lessons to be learned, before praising him (but didn't call his V.P. to see if he was okay), and Cheney saying he, Cheney, handled it in the right way;  and Cheney, more removed from the center, away from heads more clever than his with regard to the media and--rumor has it--pushed by Karl Rove to make a public statement, he has stumbled in this crisis and revealed an even more remarkable arrogance than previously which seems to have effected his judgment.

 

       What's happened as a result, of course, is that the position he has taken has widened the story of the accident, given it the thousand legs of a millipede, and created enough questions for a thousand conspiracy buffs.  And we really should be focused on issues like Iraq, the deficit, and the economy, stupid.

 

          SAMMY

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