February 18, 2006
rations himself to only one prediction every 15 years. Mine now
is that there is going to be a devastating backlash in the months
and years ahead in the matter of Cheney and the quail shoot.
Some critics of the
administration are arguing as if Iraq were a subsidiary concern.
What has been brought forth in the plains of Texas is the venal
character of the vice president of the United States.
for The New York Times headlined his column, "Mr.
Vice President, It's Time to Go." Resign, "for the sake
of the country and" -- one inhales the purity of the writer's
motives -- "for the sake of the Bush administration."
Now that gentleman's
concern for the well-being of the Bush administration is on the
level of his concern for the quail that Mr. Cheney did or did
not kill (this is the only detail of the event unexplored by the
historians). Why did the critic want Cheney to resign? Because
"Mr. Cheney is arrogant, defiant and sometimes blatantly
vulgar." Oh? Yes -- the critic arrived with documentation
in hand: "He once told Sen. Patrick Leahy to perform a crude
act upon himself." You do not say! Well, that's the kind
of thing one would expect from somebody who goes about crippling
his friends while ostensibly aiming only at quail.
It is to the credit
of the newspaper of record that a few pages before the call for
the resignation of Mr. Cheney, a careful reporter, Ralph Blumenthal,
gave a detailed account of what had happened on Saturday at the
Who all was there?
Well, Pamela Pitzer Willeford, ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein,
and her husband, a physician; the hostess, Katharine Armstrong,
and her sister, and her husband. Also Nancy Negley, an art philanthropist;
Ben Love, a West Texas rancher; and the victim, Harry Whittington,
a 78-year-old lawyer, and his wife. Also several outriders, whose
duty was to flush the birds. Also a dozen American pointers and
Labrador retrievers. Close to 5:30 p.m., the two shooting groups
had bagged about 40 quail each, and were working now on the last
About 100 yards away
from the Jeep carrying the hostess and her sister (daughters of
the fabled Anne Armstrong, whom Gerald Ford had once asked to
run for vice president), "Mr. Cheney, Mr. Whittington and
Ms. Willeford were walking in a line in a low spot on gently sloping
ground. After Mr. Whittington bagged his birds he dropped out
of sight, along with one of Ms. Armstrong's bird dogs." (Her
name -- not originally disclosed to the press -- is "Gertie.")
"Then, suddenly, he was in a dip about 30 yards away against
the sun just as Mr. Cheney fired a blast from his Italian-made
28-gauge Perazzi shotgun." That is when Mr. Whittington "caught
the spray of birdshot on the right side of his face, neck and
Mr. Cheney is recorded
as having said, "Harry, I had no idea you were there!"
The exclamation point is mine, and will offend only those who
refuse to believe that Cheney was startled at finding that his
friend stood in a line between him, Gertie and the setting sun.
We all know what then
happened. But the only thing that then happened that seemed to
catch national attention was that the party drove not to the nearest
newspaper, but to the hospital.
An account was filed
with a local newspaper, and the doleful news came from the hospital
that one pellet had entered the heart of the victim. There is
little doubt but that he will survive. Mr. Cheney has said that
what blame there is, is Cheney's. That detail, by the way is also
not fully explored -- conceivably the victim had failed to identify
his position when moving forward from the firing line established
by hunters moving in parallel.
We can't celebrate
a backlash until Mr. W. is back home and well. But here is one
observer who predicts that Mr. W. will chuckle over the misadventure,
unless, after years of friendship with Mr. Cheney, he only now
discovers that he is arrogant, defiant, and that he uses vulgar
2006 Universal Press Syndicate