What is Dick Cheney Covering Up?
By Ted Rall
02/17/06 "ICH" -- -- NEW YORK--If you haven't anything done
wrong you have nothing to hide. Or does that only apply to
victims of government wiretapping?
On February 11 Dick Cheney shot one of his quail hunting
companions, 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington, in the face,
neck and chest on the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas. What
happened next was astonishing. What happened next was nothing.
No public statement, no press conference, no mention that the
world's most powerful politician had blasted a guy with more
than 250 shotgun pellets--for nearly 24 hours. Finally Katharine
Armstrong, part owner of the ranch and a participant in the
hunting party (though not a witness to the shooting), called
Cheney for directions.
"Mr. Vice President," she told him, "this is going to be public,
and I'm comfortable going to the hometown newspaper."
"You go ahead and do whatever you are comfortable doing," she
says he replied. Remember, Cheney is the man 2000 Bush
supporters counted on to be the grown-up.
Armstrong reported the incident to the local Corpus Christi
Caller-Times, whose story became national after being picked up
by the Associated Press wire service.
Talking to the media doesn't come naturally to a vice president
who hasn't held a press conference for the last three and a half
years, but what about the White House PR machine? Why did they
wait so long to let the news out?
Attorney Alan Dershowitz speculates that Cheney may have stalled
to cover up drunkenness. "One possibility is that it takes
approximately that period of time for alcohol to dissipate in
the body and no longer be subject to accurate testing,"
Dershowitz writes. "It is fairly common for people involved in
alcohol-related accidents to delay reporting them until the
alcohol has left the body." Cheney has a history of public
intoxication, having been twice convicted of DUI.
Sirius Radio's Alex Bennett says that "Cheney and Whittington
went hunting with two women (not their wives), there was some
drinking, and Whittington wound up shot." Bob Cesca alleges that
one of the two women, U.S. ambassador to Switzerland Pamela
Willeford is rumored to be "Cheney's Lewinsky." (Major
difference: Lewinsky is hot.) Cesca elaborates: "The vice
president's Secret Service detail had to decide what to do with
Willeford by way of perhaps covering up her relationship with
Cheney, and thus the delay in reporting the news."
Or maybe the cover-up was motivated by something more prosaic
than getting plastered or getting laid: Cheney knew the shooting
was his fault. Statements that he was "focused on the quail"
indicate a phenomenon hunters call "target fixation"--when a
shooter is so concentrated on shooting his target that he loses
awareness of what's going on around him. Moreover, quail hunters
are supposed to wait until the birds take flight before firing
their guns. Cheney's victim was about 30 yards away, indicating
that he shot his 28-guage straight across the ground.
Cheney probably didn't blow away his friend on purpose
(although, without an investigation, we can't know for sure).
But the story still matters, particularly because he waited so
long to tell it. In 1969 Senator Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo
Kopechne off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, near Martha's
Vineyard. The fact that Kennedy waited nine hours to report the
accident to the police, more than the accident itself, prompted
the endless speculation that ensured that he will never become
president. Cheney should be held to the same standard.
What should we do? What should we say? They're typical questions
after things go wrong. Logic dictates that, if he had nothing to
hide, Cheney would have told his companions to tell the truth.
There's only one reason to let hour after hour slip away,
knowing full well that your delay will add chum to the media
feeding frenzy: you need time to make sure everyone gets their
As usual for the Bush Administration, the Cheney shooting raises
more questions than answers. The Secret Service wouldn't let
Cheney run down to Connecticut Avenue to buy pizza. So why do
they let him play with guns? If he likes killing things, why did
he apply for five draft deferments during the Vietnam War? And
most pressing: how stupid does White House press secretary Scott
McClellan think we are?
"Why is it that it took so long for the president, for you, for
anybody else to know that the vice president accidentally shot
somebody?" asked a reporter.
"You know what [Cheney's] first reaction was? His first reaction
was, go to Mr. Whittington and get his team in there to provide
him medical care." McClellan went on to suggest that the media
focus on Bush's healthcare savings account plan.
If a millionaire like Whittington was forced to wait 24 hours to
see a doctor, our healthcare system is in even bigger trouble
than I thought.
Ted Rall, Is America's hardest-hitting editorial cartoonist for
Universal Press Syndicate, is an award-winning commentator who
also works as an illustrator, columnist, and radio commentator.
Visit his website
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