Sunday, February 12, 2006

Uh Huh. And When He "Tried" to Shoot Al Qaeda, He "Accidentally" Hit Iraq 

Forgive us if we see a pattern here:
Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, accidentally shot a man in the face with a shotgun while hunting for quail on a Texas ranch.

Mr Cheney, 65, sprayed birdshot into Harry Whittington, a fellow hunter, while trying to hit a flock of quail on Saturday afternoon. Mr Whittington, 78, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital where he was treated for pellet wounds to the right side of his face, neck and chest . . . .

A witness, Katharine Armstrong, said Mr Whittington shot a bird and went to look for it in the tall grass, while Mr Cheney and a third hunter walked to another spot and discovered a second flock. She said: "Whittington came up from behind the Vice-President and the other hunter and didn't signal them or indicate to them or announce himself.

"The Vice-President didn't see him ... the covey [flock] flushed and the Vice-President picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by God, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good." Mr Cheney was said to have visited his friend in hospital.
A belligerent Mr. Cheney later insisted that Whittington and the quail were closely linked; that Mr. Whittington, while sneaking around in the tall grass, was "mere moments away" from "reconstituting his shotgun capability"; and that by "taking the fight" to Whittington he was "seriously weakening" the quail's ability to retaliate. Cheney repeated the assertion that a paralegal from Whittington's Austin office had ordered quail in a restaurant in Prague in the spring of 2004, but American intelligence sources have rejected the story as false, because the paralegal has never been to Prague and was in fact visiting her mom in Sugarland at the time in question.

(Thanks to a veritable host of Zemblan patriots for the link.)

UPDATE: Further details from the AP:
McBride did not comment about why the vice president's office did not tell reporters about the accident until the next day. She referred the question to Armstrong, who could not be reached again Sunday evening.

Armstrong, owner of the Armstrong Ranch where the accident occurred, said Whittington was bleeding and Cheney was very apologetic.

"It broke the skin," she said of the shotgun pellets. "It knocked him silly. But he was fine. He was talking. His eyes were open. It didn't get in his eyes or anything like that."

"Fortunately, the vice president has got a lot of medical people around him and so they were right there and probably more cautious than we would have been," she said. "The vice president has got an ambulance on call, so the ambulance came."
For some reason the medical retinue doubles in size whenever the vice president picks up a gun in the vicinity of innocent bystanders.

UPDATE II (via Zemblan patriot J.M.): James and Sarah Brady on the veep and his legendary marksmanship:
"Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him," said Jim Brady. "I had a friend once who accidentally shot pellets into his dog - and I thought he was an idiot."

"I’ve thought Cheney was scary for a long time," Sarah Brady said. "Now I know I was right to be nervous."
UPDATE III: Josh Marshall reports that contrary to earlier reports, the White House did not wait a day to notify the press. The White House never notified the press. It was ranch owner Katharine Armstrong who alerted news media that the vice president had shot his 78-year-old hunting buddy in the face. From Editor & Publisher:
E&P has learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occured and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.

The confirmation was made but there was no indication whether the Vice President's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christ Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.
More on Ms. Armstrong's GOP connections and lobbying interests at Talk Left.

And this, from Wikipedia:
Whittington is the second person known to have ever been shot by a sitting (or former) U.S. Vice President. The only other was Alexander Hamilton, who was shot and killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804.
UPDATE IV: We should point out that the Harry Whittington who was "peppered" by Vice President Cheney was not the Harry Whittington who wrote The Devil Wears Wings, Web of Murder, A Night for Screaming, Vengeance Is the Spur, and Forgive Me, Killer -- although any of the above titles would do quite nicely for his memoir of the fateful quail hunt, should he decide to write one.

UPDATE V (via Zemblan patriot J.M.): From R. Schwartz in the comments section of "The Swamp," a Chicago Tribune newsblog:
I for one will never complain about Cheney duck hunting with Justice Scalia again.
UPDATE VI (via our stouthearted colleagues at Cursor): Dave Lindorff has a couple of questions someone should ask Scottie McClellan. Especially the second:

First off, Cheney waited 24 hours to report the shooting. Very odd. His office claimed it was "out of respect" for the owner of the property, Katherine Armstrong, who claims she forgot for a day because of concerns for Whittington. Could the delay have had more to do with clearing Cheney's blood of alcohol, and getting everyone's stories lined up?

Second, the story that Whittington exited the vehicle the tough-guy hunters were riding in to look for a quail he'd just shot, and that Cheney then got out to check out a second covey of quail sounds queer. When someone fires a shotgun, typically all quail in the area take flight. It seems unlikely Cheney could have found another covey right nearby.

UPDATE VII (and then we promise we'll quit): Of course, the questions they did ask Scottie McClellan were pretty entertaining in their own right:
Q: Scott? Scott, there's a report coming out of a sheriff's deputy there who said that he was prevented from interviewing the vice president by the Secret Service. Do you know anything about that? And is that appropriate?

MR. MCCLELLAN: No, I don't know anything about that. You ought to direct that to the Secret Service. My understanding was the Secret Service took the appropriate steps to inform law enforcement.

Q: Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening. She said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press.

She also told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account --

MR. MCCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.

Q: So you're saying that she's lying, that her --

MR. MCCLELLAN: No, you ought to check with her.

Q: We did check with her. But you're saying that that's not correct.

Q: I just want to clarify one thing. Is it appropriate for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the United States has been -- has shot someone?

MR. MCCLELLAN: That's one way to provide information to the public.

Q: Is it proper for the vice president to offer his resignation, or has he offered his resignation?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Connie, that's an absurd question. I'm not -- go ahead, Ken.

Q: Can we get someone from the vice president's office in here to answer all these questions that you're deferring?

Q: Who was the third hunter, Scott?

MR. MCCLELLAN: Check with his office. I don't know.
Mr. McClellan mentions at least half a dozen times that Katharine Armstrong was an eyewitness to the shooting, which suggests to us that Katharine Armstrong was not an eyewitness to the shooting.

POSITIVELY FINAL UPDATE (courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.): The Third Man was actually a woman:
The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland was the third member of a hunting party which went awry after Vice President Dick Cheney accidently shot 78-year-old Austin, Texas attorney Harry Whittington, according to a story written for the Cox news service, RAW STORY has learned.

Pamela Willeford, a former Texas education official, accompanied Cheney and Whittington as they hunted quail at the Armstrong ranch in Texas on Saturday.
So we've got a Willeford and a Whittington. Where were Jim Thompson and David Goodis?

NO, REALLY! THIS IS THE LAST UPDATE! WE SWEAR IT!: The NYT reports that K. Rove was on the phone way quick to alleged eyewitness Katharine Armstrong. The shooting occurred at roughly 6:30 PM EST:
"Chief of Staff Andy Card called the president around 7:30 p.m. to inform him that there was a hunting accident," a statement released today by the White House said. "He did not know the vice president was involved at that time. Subsequent to the call, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with Mrs. Armstrong. He then called the president shortly before 8 p.m. to update him and let him know the vice president had accidentally shot Mr. Whittington."

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