Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cheney Shooting Anniversary and Happy Birthday Sarah Palin!

Hey Vice-Precedence Readers!

Remember how I pointed out in my last blog for Aaron Burrs birthday that he was the first man to shoot someone while Vice-President, over 202 years before VP Cheney shot someone? Well, today is the 4th Anniversary of the Cheney Shooting.

On Saturday, Feb 11, 2006 Vice-President Cheney and a group of his friends and supporters were in Kenedy County, Texas at a private hunting facility called The Armstrong Ranch where the "hunting" consisted of shooting pheasants born, raised, and kept in cages until the hunters arrive in the area and get out of their vehicles. These odds aren't that great for the birds-about a 17% chance of escaping. This kind of hunting is extremely controversial-the Senior VP of the Humane Society at the time called it "an open-air abattoir".

So, VP Cheney and his friends are out there at around 6PM ready to shoot these pheasants. Cheney was armed with his own 28-gauge shotgun-a Perazzi. The party had already shot some birds, and Cheney's friend, 78 year old attorney Harry Whittington, had gone back about 100 yards from the party to recover a pheasant he had shot earlier. He was approaching Cheney from behind and was about 30 or 40 yards away when a bird or two flew up in between him and Mr. Cheney-who spun around and fired-shooting Whittington in the face, neck and upper chest.

Cheneys Secret Service agents and the medical staff who traveled with Cheney for his protection and in case of another heart attack instead found themselves having to help Whittington. Cheney later told FOX News in a special interview about 5 days after the shooting that he himself ran to Whittington and dropped down to him on the ground saying:

"Harry I had no idea you were there."

Whittington made no reply to Cheney or any one giving him medical attention. An ambulance standing nearby for the Vice President took Whittington to nearby Kingsville before he was flown by helicopter to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital.

While Cheney and his staff informed the White House about the tragic incident
that night, it wasn't released to the public for another day-and then it wasn't released by the VP's staff but by Karen Armstrong the owner of the ranch and former head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. All the delays and secrecy around it made the whole incident look like a cover-up. Cheney held no press conference about it-leading Republican Congressman Christopher Shays to tell CNN he believed Cheney "does need to have a full press conference."

"It's like they don't learn," Shays said of the Bush administration.

"It had to have been terrible for him, and obviously the individual he shot and everybody who was there. But the information needs to be made public and made public quickly," Shays said.

Meanwhile, poor Whittington who had been moved from intensive care to a "step-down unit" suffered a mild heart attack due to a shotgun pellet lodged close to his heart and was immediately moved back to intensive care unit and underwent a cardiac catheterization test to detect blocked or leaky arteries. This was in addition to the fact that he had been shot so badly in the face, neck, and upper chest with the tiny 2.5 millimeter (less than a tenth of an inch big) bird shot pellets that Cheney had been using as ammo that day, that the doctors decided the best and safest thing to do was to leave the majority of the pellets in his body. Thats over 200 pieces of birdshot Whittington is walking around with these days. Imagine the conversations with the Security at airports!

"Sir, you set off the metal detector."

"Yeah, you remember when Dick Cheney shot that guy in the face?"

"Oh sure! That was hysterical!"

"Yeah, well...I'm that guy. I have 200 little bullets in my face, neck and chest."

Awkward silence.

Eventually Whittington recovered and even though he told a friend that he thought the whole incident was "much ado about nothing", due to the attention, he held his own press conference where he made a remark that would make every late-night comedy shows writing staff dance around their tables in glee:

"My family and I are deeply sorry for everything Vice President Cheney and his family have had to deal with. We hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves."

Whittington had just apologized to one of the most reviled VP's in history for getting shot in the face by him, apologized for ruining his vacation, and invited him back to his state invoking the risk of maybe getting shot in the face again! Cheney was that powerful! It was both creepy and darkly, outrageously absurd-and the late-night comics had a field day.

On his first show after the incident, Stephen Colbert confessed to having been involved in a hunting accident of his own over the weekend, then proceeded to show an edited version of Brit Hume's interview with Dick Cheney, featuring Colbert in place of Cheney with far more humorous responses to Hume's question. Colbert later mentioned the hunting incident in his famous speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

David Letterman began his Monday show on February 13 with:
"Good news, ladies and gentlemen, we have finally located weapons of mass destruction.... It's Dick Cheney," and added that:

"We can't get bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney."

His Top 10 list was devoted to "Dick Cheney's Excuses" and included "I thought the guy was trying to go "gay cowboy" on me".

On "The Daily Show" Jon Stewart and his staff headlined the story with the title "Cheney's Got A Gun" and Stewart pointed out how Cheney was so powerful that even though he had shot a man-he had gotten than man to apologize to him. Stewart also drew attention to the fact that back during the Burr/Hamilton Duel, Vice-President Burr had shot a man over issues of personal honor, but VP Cheney had shot a man because he "was mistaken for a bird".

Correspondent Ed Helms, supposedly reporting from Corpus Christi Hospital, TX, said that Whittington's condition had been upgraded from "stable" to "stable, but still shot in the face by Dick Cheney."

The politicians got into the act too: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) who Cheney had famously told to "Go f**k himself" on the Senate floor commented:

"In retrospect, it looks like I got off easy."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan who was upset about how the whole incident was handled was referring to President Bush's meeting with the University of Texas championship football team when he said:

"The orange that they're wearing is not because they're concerned that the vice president may be there." However he pointed to his own orange-striped tie and added that "Although that's why I'm wearing it."

Cheney finally had an interview on FOX News in an attempt to try to straighten out the whole thing. To his credit, he admitted the entire incident was his fault, and his fault alone:

"I am the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. That is something I will never forget....Ultimately, I am the guy who pulled the trigger and fired the round that hit Harry....You can talk about all the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line...It's not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else."

The image of him falling is something I will never be able to get out of my mind," Cheney said. "I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment."

The interview on FOX didn't help much-two weeks after the shooting a poll showed that VP Cheney's approval rating had dropped to 18%. Which makes you wonder-who the hell were those people?

This has now become one of the most famous incidents in VP history-and the fact that it all occurred on Sarah Palins birthday just adds to the humor. Yep, today Feb 11 is the birthday of the first woman to receive the Republican nomination for Vice-President of the United States, the former Governor of Alaska-Sarah Palin!

If you haven't already-be sure to read my blog where I go to Governor Palins book signing here in Minnesota at the Mall of America. I think you'll enjoy it-it was quite a unique experience, and Gov. Palin is (to say the least) a very unique figure in American history.

Join us here at Vice-Precedence in the spirit of bipartisanship and general American friendliness in saying:

Happy Birthday Governor Palin!

Also, we hope Mr. Whittington is feeling better too. Wow.

Thanks for reading!

Matt Saxe

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