February 17, 2006

The Imperial Vice Presidency

Reading in between the Lines

It took Vice President Cheney four days to comment publicly on the bizarre circumstances surrounding his shooting of hunting partner Harry Whittington while hunting quail on the Texas ranch of Haliburton lobbyist Katharine Armstrong. And even then, it was not before a White House press conference but rather to Fox News mouth piece Bret Hume, a personal friend of Cheney's who asked a series of questions that could have easily been mistaken for lob pitches at a game of children's soft ball.

Predictably, it took President Bush even longer -- five days -- to comment publicly on his vice president's conduct. The fact that Bush had to wait for FOUR DAYS for Cheney to finally open his mouth speaks volumes about who is really in charge at the White House.

BUSH: "I thought the vice president handled the issue just fine, and I thought his explanation yesterday was a powerful explanation."

THE SLIME: Note the use of the word "EXPLANATION." A quick look in the dictionary finds these definitions:

1 - Something that explains: That was supposedly the explanation for their misdeeds.
2 - A mutual clarification of misunderstandings; a reconciliation.
3 - The act of explaining; making something plain or intelligible; "I heard his explanation of the accident"

What was her explanation for why she was late?
The judge didn't believe his explanation that he had stolen the money in order to give it to charity.
He said, by way of explanation, that he hadn't seen the traffic light change to red.

No doubt you've heard the expression, "You've got some powerful explaning to do." Whether Bush consciously intended to, he likely let slip his true feelings on the matter. You don't use such phrases when you're talking about explaning mathematics or how to use a computer. It's the type of expression a prosecutor tosses at a defendent on cross examination: "So what is your explanation for having your fingerprints being found on the murder weapon?"

CHENEY: "Well, ultimately, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line. And there's no -- it was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget."

THE SLIME: For the first 48 hours Cheney's delegated spokeperson Katharine Armstrong, a witness to the incident, as well as Cheney staffers were telling everyone who would listen that it was Whittington's own fault for getting shot. Note also that Cheney chose his words carefully. He never once actually says that he was at fault or that he is to blame. Nor does he actually take responsibility. All he admits to is firing the gun.

CHENEY:"No. You don't hunt with people who drink. That's not a good idea . . . We'd taken a break at lunch -- go down under an old -- ancient oak tree there on the place, and have a barbecue. I had a beer at lunch. After lunch we take a break, go back to ranch headquarters. Then we took about an hour-long tour of ranch, with a ranch hand driving the vehicle, looking at game. We didn't go back into the field to hunt quail until about, oh, sometime after 3:00 p.m. The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon. Nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence."

THE SLIME: First, let's ask ourselves why Hume asked the question which led to this answer, which was, "Was anybody drinking in this party?" That's really a no-brainer: To give Cheney a chance to put forward his alibi story, including a time line, since in reality he HAD been drinking by his own admission. How much? Perhaps a lot. It might explain why Cheney did not ride in his own ambulance to the hospital with Whittington, and also explains why Cheney had to stall for time before the incident was made public. It took time to make sure that everyone was going to be on the same page about how much they were drinking and when. And it may have also took time to agree on a story about how the shooting actually came down and make sure that Whittington was going to play ball.

Rank speculation you say? Well, if there was nothing to hide, what would Cheney have to gain by behaving in such a seemingly bizarre way and delaying the story in such a ridiculous manner? One which was bound to cause a lot more trouble that there had to be. The only logical answer is that Cheney is covering something up.

CHENEY: "Well, my first reaction, Brit, was not to think: I need to call the press. My first reaction is: My friend, Harry, has been shot and we've got to take care of him."

THE SLIME: If this is true, why did he not ride in the ambulance to the hospital with Whittington? The ambulance was actually Cheney's own private one that follows him every where he goes. In addition, as a man with a serious heart condition who had just been through an extremely traumatic event, medical caution would dictate that he should have been checked out immediately for the effects of stress. That is why, for example, that police officers involved in a shooting are required to undergo both a medical and psychiatric evaluation within 12 to 24 hours, if not sooner.

CHENEY: Asked if he spoke to the president the day of the shooting, Cheney replied: "I did not. The White House was notified, but I did not discuss it directly, myself. I talked to Andy Card, I guess it was Sunday morning. "

THE SLIME: There you have it. The president was totally inconsequential even though his vice president had just shot and possibly mortally wounded a man.

CHENEY: "No, you always -- in that part of the country, you always are on vehicles, until you get up to where the covey is. Then you get off -- there will be dogs down, put down; the dogs will point to covey. And then you walk up on the covey. And as the covey flushes, that's when you shoot."

THE SLIME: So the vice president gets driven around in a car when he hunts, has guides which go ahead to locate prey, and then uses dogs to further point them out. Sounds a lot like shooting fish in a barrel, doesn't it. That's how "he-men" from Texas hunt. Us Yankees up North don't use guides or dogs or ride around in SUVs when we hunt. I guess we're all sissies?

CHENEY: "Well, my first reaction, Brit, was not to think: I need to call the press. My first reaction is: My friend, Harry, has been shot and we've got to take care of him. That evening there were other considerations. We wanted to make sure his family was taken care of."

THE SLIME: Now isn't that special? Of course Cheney's first thoughts were how to take care of getting everyone's stories straight, and not to run to the press.

CHENEY: "There wasn't any way this was going to be minimized, Brit; but it was important that it be accurate. . . We went with Mrs. Armstrong. We had -- she's the one who put out the statement. And she was the most credible one to do it because she was a witness. It wasn't me in terms of saying, here's what happened, it was -- "

THE SLIME: And Armstrong was of course totally in Cheney's pocket and could be relied upon to delay the story so it missed the Sunday morning news talk shows, as well as to put the blame on poor Mr. Whittington for getting himself shot. It was only after Cheney got even worse press over the incident that they dropped the "blame Harry" strategy.

CHENEY: "I had a bit of the feeling that the press corps was upset because, to some extent, it was about them -- they didn't like the idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times. But it strikes me that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is, especially for covering a major story in south Texas."

THE SLIME: And of course, Republican doormat that he is, Bret Hume didn't bat an eye or fall out of his chair when Cheney blathered this nonsense.

CHENEY: Asked by Hume, "What about just coming out yourself Monday/Tuesday -- how come?," Cheney replied, "Well, part of it obviously has to do with the status of Harry Whittington."

THE SLIME: Note carefully that Cheney said "the status," and not medical status or medical condition. As in, "Is Harry going to keep his mouth shut and say what we want him to?"

WHITTINGTON: "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week."

THE SLIME: One can only wonder what combination of bribery and threats Cheney's people came up with to get the victim of a shooting to apologize to the shooter for shooting him. Especially since the vice president is genetically incapable of uttering the word "sorry" himself.

Blog Sources:

Interview of the Vice President by Brit Hume, FOX News.