By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Cheney walks the line

Pending any further developments, the Washington Post today may have the last word on the Dick Cheney affair.

It turns out that a Post staff member, the aptly named Stephen Hunter, is himself an experienced bird hunter. He’s not entirely unsympathetic to Cheney, as he acknowledges how easy it is to be so focused on your prey that you lose sight of your surroundings. But Hunter makes two important points about Cheney:

1. Yes, folks, the accident was Cheney’s fault. Incredibly, the White House spinners are still trying to blame this on the victim, Harry Whittington. But Hunter writes:

The fundamental etiquette and safety device of bird hunting is: Obey the line.

The line is between you and the game ahead of you, and by you I mean everybody in your party. The line is invisible but should exist in the imagination as powerfully as the Great Wall of China. It is the simple geography of safety that determines that we are here and we only shoot there — that is, ahead of us. It has certain mandates. One is that at any given moment, one should know where everybody in the hunting party is. You have to keep those images in mind as you move over the ground. It has to be second nature….

It appears the vice president lost contact with the line.

2. Whittington is very fortunate to be alive. According to Hunter, if Cheney were not such an expert shot, he would likely have been firing heavier, cruder ammunition. Hunter explains:

He [Cheney] was lucky to be so superb a wing shot that he carried a shotgun in 28-gauge rather than 12-gauge. That probably saved Harry Whittington’s life. The 28 is for advanced bird hunters who’ve killed their thousands with a 12 — the common hunting shell of America’s shotgunners — and want something more refined, lighter, more beautiful. With the 28 you have to get closer, shoot faster and more accurately. The little pieces of shot break their cluster sooner, spray more widely, lose velocity faster.

Incredibly, the White House and its partisan allies continue to attempt to minimize this and to shift the blame to the victim. Here is how Anne Kornblut ends her New York Times account today:

Ms. Armstrong and Ms. Willeford said the accident was largely the fault of Mr. Whittington, who had reappeared alongside two of his hunting companions without giving proper warning. Mr. Cheney, who was carrying a 28-gauge shotgun, had already begun to fire and sprayed Mr. Whittington.

“He got peppered pretty good,” Ms. Armstrong said. “He fell with his head toward me.” She said she ran over to Mr. Whittington, who had fallen, but stayed out of the way while Secret Service agents tended to him.

“There was some bleeding, but it wasn’t horrible,” she said. “He was more bruised.”

Ms. Willeford, whose husband was also at the ranch, said in an interview after visiting the victim at the hospital that Mr. Whittington accepted responsibility for the accident. “He understands that he could have handled it better,” Ms. Willeford said. “Harry should have let us know he was back there.”

This is bogus, and Stephen Hunter has exposed it as such. “He got peppered pretty good.” Please. The bottom line remains the same: The vice president shot a 78-year-old man in the face, putting him in intensive care for several days, and let nearly a day to pass before allowing the news to become public. That’s kind of important, isn’t it?

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  1. Gradon Tripp

    Important, yes. But it’s obviously not nearly as important as the policy of “Spread Blame/Don’t Apologize”.

  2. Anonymous

    This is another interesting reaction by a man I don’t like much, for his intellectual dishonesty and who tries to outhawk the hawks, John Podhoretz, who isn’t sugarcoating this matter like some people on this blog and elsewhere are trying to (listening baar?) Courtesy of Kurtz and the WaPo for this alert:”Conservative columnist John Podhoretz doesn’t sugarcoat it on National Review:”This story is a very big deal, despite all the mitigating factors — the accident involved a friend, his medical team was right there to help, and all that. Something like this has never happened before, and it is a genuinely disturbing thing to think that the vice president of the United States actually shot somebody last weekend, even for fans of his.”It’s disturbing as well that there was a news blackout that lasted nearly a day about this serious incident. It seems beyond question that the vice president is going to have to go before the cameras, explain what happened, and show genuine remorse for his actions, however inadvertent. It’s a difficult challenge for someone as reticent as Dick Cheney. But unless he does so, and makes a good showing of it, he will be damaged goods for the remainder of the Bush presidency.” “

  3. Anonymous

    I’m sure there will be more out on this soon – The A.P. is repporting Whittington had a heart attack this morning because of bird shot lodged in his heart:;_ylt=AvtdXkxhY4xqHA0GDKxjn7qs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA2Z2szazkxBHNlYwN0bQ–I hope the guy who posted the thing about this being essentially the same thing as being shot with a pellet gun is following this.

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