The Tell Tale Heart

Posted on February 16, 2006

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As more and more details of Dick Cheney’s recent hunting incident come to light it becomes clear that the ever-facile Dick has been anything but forthright about the incident. That, you expect. What’s really shocking and frightening is the seamless way that others have stepped in to lie for him. It may be understandably difficult to turn down a man responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people when he asks you for a solid, but you’d think a hospital administrator might have a little more backbone. With Cheney’s victim still in intensive care, Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital Vice President Paul Banko seemed to be oddly non-plussed about the incident. Though Harry Whittington, Cheney’s victim, was in an intensive care ward, Banko chipperly offered that, “It was like he was spending time with me in my living room”. And even after Cheney’s official you-gotta-laugh-version of events began to unravel when Whittington’s injuries caused him to have a heart attack, Banko maintained the no-big-whup defense, claiming that Whittington “still kind of wonders what all the hoopla’s about”. Katharine Armstrong, Cheney’s extremely well-connected hunting host, portrayed a similarly carefreee shooting-victim. While not-so subtly blaming Whittington she shrugged off what turned out to be a life-threatening accident by saying the shot merely “knocked him silly”.

Outside the Loony-Tunes universe of the Bush administration, however, others offered less optimistic views based on physics and biology. Physicians interviewed by the Washington Post (2/15/06) suggested it was unlikely that the pellet in question could have travelled from the man’s chest to his heart tissue via the bloodstream, as Banko has suggested. It seemed more likely that the pellet was lodged in the heart to begin with, making Banko’s commentary appear glaringly sinister in hindsight. Meanwhile, no one seemed to wonder why the vice president of the private company that runs Christus Spoen Hospital was personally taking the role of press liason, when he was neither a spokesperson nor Whittington’s attending physician. Banko is merely a financial administrator who has presided over a 1.2 million dollar grant from the Bureau of Veteran’s Affairs for the construction of a new wing at Spoen.

Hunting experts and game officials also doo-dooed Armstrong’s suggestion that Whittington was at fault because, as she insisted, “The vice president did everything right” when he turned into the setting sun and immediately shot at the first thing in his line of fire. The Texas Wildlife and Parks Commission’s hunting safety rules state quite clearly:

Look around and see who or what might be in the line of fire

Avoid shots with obscure backgrounds

Identify your animal from tip (nose) to tail before you shoot. Never shoot at a sound or movement.

What is more disturbing is that Armstrong is the former head of this particular agency and should be in an especially unique position to know that the shooting was clearly the fault of Cheney, not her less politically connected guest.

Clearly, Cheney waited to see if such distortions, along with the comedy stylings of sidekick George W. Bush and Press Dictaphone Scott McClellan, would cause the whole mess to blow over before he actually had to comment on it. And it may have worked, if not for the irregular beating of Whittington’s tell-tale heart. As the carefully massaged story came undone, one wonders just what truth lay at its center. As Slate points out (What the Good Ol Boys Are Saying, Paul Burka, 9/15/06) , the tight pattern of pellets in Whittington’s wound areas suggests that Cheney may have been much closer than the 30 yards initially claimed and the long hours from the incident to its reporting indicate that clean-up was the priority. Even the actual time and day of the incident may be inaccurate–according to the Washington Post, Whittington referred to the incident as occuring “last Friday”, and not Saturday, at the impromptu press conference he gave upon his release from the hospital (Man Shot by Cheney Released From Hospital, Washington Post, 2/17/06). If the results of the flaccid investigation on the part of local law enforcement are any guide, Cheney’s actions may have been even more irresponsible and careless than hinted at by the current version of the story, but we will never know the truth; just as we will never know for sure what went on behind the closed doors of the Energy Task Force meetings headed by Cheney in 2000, or in the hours following the impact of the first airplane at the World Trade Center or at the policy-making meetigns in the years preceeding the Bush adminstration’s unveiling of the Iraq invasion plan.

So one can only wonder; there are many scenarios to delight the workings of the conspiracy-leaning mind. It’s quite possible Cheney was so wasted on ludes, meth, meds, mescaline and Bud Lite that he nearly blew away a member of his own hunting party. Perhaps a man like Cheney might savor the fruits of his position by offing the odd civilian from time to time. And who knows? The extra-dimensional aliens that have secretly been running this country in the guise of evangelical Christians and reality-tv producers may have wanted to test Cheney’s loyalty to their ultimate master plan of cross-planar domination. But the truth behind this issue is probably as mundane as that any hunting accident. Cheney the quail-hunter was probably the same kind of morally retarded a-hole as Cheney the Vice-President; careless with the lives of others.