Monday, February 13, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney Shoots His Millionaire Buddy While Slaughtering Quail: Good Old Boy Hunting Trip Gone Wrong.

This one has so many angles I don’t know where to start. The obvious reaction is surprise. I mean come on, they’d have to not be exercising safety measures for this to happen.

It’s heartening to know that a man (yes, he is mortal vs. what most think) that can make such a huge mistake is running the country.

It seems too that they were simply driving and looking for things to shoot. This doesn’t come off to me as a typical hunting trip. Usually people walk. I guess though that this is the way millionaire good old boys do it. Just talk favors in a car and then jump out and shoot when the spotter boy sees birds. More business than anything I guess.

Article:

Cheney shoots hunter by accident

Texas lawyer hit as vice president fires at a quail

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/

2006/02/13/MNG16H7I511.DTL&hw=Cheney+

shoots+hunter+by+accident&sn=001&sc=1000

Anne E. Kornblut, New York Times

Monday, February 13, 2006

Washington -- Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a prominent Austin lawyer on Saturday while the two men were quail hunting in south Texas, firing a shotgun at the man while trying to aim for a bird, a member of the hunting party said.

Cheney, a practiced hunter, shot the lawyer, Harry Whittington, on an outing at the Armstrong Ranch. Whittington, 78, was taken by helicopter to Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital where he was listed in stable condition on Sunday, according to Michele Trevino, a hospital spokeswoman.

"He is stable and doing well. It was almost like he was spending time with me in my living room," hospital administrator Peter Banko, who visited Whittington, told the Associated Press. Banko said Whittington was in the intensive care unit because his condition warranted it, but he didn't elaborate.

White House officials did not release details of the incident. But Katharine Armstrong, who was with the hunting party at the time of the shooting, said Cheney, 65, fired his shotgun without realizing that Whittington had approached him, hitting him on his right side, on his cheek, neck and chest. The incident was first reported on the Web site of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on Sunday.

"It was accidental, a hunting accident," Ramon Salinas III, Kenedy County sheriff, said from his office in Sarita, Texas, adding that the Secret Service notified him Saturday of the incident. "They did what they had to according to law."

The Armstrong Ranch is a familiar hunting venue for Republican politicians, including Cheney, who sometimes hunts there several times a year. Whittington is a friend of the Armstrong family's and a frequent visitor to the 50,000-acre ranch, one of the largest private properties in Texas.

Whittington is a former member of the Texas Board of Corrections, which runs the state's prisons, and he once led the Texas Public Finance Authority Board. In 1999, George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, named Whittington to head the Texas Funeral Service Commission, which licenses and regulates funeral directors and embalmers in the state. Whittington still serves in the position.

White House officials, who did not make public the shooting incident for 24 hours, did not say how Whittington and Cheney were acquainted, although both have long-standing ties to the Armstrong family. Whittington sent word through a hospital official that he would have no comment on the incident out of respect for Cheney, according to the Associated Press.

Cheney often goes hunting with other political figures. Two years ago he went duck hunting with Justice Antonin Scalia in Louisiana, a trip that drew criticism because the Supreme Court had just agreed to hear a case involving Cheney's energy task force.

Anne Armstrong, the matriarch of the family that owns the ranch, is a Republican Party stalwart who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations and also as ambassador to Great Britain. When her husband, Tobin Armstrong, died in October, Cheney and James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, spoke at the funeral.

The ranch, which features Spanish-style cottages and usually has a full working staff, was settled in 1882 by a Texas Ranger named John Armstrong III, who passed the land on to the family. It sits near the King Ranch, the legendary property settled by the Kleberg family, also in South Texas.

According to Katharine Armstrong, the daughter of Anne Armstrong who was with the hunting party at the time of the incident, Whittington broke away from a line of three hunters, including Cheney, and failed to announce that he was returning to the group. Hearing a covey of birds, Cheney shot at one, not realizing that it was Whittington who had startled the quail and that he was in the line of fire.

"This all happened pretty quickly," Armstrong said in a telephone interview from her ranch. Whittington, she said, "did not announce -- which would be protocol -- 'Hey, it's me, I'm coming up.'

"He didn't do what he was supposed to do," she said, referring to Whittington. "So when a bird flushed and the vice president swung in to shoot it, Harry was where the bird was."

Whittington was "sprayed -- peppered, is what we call it -- on his right side, on part of his face, neck, shoulder and rib cage," she said.

"A shotgun sprays a bunch of little bitty pellets, it's not a bullet involved," Armstrong said. She said she believed Cheney was shooting a 28-gauge shotgun, and that guests typically bring their own firearms.

Armstrong said the shotgun pellets "broke the skin" and that the blast "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."

Whittington was about 30 feet away from the vice president when the shooting occurred, Armstrong said. Altogether, there were five people in the group. Armstrong declined to identify the other hunters. Each of the hunters was wearing a bright orange vest at the time, Armstrong said.

After the accident, Cheney's medical attendants helped Whittington, treating his wounds and covering him in blankets so he would not go into shock, Armstrong said. He did not lose consciousness. She described Cheney's immediate response to the shooting as very appropriate.

"He immediately went to Harry's side and was right there and made sure his detail was totally focused on him," she said. "Of course he's very concerned. He's been checking in almost on a minute-by-minute basis."

Armstrong told the Associated Press that the emergency personnel traveling with Cheney tended to Whittington before an ambulance -- routinely on call because of the vice president's presence -- took him to a hospital in Kingsville. From there, Whittington was flown by helicopter to Corpus Christi about 40 miles away.

Afterward, she said, her brother-in-law and another guest went to the hospital to check on Whittington. The rest of the party had dinner, and Cheney, who had flown into Texas on Friday night, departed on Sunday.

"Whittington is fine," Armstrong said. "He's sitting up in bed, yakking and cracking jokes.

"This is something that happens from time to time. You know, I've been peppered pretty well myself."

A White House official, refusing to speak for attribution, said that no announcement about the shooting was made initially because the focus was on getting Whittington medical attention. The news was then delivered by Armstrong to her local newspaper. The White House only began confirming the incident on Sunday, a day after it occurred.

Campaign finance records show that Whittington contributed $2,000 -- the maximum personal amount allowed -- to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

"The vice president visited with Harry Whittington at the hospital today and was pleased to see that he's doing fine and in good spirits," Lea Anne McBride, the vice president's spokeswoman, said Sunday.

Asked why the vice president's office had made no announcement about the incident, McBride said, "We deferred to the Armstrongs regarding what had taken place at their ranch."

Cheney was legally hunting with a license he purchased in November, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Steve Lightfoot told the Associated Press.

The International Hunter Education Association, which represents safety coordinators for fish and wildlife agencies and tracks incident reports by state, said on its Web site that hunting accidents in the United States have declined about 30 percent over the past decade. In 2002, the most recent year data was available, 89 fatal and 761 non-fatal incidents were reported. In 26 of the cases, including one fatality, the intended target was quail.

Animal rights advocates were critical of Cheney Sunday. "We'd advise him to pursue a less violent form of relaxation and get on with the important business of leading the country," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

The Associated Press and the Washington Post contributed to this report.

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