Hunting Accident Defines Cheney: Cold And Calculating, Paranoid, Royal Privilege, Hidden From Public, Incapable Of Straight Talk print email When a President or a Vice President is involved in an accident, the first reaction of all Americans is concern. This...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 02/15/2006

Hunting Accident Defines Cheney: Cold And Calculating, Paranoid, Royal Privilege, Hidden From Public, Incapable Of Straight Talk

When a President or a Vice President is involved in an accident, the first reaction of all Americans is concern.  This is especially true when the accident involves guns.  Republican or Democrat, it just does not matter.  Americans care about our leaders.  In particular, we have invested a great deal of financial and emotional capital into systems and measures that are supposed to protect the President, the Vice President and their families.

In return for this concern for our leaders, Americans expect to be informed whenever accidents or incidents happen.  Sometimes, this information is vital--such as the assassination of President Kennedy, or the attempt on President Reagan's life.   Sometimes it is not so vital--such as President Ford's tumble down the stairs of Air Force 1 or President Bush's mishap with a Presidential pretzel.

For this exact reason, Americans of all political stripes are understandably frustrated with the Vice President of the United States.

As it happens, Vice President Cheney was involved in a gun accident this weekend--a shooting incident that left a member of his hunting party severely wounded.  We are not frustrated because the Vice President was the shooter in the incident or because he did not have a $7 special stamp or because he might have consumed a can of beer several hours prior to the accident. 

Rather, we are frustrated that a Vice President should try so hard to conceal such an incident from a public that cares about the well-being of its leaders. We are frustrated because the Vice President does not seem to understand that there are matters that do not, and should not, be filtered through the cold apparatus of political calculation, but should just be presented to the public out of general concern.

If anything, the Vice President's hunting accident revealed that he is a heartless man--a man deeply paranoid about the political ramifications of his every action, a man who wields his authority as a royal privilege to keep him hidden from the public.

There is not a person alive who--upon hearing news of the accident--thought for a moment that the Vice President of the United States had intentionally shot his hunting companion.  Instead, we all wondered (1) if the Vice President was alright, (2) if the shooting victim was alright, (3) and what had happened.  These are not only normal concerns, they are healthy concerns.

But as soon as Americans expressed these concerns, they ran smack into the maddeningly confusing wall of double-speak  coming from the White House. 

For some reason, news of the Vice President's shooting accident was not revealed to the general public for almost an entire day.  The accident happened on Saturday, but the public did not hear about it until Sunday.

This simple fact--a day-long block of silence in a world dominated by constant media coverage of the White House--was enough for concerned Americans to ask the very basic, innocent question:  What happened?

In response to this question, however, the Vice President remained absolutely silent.

And so, in an incident in which he was not only a witness, but involved, the Vice President of the United States responded with the same cold political double-speak as he has in the investigation of the CIA leak or the Enron scandal. 

Not a shred of straight talk has come from the Vice President.  Instead, Vice President Cheney and the entire White House seem to think that they are somehow the victims of politics--that the media is after them on some kind of witch hunt.

It is remarkable that the Vice President and the President--the very faces of so-called 'compassionate conservatism'--are incapable of seeing that the American public is asking questions about the accident for political ends, but out of simple concern.

In response to news of the accidental shooting, Americans revealed themselves as concerned about the well-being of their leaders, and in response to that concern, the Vice President revealed himself as heartless.

Imagine how differently this whole shooting affair could have gone with a different Vice President.  What if, for example, John Edwards had been the Vice President involved in this unfortunate incident?

Within minutes after making sure that the injured person had been taken to the hospital and the proper reports had been filed by the police, Vice President Edwards would have used his authority to make a statement directly to the American public.  It would have sounded something like this:

"Good afternoon.  I am speaking to you, today, from a ranch in Texas because I have been involved in a hunting accident, news of which might cause alarm amongst concerned citizens.   I am uninjured, but unfortunately a member of my hunting party was injured when I failed to notice that he had accidentally crossed into my line of fire.  As a result, he has suffered some injuries and is now receiving care in a local hospital.  His injuries were not fatal, but as in any accident involving a gun, they are serious.    This accident happened a few hours ago, and I am speaking to you only now because we have all been focusing on the well-being of the injured.

Now, I know that many Americans will be very concerned to learn that their Vice President has accidentally injured a man with a hunting rifle, and I  can assure you that nobody is more concerned about this than me.  I have been a careful and avid hunter for most of my life, and this is the first time I have been involved in such an incident.   I am working closely with the local police to make sure they can understand exactly what has happened, and as details emerge, we will bring them to your attention.  I am also working closely with my Secret Service detail to try to understand why this happened.   My life was not in danger at any time, but when a member of the Vice President's party is injured, the American people expect to know every detail of what happened and that is exactly what we will provide.

Over the next 24-hours, the injured victim in this accident will be in a critical care unit here in Texas and I will remain here in Texas for several days to answer questions and generally lend my support.  Unfortunately, this means that I will need to reschedule a few official appointments, but I am sure that the American people and our friends abroad will understand this decision.

For all Americans who are concerned about the well-being of the injured and about my well-being, thank you very much.  Every expression of concern from the American public is appreciated. 

I will not take any questions at this time, but in the next 24-hours we will issue a very detailed written statement about what happened, details of which will be open for discussion and clarification at tomorrow's White House Press briefing.

What a healthy and honest first response from the Vice President that would have been. 

But what was the initial communication to the public from the Vice President?  As it happens, this very statement from Vice President Cheney is available on the White House Website:

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
February 13, 2006

Statement by the Office of the Vice President

It has been brought to the Vice President's attention by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this afternoon that, although he had acquired a 125 dollar Texas non-resident season hunting license, he lacked a 7 dollar stamp for hunting upland game birds. To address any questions about the licensing:

-- A member of the Vice President's staff wrote a check for 140 dollars understanding that this would purchase a Texas non-resident season hunting license that would permit the Vice President to hunt quail in Texas.    It appears now that the license itself cost 125 dollars, and an extra 15 dollars covered the cost of a Federal migratory bird stamp. The Vice President did not need the Federal stamp, as he already possessed one.

-- The staff asked for all permits needed, but was not informed of the 7 dollar upland game bird stamp requirement.

-- Because the requirement is new, the Department has informed us that it is issuing warnings, and the Vice President expects to receive one. He will take whatever steps are needed to comply with applicable rules.

-- In the meantime, the Vice President has sent a 7 dollar check to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which is the cost of an upland game bird stamp.

So, just to clarify:  The Vice President of the United States was involved in a hunting accident--a shooting accident-- and the first official communication he issues to a concerned American public is about a 'bird stamp.' 

It is remarkable that even several days later, the Vice President has not yet acknowledged or even used the word 'concern.' 

Sadly, this incident has revealed to be a cold and calculating person who holds little value for the care and concern of the American people.  I am sure that the Vice President was concerned about the shooting victim in private, but he is a public figure--second in command--and he is also responsible to the concerns of the American people.

Over the next few days, rather than focusing on the potential conspiracies hidden in the time-lapse between the accident and its being revealed, Americans should talk about this:

  • CONCERN: "Why is the Vice President hiding from the concern of the American people?"
  • HEARTLESS:  "This incident reveals a heartless Dick Cheney."
  • PARANOID:  "In this moment we see how paranoid the White House has become."
  • STRAIGHT TALK: "Americans deserve straight talk from the Vice President."

If we use these phrases in our conversations and debates about the incident, we can reframe this discussion around exactly what has been stripped from American public life under President Bush and Vice President Cheney: honest and open concern between Americans and the White House.

©  2006 Jeffrey Feldman



© Jeffrey Feldman 2006, Frameshop

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