Harry Whittington, the 78 year-old Texas attorney and real estate magnate who Dick Cheney shot last Saturday night during a Texas hunting trip, took a turn for the worse today. One of the numerous metal pellets lodged in his body entered close to his heart when he was shot; and it later migrated into his heart muscle causing a mild heart attack today. And so a story which began as an unfortunate accident and metamorphosed into a low-key embarrassment through Cheney’s failure to notify the world about it, now threatens to change yet again into tragedy should the bullet proceed further into the victim’s heart.
Dick Cheney has begun to remind me of the character of Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby: a man who means well and does ill, a cruel manipulator of men and women, a man of privilege who toys with others, who “smashes” things and leaves the bit and pieces for others to clean up. Tom’s crackpot theories of the superiority of the white race all rings true though Cheney of course wouldn’t be caught dead mouthing the harebrained theories which Fitzgerald puts into Tom’s mouth. That coffee clatch Cheney held on Sunday morning with his wealthy, Republican-connected hostess to figure out how to spin this incident reminds me of how after Tom’s wife, Daisy, runs over Myrtle Wilson, his mistress–he gives Wilson’s husband the impression that Gatsby’s car killed her. After which, Wilson goes on a shooting rampage killing both Gatsby and himself. After all, what are Cheney and Armstrong doing if not blaming Whittington for his own shooting (just as Tom seeks to divert attention from Daisy’s role in Myrtle’s death)? And the worst thing is that Tom wrecks everyone’s life but his own. Will Dick similarly get off with no more than a $7 fine for a hunting license violation?
Some new questions arose in my mind since yesterday’s post. The shooting happened 5:30 PM Texas time on Saturday. Since I’ve never lived in Texas I don’t know how much light there is on an early February day at 5:30 PM. But it seems to me there would’ve been dim light at best. So what were they doing hunting towards the end of a winter day when this type of accident might most likely happen due to not being able to see clearly in your immediate vicinity?
Today’s story in the NY Times raises new questions about how the Bush Administration is managing this mess:
Cheney learned early this morning about Whittington’s heart attack:
Mr. Cheney’s aides said he first learned of the change in Mr. Whittington’s condition when he arrived at his West Wing office about 7:40 a.m. Tuesday
Scott McClellan learned about it sometime after that. Yet he held a 12 noon press briefing at which he did not mention Whittington’s turn for the worse:
…By the time of Mr. McClellan’s noon briefing…the press secretary was aware of Mr. Whittington’s downturn but did not disclose it to reporters
Why not for God’s sakes? And why isn’t the press corps up in arms about this further act of news manipulation? Why act as if you have something to hide? Why not tell the press corps what you know as you know it? It seems to me they’d be in a lot less of a mess if they erred on the side of full disclosure.
Finally, news reports indicate that Whittington’s doctors knew from the beginning he had pellets lodged in the vicinity of his heart. Why didn’t they reveal this news to the public so they would’ve had some sense of the potential seriousness of his medical condition? Why only reveal this fact after the guy’s had a heart attack? Again, it makes it look as if you’re trying to downplay the case on behalf of a powerful vice president.
Let’s remember our history that Aaron Burr, a sitting vice president, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Dick Cheney, the second vice president to shoot someone, hasn’t yet killed his victim. But given Whittington’s age and the seriousness of what lies in store for him, it is a possibility (not to be wished for certainly). If you think Cheney and the White House are handling this badly so far, just wait to see what happens if the guy dies.