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 Birdie and the Beast
  (Feb. 15, 2006)

            Bush is a lame duck, but Cheney might be a dead duck. (Metaphorically, FBI readers!) The vice-president’s birdbrained hunting vice could well  cost him his heartbeat-away-from the presidency. Call him Vice-President Quail. He’s been winged.
          Enron, Iraq, Iran, Abu Ghraib, “rendition,” 9/11, exposing a CIA agent, undermining the CIA---none of this fazed him. Not even telling Sen. Patrick Leahy to “fuck off.”
          It took birdies to bring down this little Dickie Bird. The 9/11 airplanes didn’t get him---“‘twas birdie killed The Beast.” Cheney has been tamed by wildlife. Birdshot blowback. Stick a fork in this turkey---he’s done.
          Here is the salient, if dull, quote from blogger Andy Ostroy:           
           “In keeping the public and the press in the dark for so long, Cheney's general disdain for average Americans and the media was never more evident. It's incredible to me that he felt it was acceptable to have as the only reporting of the episode a private citizen's tip-off to a local newspaper. That Cheney did not think he owed the public and the press an immediate direct statement and explanation only further demonstrates the secrecy with which this administration operates, and its general belief that it operates above the law.”
          Cheney’s the brain behind the birdbrain. He disdains public appearances, hates campaigning. He lives underground, like a Kiwi---literally, at times, in "secret bunkers." He and Bush have the same m.o. regarding any flap: ignore it, maybe cackle a little, chirp about how “we live in a democracy, and free speech is allowed,” while all the while undermining free press and free speech to an extent unprecedented in the country’s history.
          Even former Reagan and Bush I press secretary Marlin Fitzwater is crowing:
           "The responsibility for handling this, of course, was Cheney's," Fitzwater told Editor and Publisher. "If [Cheney's] press secretary had any sense about it at all, she would have gotten the story together and put it out. Calling AP, UPI, and all of the press services. That would have gotten the story out and it would have been the right thing to do, recognizing his responsibility to the people as a nationally elected official, to tell the country what happened.”
          But that's the point -- Cheney doesn't think he has any responsibility to the American people. He is a bird of a different elective feather. He works in secret, from planning energy policy (read: collude with energy companies to rape the environment) to destroying Joe Wilson’s CIA-agent wife’s reputation (and thus destroying very important work in tracking WMD among “rogue nations.”) He doesn't even answer to Bush. He calls his own shots.
           The shots he called in Texas the other day, which peppered 78-year-old Harry Whittington in the face, neck, and chest, could be among his last. Especially if Dick’s Whittington has another birdshot-triggered heart attack and flutters on up to heaven. Or wherever rich, powerful, Repugnican Texas lawyers go when they die. Then Dick limply faces a Texas grand jury investigation and possible charges of manslaughter. If his own heart holds up, that is.
          This story could birddog Cheney right out of office. Even Repugnican hard-liners are asking themselves: do you want a vice-president who goes out in a car---in a car---to hunt birds, then accidentally blasts his hunting partner, an even older buzzard than himself? And then fails to promptly report this to the American people?
          And who might very well have been soused while blowing away grouse? That’s right. Here is a paragraph omitted from---mysteriously cut from---a Fox, er, that is, MSNBC story:
            “(Katherine) Armstrong (member of the family that owns the ranch where the shooting took place) also told NBC News that she does not believe alcohol was involved in the accident. She says she believes no one that day was drinking, although she says there may have been beer available ‘she said, ‘but remember not everyone in the party was shooting.’”
          Beer available. That’s all you need here, the suggestion that these doddering dodos might have had a few brewskis before heading out to bag some big game tweeties. Add to this the Veep's later confession of having downed "one" earlier in the day, and, well, it all adds up to Miller Time with shotguns.
           If you still want to brush this aside as good ol’---really ol’---boys doin’ what comes natcherly, then there’s plenty more to peck at:
           *The White House immediately blamed Whittington for the shooting. Blame aside, what kind of cowardly indecency is that? Cheney's later accepting responsibility for the shooting does not change this cheap shot.
           *The White House---the sickeningly smug Scott McLellan---joked about it. What kind of cowardly indecency is that?
Cheney, the chickenhawk draft-dodger war-monger non pareil, was hunting illegally (let alone immorally, blasting away tiny birds.)
           *Since when is a vice-president supposed to put his life unnecessarily in danger? Does he not have a greater obligation to his office, and the people? 
           And here’s the best part.
           *Katherine Armstrong, whose family owns the ranch---and whose mother, Ann, hired Dick to work at Halliburton--is a wealthy heiress who became a lobbyist three years ago, and companies are paying her big bucks for her access to the federal government. Houston law firm Baker Botts -- the favorite American law firm of the Saudi royal family (!) among many international clients -- paid Armstrong $160,000 in 2004 to lobby the Bush White House.
          Why is it that every time you rustle some Bushes, a whole flock of Saudis fly out?
          This is Dick’s Chappaquiddick.
          And if it is not, it is absolute proof that Cheney perches right on Bush's shoulder.

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