Every time I see this fantasyland stuff about how we have to fix things we broke I wonder where in the hell the people proposing we stay in Iraq have been for the past three years. Barring some unforseen circumstance, the people who got us into Iraq in the first place and then crapped all over it, are going to be in power for the next three years. Even if Dick Cheney “accidentally” shot Bush while they were quail hunting and then died of a heart attack in a secret, undisclosed location, you’d still have people like Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley, etc. running the show. Can anyone with a brain seriously expect them to do a better job than they’ve been doing?
Everyone seems to believe that Bush thought Powell’s invocation of the “Pottery Barn rule” was a threat. But if you look at it it from a Bush-brain perspective, “You break it, you own it” could just as easily be seen as a promise.
A “Morning Edition” report today on the Philippine economy notes that Ferdinand Marcos, deposed 20 years ago after two decades in power, polls as more popular than any of the leaders who have followed him. In part, people say that the economy was better under Marcos. A variety of factors played into that, including the massive US investment in military bases throughout the Marcos regime, but the post-Marcos economy can’t have been helped by the enormous amounts of money Marcos and his family reaped during his time in office, his massive spending on palaces and vacation homes, and other Saddam-style perks of the authoritarian dictator.
It was late afternoon, and the hunters were ready to call it a day. Harry Whittington, a prominent Austin lawyer and big-time GOP donor, had bagged two birds with two shots. Whittington spotted a bird flying behind him, swung around with his shotgun toward the setting sun and pulled the trigger. Cheney, wearing a regulation orange vest, was approaching out of a slight gully, some 30 yards away.
Gun in hand, Whittington rushed over to the fallen Cheney. Later, the lawyer rode back with Armstrong. “You’d have to be an idiot not to see what the poor man was going through,” recalled Armstrong. “It was very quiet. I remember leaning forward and squeezing him on the shoulder.” At one point Whittington said, “I never saw him.”
Back at Whittington’s lodgings at the ranch—guest quarters called Uncle Tom’s House—there was no discussion of a public statement. The White House was at first informed in surprisingly cryptic and cursory fashion—the Situation Room was told of an unspecified shooting accident in the vice president’s hunting party. It took a phone call from presidential counselor Karl Rove to Katharine Armstrong (“Karl’s one of my closest friends in life,” she told NEWSWEEK) to sort out what had happened and report back to President Bush—that Cheney had been wounded, though apparently not fatally. That night, according to a senior White House official who refused to be identified discussing a sensitive matter, Whittington did not speak to either Bush or the White House staff.
Whittington would later say that he wanted to be absolutely sure of the facts before going public, and Cheney’s condition remained a little uncertain. At first, the wounds were deemed to be minor, but on Sunday morning the hospital was reporting that some of the tiny birdshot had penetrated his body in potentially dangerous ways. In Washington, White House staffers were quietly urging Cheney’s staff to somehow go public with the shooting. But Bush never picked up the phone to call Cheney, either to console or to offer counsel.
Shortly after 8 a.m., a local deputy sheriff arrived at the ranch to take a statement from Whittington. By then, it was clear the story could not be contained. Armstrong knew a reporter at the local paper, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Powell understood hunting and had written a sensitive and favorable obituary of her father the year before. After much back and forth between Armstrong and the paper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times finally put up a short story on its Web site.
VICE PRESIDENT SHOT, as some news services announced the story Sunday afternoon, was a headline guaranteed to create a press frenzy. Armstrong proved to be a less-than-ideal spokesperson. She appeared to blame Cheney for the accident, noting that he had failed to announce himself as he approached Whittington.
Apropos of nothing, I was looking for some information about gun safety for some reason this afternoon and noticed that the surname of Vice President Cheney’s shooting victim (Harry Whittington) has a curious echo: The National Rifle Association’s
Whittington Center, “America’s Premiere Outdoor Shooting and Hunting Center,” in New Mexico.
Still, I’ve been in a reflective mood lately, particularly after seeing a rerun of the 1994 “Sideshow Bob Roberts” episode of The Simpsons. Because there — in just over twenty minutes of animation — Matt Groening’s development team laid out the developments of the intervening twelve years like an intricate series of dots that rain down from a broken shelf onto the back of your head. But somehow the Democratic political leadership failed to connect them.
The scene opens at night with the camera moving towards a sinister-looking castle with a sign, “Republican Party Headquarters”. Inside, a group of men sits around a table in a large room with a fireplace. Smithers hands out martinis to Ranier Wolfcastle, Birch Barlow, and a ghoul, who takes his bloody martini and slurps it down. Mr. Burns walks in.
Burns: Hail, brothers. Coranon Silaria, Ozoo Mahoke.
[everyone answers “Mahoke”]
Now, then, gentlemen, the mayoral campaign is upon us. And if we hope to defeat this Joe Quimby, we need a candidate with name recognition and media savvy — a true leader who’ll do exactly as he’s told. Barlow: Monty, I’m way ahead of you. If you’ll just open that door you’ll see the next mayor of Springfield.
[door opens to reveal a water cooler; everyone applauds]
[the cooler bubbles] Senator: What’d it say? Barlow: No, no, no, Bob. Bob, come in! Bob: [enters wrapped in a US flag] A fine “Mahoke” to you all. Hibbert: Why, he’s even better. Ranier: I agree. I like the human touch.
When I see this next clip, all I see now is the anti-Kerry windsurfing ad. And so much more.
Bob: Hello, children. [with malice] Hello, Bart. Bart: Eep. Bob: Young friends, my opponent, Joe Quimby, is confused about your school system. Do you know what he does? He flip-flops.
[does backflips; children marvel]
Sometimes he doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going.
[walks funny; children clap and cheer]
He wants to sell your future short.
[shrinks, walks sideways; children clap more]
Bob: Because you need me, Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That’s why I did this: to protect you from yourselves. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to run.