commentary (2006-10)

Why shotguns and boozed-up politicians don’t mix

Well, Shoot

by Steve Dupree

I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. However, either last night was a real busy night for births or there are a lot of unjustifiably naive and unquestioning “journalists” out there. Let me show you why I think that.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that one chilly day a couple of guys are out hunting. They are at a multi-day party on a large private ranch. They are rich and powerful men and have been for quite some time, and they are both well north of 70 years old. They are married but joined by two women who are not their wives. They aren’t serious hunters. The prey they seek is practically tame and was raised around humans. It certainly has no special fear of humans.

They aren’t camping, hiking and tracking the prey for days at a time. No, they’re driving around, probably in a temperature controlled SUV, and when a covey of docile fowl break cover, they stop, get out and kill them (or, at least, shoot at them). The alpha male of the group is alleged to have been using a 28-gauge shotgun, though the more powerful 20-gauge is normal for the particular prey. In a tragic comedy of errors, one of the hunters is accidentally shot by the alpha and injured badly enough to require hospitalization and to cause a complicating heart attack.

Let’s continue, hypothetically, that the local law enforcement types are initially denied access to the alpha who, after said tragic event, has a meal, socializes some more, and then turns in for the evening. Let’s hypothesize that the alpha is an important man in the government of a major world power, albeit one that espouses that no one is above the law—even really important men in the government. While we are at it, let’s say that the function of hunt safety officer, which would normally be fulfilled by a non-hunting member of the party and would be responsible for notifying the party of any potentially hazardous situations, was the owner of the ranch and was sitting in the vehicle at the time of said tragic event.

With the hypothetical sequence of events described above fixed firmly in your thoughts, allow me a question or two.

•Do you believe that the pellets would have penetrated the clothing likely to be worn by a 78-year-old out hunting on a chilly windy day and still have enough oomph to penetrate skin and muscle enough to affect the operation of the victim’s heart?

•Do you believe that your spouse would knowingly allow you a setup like this?

•Do you believe that the best person to talk to the press is the individual in the vehicle who did not know initially that anyone had been shot, who thought that the alpha had had another one of his frequent heart attacks when she saw people running towards the hunting party?

•Would you believe your marriage was on firm ground if your spouse was to relate a similar story to you (from the appropriate viewpoint, of course)?

There are many other questions that could well be asked in our little hypothetical situation. I can tell you what suspicions would come to my mind, and were I a journalist, that I would seek to have cleared up so as to allow for accurate and believable reporting. Actually, I suppose that you can just read the list above and get a pretty clear idea of what suspicions I would have.

As it turns out, we don’t really need a hypothetical situation, as the vice president has provided us with the real thing. At least one website is reporting that according to a Secret Service agent’s report, the vice president was visibly intoxicated. That might well explain why there was no desire to talk to law enforcement or be seen in public (as in go to the hospital to check on his victim) until the day after. It looks to me like what we have is alcohol plus an alibi, which adds up to an opportunity for adultery. I really don’t mind that neither the media nor the government seems to be interested in the particulars of a couple of old men’s sex lives, whether there was any marriage-vow breaking going on or not. (There are some pictures I simply do not need in my mind.) But it does bring us to my last questions.

What if the participants were from the other party? What if the alpha’s last name had been Clinton instead of Cheney? Would the media be in a feeding frenzy on every news channel and outlet? Would we already have a special investigator? Would there be howls of outrage in Congress over the rule of law and how it applies equally to all Americans? Why yes, yes there would. And in less than a thousand words, we go from the hypothetical to the hypocritical and the path went straight through the farcical.

Or was it just a busy night in the delivery room last night?