Sometimes a story comes along that presents a unique chance to
educate the American people. I refer, of course, to Vice President Dick
Cheney shooting an attorney.
Several knee-jerk reactions to this news must be countered
immediately. First of all, Cheney should not be hailed as a popular
hero for bagging a lawyer. People, even attorneys, are always out of
season, even in Texas. Besides, they often shoot back with writs, and
nothing spoils a hunt more than the quarry turning on the hunter with a
hail of lawsuits, known to be more deadly than birdshot.
The other thing is that attorneys do not make good eating. The one
that Cheney shot was a tough old bird and is already sitting up and
taking nourishment. Even cannibals won’t touch attorneys because they
are so hardboiled.
Knees will also jerk in the opposite direction. In effete circles
where guns are not appreciated, this incident will make an easy target
for criticism. Let me just remind these anti-gun critics that guns
don’t wound people, vice presidents wound people.
Nor should this be an occasion for piling on. He is an avid hunter
who blasts away at birds at every opportunity, protecting the nation
from avian flu, something for which he gets no credit.
Given the number of shots he takes, he is bound to hit an attorney
from time to time because they are very thick on the ground here in
America, and it’s simply a matter of mathematical probability. Anybody
could have made the same mistake.
One of my regular readers e-mailed me to make an important point:
When John Kerry went hunting during the presidential campaign,
conservatives maligned him as a poseur _ and he didn’t even shoot
anybody! It does seem unfair, but that was part of Sen. Kerry’s
problem. Rightly or wrongly, the American public thought he was the
sort of guy you couldn’t trust to wing anybody at a law-firm picnic.
The real lesson to be drawn here is about firearm safety. The war on
terror is going to last a very long time _ it has to, because more
Republicans have to be elected. This means that we are all going to
have to familiarize ourselves with firearms to protect the homeland.
As it happens, I can help. I was trained on many weapons for my
military service in Vietnam _ the rifle, the machine gun, the hand
grenade, the typewriter and the can opener.
Cheney did not go to Vietnam. If the Viet Cong had worn duck suits
instead of black pajamas, he would have been the first to enlist. But
he decided to leave the job to people like myself, which may explain
why his firearm handling leaves something to be desired.
The cardinal rule of firearms is that you don’t shoot until you have
properly identified the target. Don’t shoot until you see the whites of
their eyes! Of course, if the person you are shooting has had a night
on the town and has bloodshot eyes, you are in for trouble. That is why
in Vietnam we were told: “Don’t shoot until you see the red of their
politics!” In this incident, Cheney _ perhaps due to faulty
intelligence _ did not stop and distinguish between quail and attorney
before he started shooting. Quail are said to congregate in a covey
whereas attorneys flock together in what is called a bar. Any decent
field guide has identifying pictures to assist the hunter.
Thank goodness no serious harm was done! It’s not like Cheney shot up a whole country looking for weapons of mass destruction.
My faithful reader suggests we start a fund to buy body armor for
Cheney’s hunting buddies, considering the danger they are in. Yes, I
know what Donald Rumsfeld would say: You go hunting with the hunting
equipment you’ve got. But I think the vice president’s pals need extra
help, too, and I would suggest that we also print up bumper stickers
for our cars: “Support Our Well-Connected Attorneys Before They Become
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)