News & Politics

Cheney's Buckshot Reader

Is Pam Willeford more than Cheney's hunting partner? Was Cheney boozing it up? Answers to these questions and many more.
The saga of Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of Harry Whittington on a Texas ranch continues to unfold.

Every twist of the tale reveals more juicy details.

Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting information about the shooting that's been swirling around in the press and the blogs:

Is Pam Willeford more than Cheney's hunting partner?

Sirius Radio's Alex Bennett came out and said what many folks in the media had been whispering about but were too timid to report: Pam Willeford, the ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein who was standing at Cheney's side when the shotgun went off, could be more than his hunting partner. RJ Eskew has more: "The real story is already emerging, if you're willing to do a little digging. Cheney and Whittington went hunting with two women (not their wives) …"

An AlterNet search on Cheney's ties to Pam Willeford revealed that:
  • She and her husband George have made at least two overnight visits to the Bush White House between June 2002 and December 2003.
  • She and her husband were overnight guests at Camp David on one occasion between January 2001 and December 2002.
  • Pamela hosted a reception in Davos, Switzerland, for Vice President Cheney on Jan., 23, 2004.
  • Pamela's daughter, Emily, was named deputy chief of staff to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in June 2005.


Was Cheney boozing it up?

Yes. Cheney told Fox News host Brit Hume that he drank beer before he went out hunting: "We'd taken a break at lunch -- go down under an old -- ancient oak tree there on the place and have a barbecue. I had a beer at lunch. After lunch we take a break, go back to ranch headquarters. Then we took about an hourlong tour of ranch, with a ranch hand driving the vehicle, looking at game. We didn't go back into the field to hunt quail until about, oh, sometime after 3 p.m." Cheney contended that no one in his hunting party had been drinking during the hunt.

Ranch host Katharine Armstrong at first denied there was any drinking going on: "No, zero, zippo, and I don't drink at all," she said. "No one was drinking." Later, Armstrong was described as saying that "no one that day was drinking, although she sa[id] there may have been beer available during a picnic lunch that preceded the incident," and quoted as saying," There may be a beer or two in there. But remember not everyone in the party was shooting." Those quotes were later scrubbed by the reporting agency, MSNBC, from its website.

According to the AP, "Gilbert San Miguel, chief deputy sheriff for Kenedy County, said his department's investigation had found that alcohol was not a factor in the shooting, but he would not elaborate about how that had been determined." But the importance of this tidbit is rather debatable, considering that San Miguel and his fellow officers didn't interview Cheney until Sunday morning, long after Cheney shot Whittington.

In his early life, Dick Cheney was convicted of two DWIs in an eight-month span.

What's Cheney's account of the shooting?

In his interview with Fox News host Brit Hume, Cheney said:
Cheney: There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. Covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us got a bird. Harry couldn't find his, it had gone down in some deep cover, and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction …
Hume: Away from him?
Cheney: Away from him -- where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right …
Hume: There was just two of you then?
Cheney: Just two of us at that point. The guide or outrider between us, and of course, there's this entourage behind us, all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I'm out there -- but bird flushed and went to my right, off to the west. I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second, saw Harry standing there. Didn't know he was there …"
In the same interview, Cheney took full blame: "... I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry. And you can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line. And there's no -- it was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend."

Is the White House livid at Cheney's handling of it all?

Apparently, yes. According to one New York Times reporter:
"The tension between President Bush's staff and Mr. Cheney's has been palpable, with White House officials whispering to reporters about how they tried to handle the news of the shooting differently. Mr. McClellan, while being careful not to cross Mr. Cheney or his aides directly, has made a point of reminding reporters of how he dealt with Mr. Bush's bicycle accident last summer, when the president collided with a Scottish policeman at the G-8 summit.
"I immediately briefed the press on how the accident had happened and the condition of the police officer," who was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, Mr. McClellan said.
On Tuesday former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer went after the White House's handling of making information about the shooting public, saying, "It would have been better if the vice president and/or his staff had come out last Saturday night or first thing Sunday morning and announced it. It could have and should have been handled differently."

Cheney, in his interview with Fox's Hume, sustained that he thought his approach with the media "was the right call," and "still do[es]."

Cover-up in the early hours

We learned from ABC news that:
Sources close to the vice president say that there was actually a statement prepared either by Cheney, or with his help, to be delivered Sunday morning after the accident. It was something the White House suggested -- and might have been prepared with some White House help. But it was determined by his advisors and by him that morning that it was too "convoluted" and might not be the best way to proceed. They decided it might be best to have somebody who actually witnessed the accident explain what happened. For some reason, they thought that would seem more "credible," hence, the involvement of Katherine Armstrong. They now see that this was likely bad judgment.
Also, ThinkProgress explained that the White House knew for 22 hours that Cheney had shot Whittington and also delayed disclosing that he had suffered a heart attack.

A story loaded with holes

BarbinMD's diary on DailyKos summarized that ranch hostess Karen Armstrong's account of what she saw kept changing:
[F]rom the inside of a car, 100 yards from the scene, Armstrong neither saw nor heard Whittington announce his approach, he was "more bruised than bloody," and he was "bleeding profusely," he was "fine," and he didn't know, "if he was going to the hospital or the mortuary," there was "no drinking" and there was, "beer available," Cheney "urged" her tell her story on Saturday, and it was her family's "idea" on Sunday, except when it was her idea on Sunday. As clear as mud, isn't it?
Did Dick Cheney break any hunting rules?

Yes. According to numerous hunting pros and press reports, he broke two hunting rules: "He failed to buy a required stamp, and experts say hunters must always know what they're aiming at."

From the AP:
The Parks and Wildlife Department said Cheney and Whittington will be given warning citations for violating game law by not having an upland game bird stamp, a requirement that went into effect in September.
We always stress to anybody that before you make any kind of a shot, it's incumbent upon the shooter to assess the situation and make sure it's a safe shot," said Mark Birkhauser, president-elect of the International Hunter Education Association and hunter education coordinator in New Mexico. "Once you squeeze that trigger, you can't bring that shot back."
Political pundit Paul Begala -- also a longtime hunter from South Texas -- disputed many of the witness accounts of what happened:
It is not best practice -- in fact it's unsafe -- to send three guns into the field and to chase two coveys at once. I would never -- ever -- go chasing a second covey while someone else was occupied with a first covey. My experience is that safe quail hunters generally hunt no more than two guns in the field at a time and chase one covey at a time.
The Wall Street Journal noted that hunting injuries like Whittington's are extremely rare in Texas: "In 2005, there were more than one million hunting licenses issued in Texas, and about 30 reported accidents involving a firearm or bow that resulted in injury or death. Of those accidents, two were fatal, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said."

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