Thursday, February 16, 2006

In a more honorable world 

Let me stray a little from the normal remit of this blog and say something about Dick Cheney and the shooting of his friend. I'll probably regret this.

Virginia Postrel's post just rang a chord with me.
It's not a crime (not paying a $7 quail-hunting stamp fee is less serious than speeding), but it's an embarrassment: to the office, the administration, and the United States. The vice president should be more careful with guns. I can't make a rational policy case for it, but my gut says he should resign.

In an update, Postrel elaborates, "Guns aren't the issue. Life-threatening mistakes are. Mistakes have consequences, including professional ones."

I am not a hunter; I haven't handled a rifle or shotgun since my Boy Scout days. There's no strong reason for this except for living mostly in cities and not being inclined to go to the woods. My vegetarianism at one time was due to concern for animals (now it's mostly that I can't stand the smell of meat -- Hell would be strapped to the exhaust vent at a Bonanza.) But for me this isn't a gut reaction, and I'm glad Postrel elaborated.

Mistakes have consequences. Honorable men and women accept those, even when they are not to blame for these mistakes. I spent time this morning talking with sportsmen, including one who hosts a TV show on hunting. I had it all explained to me about hunting lines, the order in which people get out to shoot, the protocol for who gets out of the wagon and where they stand, etc. As I say, it's all Greek to me. They explained how Whittington might have erred in straying from the line and not announcing himself. But there was no question that it was a mistake for Cheney to fire (and perhaps more so after hearing during the Brit Hume interview that the sun was in his eyes.)
All I could see was the upper part of his body � but I didn't see it at the time I shot, until after I fired. And the sun was directly behind him there, affected the vision too, I'm sure.

If it affected your vision, how can you pull the trigger? I asked my friends. No, that would not be a good thing to do, they answered.

The timeline of events afterwards, frankly, doesn't interest me. If he had called David Gregory personally from the scene, it wouldn't matter. In a more honorable world, he'd accept the consequences of his mistake.

That the world isn't so honorable is not his fault either, and I'm not going to say he should resign. Nor do I think Peggy Noonan is at all correct for thinking the Bush White House would like to move on from him. You create more problems than you solve by trying to usher Cheney out the door.

I'm not faulting Cheney for anything. If I had had to put up with the treatment he gets from the press, I might have chosen the same actions he took in notifying the world of the events. I would have had the same concerns that night, the same chagrin four days later, and the same resolve to not let the bastards get me. Perfectly understandable, perfectly reasonable, and probably right to wait this thing out.

All I'm saying is that I wish we had a world where events like this would allow Cheney to do the honorable thing, and for the world to treat that act with the respect it deserves. Instead we will have to watch a disgusting spectacle played out. How did we arrive at this place?