"Ohmigod," says the Vice-President calmly, horror-stricken, but with the presence of mind to point his smoking gun barrel skyward, as the sound of an unharmed quail covey's desperately beating wings recedes from hearing.
An unharmed and unarmed aide runs to his side, as does an armed secret service agent, weapon drawn. "Are you unharmed, Mr. Vice-President?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks."
"Mr. Vice-President! You shot Mr. Whittington!" yells the unarmed aide.
"I can see that, you idiot. Now help me over there."
The aide takes his arm and the VP, his pacemaker keeping pace, hobbles quickly to his friend's side.
"Harry, you all right?"
Harry's lying on his back covering his face with his hands, but manages a muffled, "I think so. This is nothing compared to what our boys in Iraq are going through."
"God, Harry, I'm sorry. Don't know what happened."
Harry parts his hands slightly. "It was an accident."
"Medic!" screams the aide. "We need a medic! Somebody call 911!"
"It's taken care of," says the secret service agent, holstering his phone.
"Mr. Vice-President," the aide whispers, "you shot him in the face."
"I can see that, you idiot. Where's the press?"
"The press, where are they?"
"We need to get'em in here and tell'em what's happened."
The aide stiffens, assuming his official-duty-advice-giving posture. "I don't think that would be wise, Mr. Vice-President."
"They'll distort, exaggerate, lie, maybe even make fun of you."
"If there's one thing Watergate and Monica Lewinsky should have taught you, it's to be immediately forthcoming. Delays, evasiveness, or any hint of cover-up will get you crucified. Besides, the people have a right to know. You doing all right down there, Harry?"
Harry nods behind his hands. "It was an accident."
"Mr. Vice-President, right now we need to see to Mr. Whittington's care. If you don't mind my saying it: piss on the press. We need some time to think this over."
"What's to think about? You heard him - it was an accident."
"That's the problem, Mr. Vice-President. Remember what happened to Gerald Ford when he tripped coming down the airplane steps? Remember what happened to Carter when the rabbit jumped in his boat?"
"But back then Saturday Night Live was still a cultural force. That's what did them in. SNL's moribund now."
The aide's eyes light up. "I didn't know you knew that word, Mr. Vice-President." He takes out his notepad and scribbles it down. "By the way, do you mind if I call you Mr. VP? Fewer syllables, less lag time, and time is of the essence right now."
"Sure. Fine. Call me Dick. How you doing, Harry?"
The ambulance finally shows up, and the paramedics hop out to load Mr. Whittington onto a stretcher. The VP leans in close before they can shove him in the ambulance. "The police and the press will be asking a lot of questions, Harry."
"It was an accident," says Harry.
"All right, Harry, good man. No wonder you're a lawyer. I'll be up to see you soon." He turns to the aide. "Now let's get the press in here."
"Dick, listen to me. You're in no condition to go before the press. You're grief-stricken at what you've done to your friend."
"A few tears at a press conference will humanize me. They might even come to love me."
"A few tears destroyed Edmund Muskie," says the aide.
"I see your point. But he was whining about the way the press treated his wife. I shot somebody. That's man stuff. A man's man's stuff."
"But Dick, the press corps isn't made up of men's men. It's made up of girly guys."
"I see your point."
"They'll call you The Shooter, The Perpetrator, The Trigger Man, Trigger Happy, Dicky the Kid, Wild Dick Hickock, One-Eyed Dick - there'll be no end to it. And they will never, ever love you."
"I see your point."
"It could go on for months. Do you think the President will support you forever?"
"He damn well better. I'm the only guy he's got who can tell a senator on the floor of the Congress to go f*** himself and get away with it."
"Like he supported Harriet Myers? And William Pryor? And Priscilla Owen? And that guy who ran FEMA? Can't even remember his name anymore. Everyone's expendable, Dick." The aide saved the coup de grace for last. "I have just two words for you, Dick: Iraq and Halliburton."
"I see your point," said the VP, as a limousine pulled up and the secret service agent ushered the two of them inside. The VP's mood had soured considerably.
"And one more thing, Mr. VP. Imagine this headline: 'Dick Cheney: Weapon of Minimal Destruction.'"
"Oh God," says the VP, "get me outta here," he ordered. "I need to go into seclusion. I'm in grief."
"Good decision," said the aide, settling in comfortably, now that he had proven once again why his services were so invaluable. "Listen, Dick old buddy, have you considered taking up fishing?"
Wednesday, February 15, 2006