It’s April, supposedly the cruelest month, but after a winter that seemed like 150 days of March, how bad can it be? After all, April means spring, Daylight-Saving Time, and warmer temperatures. That's not so cruel. And April is when the umpire yells, “Play Ball” — in some cases with Major League Baseball’s steroid investigators. still, it's nice to think about heading back to the ballpark.
Of course, April is also tax time, when all but a microscopic slice of society too wealthy to be bothered with such piddling matters ante up so that George W. Bush can pay the vig on his five-year hocking of America. So fork it over lest Uncle Scam be left unable to enrich his cronies and perpetuate the wholesale massacre of the Iraqi people, and while he’s in the neighborhood, maybe the Iranians, too. Speak out in protest, and you may quickly learn that it’s also latter-day Scoundrel Time, the label Lillian Hellman pasted on another era when fascistic character assassins operated unchallenged by those who knew better.
Anyway, it’s time for a bit of spring cleaning — time to round up the national experience and put the embarrassing low points of First Quarter 2006 neatly on the curb for pickup and disposal into the dustbin of history. Pray that we do not recycle.
In his State of the Union address, in January, George W. Bush told us, “Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal — we seek the end of tyranny in our world.” Which is kind of like the producers of American Idol calling for the restoration of dignity in the performing arts. The event marked the first official public appearance of Justice Joseph Alito, who had just been confirmed to the Supreme Court. Alito looked understandably woozy after a meteoric two-generation ascension from struggling immigrant to robed enemy of the working class. A few weeks later, the man Alito looks to as his “unitary executive” (your one-stop fop for all your authoritarian needs!) attended Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Republicans and several media wags (but I repeat myself) were shocked, shocked!, that speakers used the occasion to nonviolently point out how much the prez and his administration suck. For his part, Bush got through the solemn affair by graciously smirking whenever the orators indicted his policies.
This winter, Dick Cheney starred in the modern fable, “The Emperor’s New Fluorescent Orange Clothes.” Cheney is that most deadly of predators in any forest or field: the well-armed fat cat.
Having learned to hunt by murdering fowl Pavlovian-ly conditioned to associate shotgun blasts with the distribution of corn pellets, these titans of government and business haven’t the patience to do things like wait until a bird distinguishes itself from a human — by, say, flying — before pulling the trigger. Had our vice-president followed this simple rule, he’d never have shot one of his Texas hunting companions because, well, pigs don’t fly.
But Cheney is above all the rules. Consequently his hunting expeditions aren’t fair bouts with woodland creatures; rather, they involve piling up the highest possible body count in the shortest possible time. Some guys just can’t leave the office behind.
So screw the formality of getting properly licensed, and to hell with that quaint custom real hunters follow of actually pursuing prey on foot. Quail-gunner Dick has no time for such niceties. When he loosens his cowl for a weekend of relaxation, he crams in as much drinkin’ and drivin’ and huntin’ as possible.
When Cheney mistook 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington for a quarry of quail and blasted his associate in the face, he was again exempt from the rules — the ones requiring that he explain himself to the authorities. This is an option not generally available to those designated in police reports as “the shooter.” If any of the rest of us were to wave off a police inquiry into a shooting, the next person we’d be speaking to would be a SWAT negotiator, just long enough for a sniper to draw a proper bead.
The only witness to this mishap who talked at all was Katherine Armstrong, heiress, lobbyist, and hostess of the South Texas manor now famous for its Peppered Whittington. Cheney decided the best possible way to inform the American public that its vice-president had shot a guy in the face was to have Miss Ellie notify the Hooterville Gazette. Why? Because, unlike the national media, Miss Ellie knows the difference between a shotgun and a rifle.
I’m in the national media and I know what a rifle is. A rifle is what I never want in Dick Cheney’s hands.