Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Turn Again, Dick Cheney, Lord Sprayer of Whittington

Drinks, Shoots and Leaves?

by Niranjan Ramakrishnan

After laughing, like everyone else, at old crooked-mouth's comeuppance in this unlikeliest of circumstances, I started to wonder why the name Whittington was familiar. We had a short story about Dick Whittington in school, of how he lost heart and was leaving London, when he heard the peals of the church bell which seemed to say to him, "Turn again, Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London". Upon which he returned, pursuing his fortune which led him to be mayor of London three times.

Many years later, visiting London and staying with friends near Highgate, I was told by my host that the hill was where Whittington was supposed to have heard the church bell.

The "Official Story" as of today is that Mr. Whittington approached Cheney from behind. He who had 'other priorities' during Vietnam had apparently none at this time. Our hero wheeled around and sprayed Whittington liberally in the face, neck and chest.

After which Mr. Cheney apparently went incommunicado for nearly a day, thereby rendering himself unavailable to the police for questioning. Theories on why this might be have been circulating, with speculation rife that the old campaigner was tight as an owl when he loosed said pellets on unfortunate hunting companion.

The jokes came thick and fast, from Letterman to Leno and of course the inimitable John Stewart, who looked up and thanked the Lord Jesus Christ for this godsend.

To everyone's surprise, the White House Press Corps, which had let Fleischer, McClellan, Bush and Cheney off without a so much as a scuffle these five years, suddenly became dour as the proverbial bulldog, with hot exchanges beween McClellan and the NBC reporter making news.

The late British management expert, CN Parkinson, observed long ago that the amount of attention a topic received was in inverse proportion to its importance. A nuclear power plant might be approved with a minimum of discussion. The authorization for a bicycle for the office boy, on the other hand, would lead to lengthy argument and debate. Parkinson's reason was that the cost of a power plant ran into the hundreds of millions, sums most people had no personal experience with. The office bicycle, on the other hand, was a concept everyone was familiar with: everyone had an opinion in the matter.

So have we had (a still incomplete list) the Florida vote scandal, the Patriot Act, the 9-11 fiasco, the failure to appoint a commission of inquiry right away, the Tora Bora messup, the war on Iraq, the WMD scandal, the sundry Iraq contractor overpricings, the Swift Boat scandal, the Ohio vote scandal, Plamegate, the incipient civil war in Iraq, the federal deficit, the trade deficit, and the Queen Katrina herself, not to mention domestic spying, any one of which could have provided a serious pressman enough questions for several press conferences. Yet, how many memorable exchanges did we see? That's right.

But here comes a story with all the right ingredients. A shootout at the Bar-All ranch, involving none other than the sitting vice president (aiming for sitting ducks and getting attorneys-in-good-standing instead). It has laughter, crime (a $7 default, for starters) and coverup. It is a story every Tom, Dick and Harry can understand. More than that, it involves Dick, Harry - and if you include the delay in calling the police -- Tom.

True believers should rejoice that all that cartoon insult -- perceived or real -- of last week has been swept away by the unseen hand of Allah. The almighty has punished every Western cartoonist for the impetuosity of the Danes. For, when reality so far outstrips caricature, what greater damnation could befall the cartoonist?

Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

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