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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, February 19, 2006

In the land of the ranches

It ain't the cheddar, but what you do
with the cheese

Newsweek has the following:
............. He flew around on corporate jets; aides and retainers attended to his whims. His political ties were to True Believer conservatives—especially his wife, Lynne, a feisty ideologue and, by most reports, a bit of a diva, though an engaging one.

The VIP world inhabited by Cheney is perfectly symbolized by the Armstrong Ranch, where the hunting accident occurred. More than 50,000 acres of rolling country, the ranch is "Gosford Park" with a twang—not quite as gilded or as pampered as an English country house on a shooting weekend between the wars, but just as private and entitled in an understated, elegant way. Quail hunting is an elaborate ritual on the great Texas ranches, performed with outriding guides to find the birds and trained dogs to flush and point and fetch. There are servants and cocktails and barbecues and not a reporter for miles around. The ranch is as insular, in its own way, as the vice president's official bubble.

Cheney's shooting party was a cozy group of rich Republicans and Texas "squirearchy." The owner of the ranch is Anne Armstrong, a grande dame of the GOP, onetime ambassador to the Court of St. James and a former member of the Halliburton board that picked Cheney to be CEO. (She was also mentioned as a possible vice president for Gerald Ford.) Armstrong's daughter Katharine, strong-willed and lively (Laura Bush chose her to sit beside Prince Charles at a recent White House dinner), accompanied Cheney on the shoot and described the scene to NEWSWEEK:


I watching Oprah on Friday, and she was doing a show on people in serious debt. This one family had 5 cars and paid $1100 a month in car payments. The woman, who was tossing bills and ignoring debt collectors, said "appearances are important". She was on the verge of losing her home, her cars and being forced into bankruptcy, as well as ending her marriage.

Why did she do such a reckless, seemingly insane thing?

Because she felt entitled.

America got a short, sharp lesson on the difference between wealth and riches in the last week.

The Armstrongs don't exist to most Americans, but in the county where they live, a land of cowboys and compliant sheriffs, they run their world with the efficency of George III.

These people feel entitled to run their world, their way, to the point where an old lawyer has to speak in code to make his point. To most of the world, it seemed Orwellian and did Cheney no credit whatsoever. To people from the area, he was calling him an asshole in a polite way.

The Armstrongs are wealthy. Which is to say their money buys power. It certainly keeps local law enforcement in check, maybe even the Texas Rangers. I wonder how many times has Whittington blunted nasty questions coming their way, only to fall victim to the system he took part in.

We're used to seeing vulgar displays of riches, rappers with more jewlery than Cartier, driving the newest cars. As we've seen above, ordinary people fall into that brainless kind of thinking. But none of them are wealthy. At any point, they can be dragged in to the PD for a talk.

No one drags Katharine Armstrong in anywhere if she doesn't want to go.

Long a coutier to the powerful, unlike Armstrong or Cheney, his medical care seemed to have been a matter of debate before he got help: the debate? How to limit the damage to Cheney. It certainly wasn't how to get him the best care possible.

And after the shooting, they sat down to dinner.

With some drinks.

Why hasn't this gone away? Well, partly because people dislike Cheney, but partly, most Americans aren't usually faced with the arrogance of power in such a naked way. Most people realize that if they shot someone in the face, they wouldn't receive an Orwellian apology, but instead a series of questions from the local DA.

But not in the land of the ranches. Cheney was a friend, and a friend of the Armstrongs is protected by their largess. Even if another friend is shot in the face.

Cheney's problem is that what is acceptable in the land of the ranches is not acceptable in the rest of the US. And hiding behind Brit Hume isn't going to cut it. The story lingers because the "official" version is about as much bullshit as the kind of lies a cheating husband does to explain why he's home late and drunk.

People assume Cheney was a few sheets to the wind, maybe he's been banging someone on the side, that he's a shitty hunter, which to many Americans is a bad thing. What they don't assume is that he handled this in a competent manner.

The right did him no favors in offering up insane defenses for Cheney's acts. To most people, it seems counterintuative that getting a facefull of birdshot was no big deal. They were the only ones buying that.

But the real issue for Cheney is accountability. Nothing says unaccountability like shooting a man and not dealing with the police when they come, and that was not what Cheney needed.

posted by Steve @ 11:44:00 AM

11:44:00 AM

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