I’ve read some of the more conspiratorial thoughts on the left, and find them largely unpersuasive. Take for instance this from John Aravosis, accusing Cheney of lying about the details of his shot:
If you could see him the split second AFTER you shot him, then you could see him the split second BEFORE you shot him. So either Cheney could see the guy, and shot him anyway (which completely contradicts what Cheney’s people have been saying for 5 days now), or Cheney couldn’t see the guy and he’s now lying to the nation in order to incur our sympathy.
I’ve met John and he seems like a genuinely decent person, but clearly he’s no hunter.
Anyone who has ever raised a shotgun to track a quail or pheasant would understand how the eye and the trigger finger are operating in different planes of space and time. When swiveling to track flushed game the information being processed by the eyes and the operation of the gun lag each other. With experience hunters learn to compensate for this disconnect (as well as for the physics of hitting a moving target) by leading the shot.
I find it perfectly reasonable to believe that Cheney may have seen a flash of Whittington right as he was firing or even a split second before – past the point where the brain can recall the impulse it has already sent to the hand to fire. Once the shot is fired all sorts of visual information from the periphery – information the brain had been blocking to concentrate on the flight of the bird – comes rushing back into the hunters view.
Steven Hunter, in The Washington Post, looks at the story from his own perspective as a hunter who made a similar mistake.
For one thing, the vice president has selected his bird and his mind is busy solving the geometric problem of lead and flight time. Second, he is boring in on the target itself, which is accelerating. Wing shooting alone demands that a gunner concentrate on the target, not the sights. The art of the shot is in mastering the mount so that as the gun comes up and is placed to the shoulder, head, eye, arm and hand are in perfect synchronism and the shot pattern goes where the eyes are looking. If you take your eye from the target to divert to the sights, the whole elegant choreography falls apart and you miss. That’s apparently what Cheney was looking at — he saw only the bird, its wings whirring as it drilled through the air, everything else was blur. Whittington, orange vest or not, was invisible to him.
Some may say of Cheney: He was really unlucky.
I say: He was really lucky.
He was lucky to be so superb a wing shot that he carried a shotgun in 28-gauge rather than 12-gauge. That probably saved Harry Whittington’s life. The 28 is for advanced bird hunters who’ve killed their thousands with a 12 — the common hunting shell of America’s shotgunners — and want something more refined, lighter, more beautiful. With the 28 you have to get closer, shoot faster and more accurately. The little pieces of shot break their cluster sooner, spray more widely, lose velocity faster.None of the above is offered to deflect responsibility from Cheney, just to give the perspective of those who have been in similar situations.