After laughing, like everyone else, at old crooked-mouth's comeuppance in this strangest of manners, I started to wonder why the name Whittington seemed familiar. I then remembered: We had a short story about Dick Whittington in school, of how he had 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, staying on to become mayor of London three times.
Many years later, visiting London and staying with friends near Highgate, I was told by my host that the Highgate hill was where Whittington was supposed to have heard the church bell.
The "Official Story" as of today is that Mr. Whittington approached Dick Cheney from behind. He who had other priorities during Vietnam had none now. He wheeled around and sprayed him liberally in the face, neck and chest, confusing him with a quail or a duck, thus adding insult to injury, as it were.
After which Mr. Cheney apparently went incommunicado for nearly a day, thus rendering himself unavailable to the police for questioning. Theories on why this might be are rife, with rather high odds for the likelihood that the old campaigner was tight as an owl when he loosed said pellets on his unfortunate hunting companion.
The jokes came thick and fast, from Letterman to Leno and of course the inimitable John Stewart, who looked up and uttered a prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ for this godsend.
Then the White House Press Corps, which had let McClellan, Bush and Cheney off without a scuffle these past five years, suddenly became as dour as the proverbial bulldog, with hot exchanges between McClellan and the NBC reporter on McClellan's dodging.
The late British management expert, C.N. 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 entail a lengthy debate. Parkinson's theory 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 familiar to all, a matter on which everyone had a direct point of view.
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 mess up, the war on Iraq, the WMD scandal, the sundry Iraq contractor overpricings, the Swift Boat scandal, the Ohio vote scandal, 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 supplied a curious or serious pressman enough questions for several news conferences. Yet how many memorable exchanges did we see?
But then comes along 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 cover-up. 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 at the swift retribution by the unseen hand of Allah. In one stroke the almighty has punished every Western cartoonist for the impetuosity of the Danes. For when official reality so far outstrips caricature, could any greater damnation befall the cartoonist?
Niranjan Ramakrishnan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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