02/17/2006 09:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tucker, Gunplay, and The Conservative Art of Slander

Tucker Carlson's half-right. (How's that for an attention grabber?) Left-leaners should leave slander to the experts - that would be conservatives, of course - especially where sex is concerned. In the Cheney shooting case, who cares who the guy was or wasn't schtupping? Our focus should be on the criminality, not the carnality.

That may be why Carlson misrepresents my writing and my on-air interview with him in this blog entry. (And I thought we had something special, Tucker ...) "Leftwing bloggers," he writes, "including one of the guests on our show (insert unflattering picture of me here) have suggested that Cheney delayed the announcement of the shooting because his mistress was on the scene."

The piece is entitled "Cheney giving ammunition for slanderers," leaving the implication (but not saying) that I'm one such rogue. Make statements about Cheney about his sex life? Raising questions is more like it. And I never suggested that he delayed the announcement of the shooting because his mistress was there. Tucker pressed me to say that they were entwining flesh, but I refused.

I stuck with discussing the likelihood that he stalled the authorities overnight because he needed to get the alcohol out of his system. (Duh - as if I were the first one to say that!) I said it's disturbing when someone with a history of severe drinking problems acknowledges he's drinking again - even "just one beer," that phrase better known as "the fourth great lie."

I didn't address the reasons why Dick "Dances With Quails" would stall the press specifically, but one plausible theory that's been raised is that he wanted to make sure every witness' story lined up - and that Whittington would survive, so a grand jury wouldn't be convened - before making his own public statement. (Such statements are apparently legally admissible.)

So was drunken recklessness a possible motive for his post-shooting behavior? Sure. Or suborning perjury in case of a grand jury? Could be. An aversion to honesty as severe as a vampire's loathing of sunlight? Sounds right. All are certainly more plausible than Tucker's red-herring "hide the mistress" theory.

What is odd is why Cheney and Katherine Armstrong keep saying Armstrong's an eyewitness, when her own statements contradict that - and yet we haven't heard publicly from the one person who everyone agrees was a witness: Pamela Willeford.

So what was Tucker right about? Well, by saying that he was with a woman who was "not his wife" I was certainly raising the possibility there had a little messin' around down there at Rancho Notorious. The veil of secrecy around the "third hunter" (as the Cheney crowd keeps calling her) raised that as a possibility, after all.

So, maybe I went wrong there. I started to post something heated about Tucker's "slanderer" piece, but then reconsidered and had to admit he was at least partially right. I made an implication. The right answer to the "wild thing" question is "I don't know and I don't care." By raising the issue, we give the impression this is a sex case, and allow right-wingers to change the subject. Tucker, for example, claims the public now "knows what happened." That's patently false - the unanswered questions are piling up.

While he's chided Cheney for firing a gun after the "one beer" (and I'll give him credit for that), not too many cops or lawyers I know believe that Cheney kept it to just one - and then hid from the authorities overnight. (And - tell me again why he did that?) The questions in this case are legitimate - and questioning suspicious behavior is not slander.

Slander: Now there's a conservative specialty. These Republicans have raised slander to statecraft. Here's a partial "scandal sheet" to remind you of the slander and libel generated by the right-wing machine whenever they're on the defensive (which is all the time):

• John McCain's "black" child (a smear which didn't prevent "Senator Straight Talk" for pushing the re-election of the Torture Crew.)
• John McCain's own slander of John Murtha as senile.
• The Bush Sr. campaign's suggestions that Michael Dukakis was mentally ill.
• The suggestion that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.
• The idea that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster.
• Paying Paula Jones's bills to claim Clinton molested her - and paying for her plastic surgery to make the claim more plausible.
• Making false statements about Richard Clarke's job performance in the White House, and conducting a whispering campaign behind the scenes about his private life.
• The false rumors that Clinton staffers vandalized the White House before the transition.
• The Swift Boating of John Kerry - a genuine war hero who knows how to handle a gun.

Help me out, readers. There are so many - what am I missing? Oh, how could I forget! Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame! The Vice President's office has been Smear Central, and criminally compromised our national defense to slime one honest ambassador. Now that's some serious slandering!

Tucker and his friends are trying to make the left look like tin-hat types for pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in this story. The only tinfoil theory I've heard is kind of amusing: that Cheney shot poor Mr. Whittington as a warning to Scooter Libby. "The aspens may be turning," he might have been saying, "but you better not, pal."

I'm glad Mr. Whittington is out of the hospital. It's still Cheney's Chappaquiddick, of course - and to those who say nobody died because of Cheney's flawed character (or Bush's for that matter), I'll remind them of all their lies about Iraq. That makes the body count 2,000 Americans and an untold number of Iraqis - and rising.

And as for some other bloodstained victims of this cabal - the ones the mainstream media are censoring - here are the further photos of the atrocity at Abu Ghraib. (Warning: for strong stomachs only.) Through their torture policies, Cheney and his cronies have stained the good name of our country throughout the world.

And that's the worst slander of all.

A Night Light