This is the question the nation asks when a story of great political magnitude breaks, such as when our vice president accidentally shoots a 78-year-old lawyer in the face while quail hunting. It's not "What Would Jesus Do?" but "What Will Jon Stewart Do?"
Harry Whittington's injuries are certainly no laughing matter. The Texas lawyer was "peppered" with pellets in his cheek, neck and chest when Cheney fired his shotgun, but by all accounts, he's recovering nicely. So comedians on the Internet and on late-night television are mining this political comedy gold.
Dan Kurtzman, the editor of About.com's political humor Web site, says this is the funniest thing to come out of the Bush administration since the president choked on a pretzel.
"It has all the key ingredients for a great comic set-up: A gun-wielding, warmongering vice president who embodies the motto 'shoot first, ask questions later,' a bizarre case of mistaken identity, a dubious official narrative, and a lawyer riddled with birdshot. You can't make this stuff up," Kurtzman said.
Here Come the Lawyer Jokes
The accident took place on Saturday afternoon, but the news didn't break nationally until more than 18 hours later, so bloggers had the first shot at the jokes.
A few bloggers played on Cheney's (and the administration's) well-documented disdain of trial lawyers.
Political Cortex's headline was "Cheney Accidentally Bags Lawyer Out Of Season," while Wonkette said, "Dick Cheney Finally Takes a Stand Against Trial Lawyers."
Jay Leno also pulled out a lawyer joke in his monologue Monday night: "Over the weekend, on a quail hunting trip, Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a 78-year-old lawyer. When people found out he shot a lawyer, his popularity is now 92 percent."
Bloggers also had fun with the idea that Cheney would stop at nothing to bring down his "enemies." As Broken Newz suggested: "Dick Cheney Invites Jack Abramoff Bird Hunting."
Others suggested that Scooter Libby might be in the vice president's cross hairs.
"A spokesman for the vice president identified the shooting victim as Harry Whittington, but sources close to the incident suggest 'Harry Whittington' is a Secret Service code name for Cheney's indicted former chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby," wrote Bob Cesca, a writer and film director, who blogs on huffingtonpost.com.
And Jim Brady, the former Ronald Reagan aide-turned-anti-gun-advocate quipped: "Now I understand why Dick Cheney keeps asking me to go hunting with him."
But We're at War
Web satirists had fun with Cheney's own (fake) spin on the shooting, and a few reminded the American people that the rules were different during wartime.
Jerry and Joe Long imagined this statement from the veep on huffingtonpost.com: "Since the days of Aaron Burr, under our constitution, the vice president has the implied authority to shoot whomever the hell he pleases. … In a time of war, it would be inappropriate to comment further on how and under what circumstances a 78-year-old man underwent a minor pellet infusion."
Political comedian Andy Borowitz offered this press release on his site:
Cheney Says Shooting of Fellow Hunter Was Based on Faulty Intelligence
Believed Shooting Victim Was Zawahiri, Veep Says
"I believed I had credible intelligence that al-Zawahiri had infiltrated my hunting party in disguise with the intent of spraying me with pellets," Mr. Cheney told reporters. "Only after I shot Harry in the face and he shouted 'Cheney, you bastard' did I realize that this intelligence was faulty."
A Man Unafraid of Guns, F-Bombs
Even before the late-night comedians had a chance to debut their jokes, you could buy a Dick Cheney commemorative T-shirt online, splattered with fake blood and bullet holes, that read: "I went quail hunting with Dick Cheney and all I got was this T-shirt."
And for those networking-minded comedians, there was this ad on Craigslist.com: "Prominent Civil Servant seeks new hunting buddies
Due to recent events I find myself short a hunting partner. My favorite types of game are duck, quail, or elderly lawyer. I am 65 wm, avg build, salt and pepper hair, and average build. I prefer wm 30-50yrs old with personality characteristics that are similar to sheep."
Huffingtonpost.com even let you play an interactive Cheney Quail Hunting game.
But what does it all mean for the vice president's reputation? Cheney always had the air of the renegade about him -- frequently scowling, often disappearing to "undisclosed locations," and not afraid to drop the F-bomb right on the Senate floor.
Does this shooting make Cheney even cooler?
The Wonkette bloggers think so. Yesterday, they said on the Web site: "Dick Cheney is a badass, and we love him. He's like America's abusive father -- we're terrified of him, we hide under our beds when we smell whiskey on his breath, but we crave his attention."
For the record, on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," the Aerosmith song "Janie's Got a Gun" was repurposed as "Cheney's Got a Gun," and the accident was re-enacted as the Nintendo game, Duck Hunter. Click Here for the Late-Night Show Jokes.