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Story pick: Shooting someone in the face means never having to say you're sorry

By Marc Fisher

More than four years ago, Harry Whittington, a well-clubbed Texas millionaire lawyer, got shot. Befitting his station, the shooter was no mere street thug, but rather, the vice president of the United States.

In a Style classic, The Washington Post's Paul Farhi held back for years, waited for the initial media frenzy to become a distant memory, and nailed the interview that the vultures of the Fourth Estate had so desperately sought in the first weeks and months after Dick Cheney pumped about 30 pieces of shot into Whittington.

When another of our colleagues asked how he'd landed the interview, Farhi replied with the simple and beautiful truth: "I called him up and asked."

The result is an elegant and surprising profile of a man who was more than gracious even in the face of wounds that turn out to have been considerably more serious than Americans were led to believe in the immediate aftermath of the Cheney shooting in the 2006 quail hunting incident.

Whittington sweeps a hand up to his dusky face and points near his right eye, then to the right side of his forehead. The eye socket, hairline and hand have birdshot pellets lodged in them, too. If you look closely -- and strangers occasionally sidle up to him to do just that -- the accident's remnants are evident; there's a tiny bump in each spot.

Every so often, for months afterward, some of the lead in Whittington's body worked its way to the surface. But many pieces remain too deeply embedded to remove, including one near his heart. At 82, Whittington knows he will live the rest of his days with about 30 pieces of shot inside him. Somehow, he jokes, he can get through a metal detector without causing a commotion.

But the coup de grace of the piece is the kicker, where we learn the true meaning of character. Whittington has never spoken about Cheney's peculiar and disturbing silence after the shooting. And Cheney has never done what a gentleman knows to do without being asked.

But you need to read that part for yourself.

By Marc Fisher  | October 15, 2010; 8:23 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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