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Senators enjoy quail hunt with Dick Cheney

WASHINGTON—Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Vice President Dick Cheney went quail hunting last week, and the senator lived to tell the tale.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford joined Cheney and Graham for two days of hunting on a private plantation that friends of Chambliss own in southern Georgia.

The outing was only Cheney's second hunting trip since he accidentally wounded a close friend, Texas lawyer Harry Whittington, last February by spraying pellets into his face, neck and chest.

Even though almost 10 months have passed since the embarrassing episode, it was fresh on the minds of the Cheney group—and still remembered by some of the folks they met.

A local gun-shop owner cracked wise about the incident when Cheney and the rest of the hunting party walked in, Graham said.

"It was brought up a couple of times," Graham said in an interview. "He makes people feel comfortable so they can joke about it."

Cheney himself broke up other guests at a dinner by recalling President Bush's reaction when the vice president returned to the White House after the incident.

"Dang, Dick, you shot the only trial lawyer who supports me!" Bush mock-scolded Cheney.

Cheney also joked about the episode last March as the keynote speaker at a Hibernian Society dinner in Charleston, S.C. After Graham introduced him to the Irish benevolent group, Cheney approached the podium and donned an orange hunting cap.

"He handles it well," Graham said. "It's every hunter's worst nightmare. It could have happened to anybody. I felt so sorry for him, but what can you do? It hurt him personally a great deal."

After requiring a faxed request for an interview, a Cheney aide said the vice president would decline to comment.

"The vice president has a great sense of humor," said the aide, Lee Anne McBride. "He loves the outdoors. It gives him a great opportunity to spend time with friends."

Sanford and Chambliss also declined to talk about the outing.

Cheney, Graham said, is actually an excellent marksman. Cheney and Sanford teamed up to defeat Graham and Chambliss last week in a friendly shooting contest.

"He's one of the best hunters I've ever hunted with," Graham said.

Cheney loosens up considerably out in the bush, according to Graham.

"When he's out hunting, he relaxes, and he's a real pleasure to be with," he said. "The Dick Cheney out hunting and the Dick Cheney you see on TV are quite different."

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(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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