BEING CHENEY MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY…. Remember Harry Whittington? In February 2006, he was on a quail hunt with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who accidentally shot Whittington in the face, neck, and torso.

Nearly five years later, the 82-year-old Texan still feels the effects of the incident. The pellet that pierced his larynx affects his speech, a piece remains lodged near his heart, and birdshot pellets are still embedded in his eye socket, hairline, and hand. Indeed, even at the time, the shooting caused an erratic heartbeat and a collapsed lung.

The Washington Post‘s Paul Farhi caught up with Whittington, and wrote up an interesting profile of the man in today’s edition, including a detailed account of the ’06 incident and the years since. But perhaps the most noteworthy angle came at the very end of the piece.

[D]id Cheney ever say in private what he didn’t say in public? Did he ever apologize?

Whittington, who has been talking about his life and career for hours, suddenly draws silent.

“I’m not going to go into that,” he says sharply after a short pause.

Harry Whittington is too gracious to say it out loud, but he doesn’t dispute the notion, either.

Nearly five years on, he’s still waiting for Dick Cheney to say he’s sorry.

I’ve long perceived Cheney as some of menacing, malevolent figure, but even by his low standards, this is pretty astonishing. He shot an old man in the face and nearly killed him — but Cheney couldn’t be bothered to apologize? He’s had nearly five years, and he couldn’t pick up the phone?

Remember, after Whittington spent a week in intensive care, he apologized, telling reporters, “My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week.”

But Cheney lacks Whittington’s grace.

Also note, Cheney may just have a reflexive opposition to expressing any kind of remorse, ever. After Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) approached the former V.P. on the Senate floor in a friendly way, Cheney told him to “go f**k yourself.” Instead of apologizing for his tantrum, Cheney soon after went to Fox News to say how pleased he was with himself.

It takes a certain degree of class and decency to acknowledge wrongdoing, accept responsibility for mistakes, and express regret. Dick Cheney, regrettably, is sorely lacking in the class and decency department.

Indeed, Harry Whittington is still waiting for Dick Cheney to say he’s sorry, and given what Cheney did to the country, Whittington isn’t the only one waiting who’d like an apology.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.