On Mon, 13 Feb 2006 21:09:28 -0800, Bill Shatzer
Post by Bill Shatzer
Cheney screwed the pooch on this 'un. And no amount of right-wing
Karl Rove-type spin is gonna change that.
From today's NYT:
White House Memo
Groans at Home Re: (Cheney Joke Here)
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: February 14, 2006
WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 What do you do when the vice president shoots
That was the question the White House grappled uncertainly with on
Monday, after Dick Cheney made history as the second vice president to
fire a gun at someone though accidentally in this case while in
office. By the end of a bizarre day in Washington, with only Aaron
Burr as a precedent and the late-night comedians and Cheney Internet
shooting games going at it full force, the only answer for the White
House seemed to be to run for cover.
"You can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a
better job," Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said in what
by this White House's standards was a forthright admission that it had
been a rough couple of days.
Even Mr. Cheney's most loyal friends could only brace themselves for
the one-liners to come.
"Dick Cheney is one of the most skilled shots I know, and they'll make
fun of it forever," said Alan K. Simpson, a former Wyoming senator who
is a longtime friend and sometime hunting partner of the vice
He seemed to be right.
"Something I just found out today about the incident," Jay Leno said
Monday on the "Tonight Show" on NBC. "Do you know that Dick Cheney
tortured the guy for a half-hour before he shot him?"
Aside from Harry Whittington, the 78-year-old Texas lawyer who was in
stable condition after being peppered with shotgun pellets by Mr.
Cheney, the person who had the worst time on Monday was Mr. McClellan.
In one of two raucous news briefings, Mr. McClellan told reporters
that he first learned in a 6 a.m. phone call on Sunday some 12 hours
after the accident that Mr. Cheney had sprayed Mr. Whittington with
his shotgun. Mr. McClellan said he had urged the vice president's
office to get the information out "as quickly as possible."
But Mr. Cheney's office does not appear to have taken that advice.
Instead, the vice president told the nation of the incident via
Katharine Armstrong, a member of the hunting party and an owner of the
Texas ranch where the accident occurred.
On Sunday morning, Ms. Armstrong called her local newspaper, The
Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and informed it of the shooting.
Mr. Cheney's office took some questions from reporters Sunday night
but did not release a statement about the accident. It was left to Mr.
McClellan to handle the White House press corps Monday morning, and
things did not go especially well.
Just minutes into Mr. McClellan's early briefing, the press secretary
was in a verbal brawl with David Gregory of NBC, who repeatedly asked
why the press corps did not learn of the Saturday shooting, which took
place at 5:30 p.m. Central time, for nearly 24 hours. Mr. McClellan
responded that Ms. Armstrong had informed the press corps through her
"Scott, that's not the answer to the question," Mr. Gregory said.
"Come on. You're totally ducking and weaving here."
"No, I'm not," Mr. McClellan said.
The exchange quickly escalated after Mr. McClellan told Mr. Gregory,
"The cameras aren't on right now" and "you can do this later." Mr.
Gregory retorted, "Don't be a jerk to me personally."
Mr. McClellan then said, "Calm down, David," and Mr. Gregory shot
back, "I'll calm down when I feel like calming down."
Mr. McClellan's second, on-camera briefing was a bit less heated,
although it was dominated by questions about when the president first
learned that Mr. Cheney had peppered Mr. Whittington with pellets. Mr.
McClellan could not say for certain, although he did say that Andrew
H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, had informed Mr. Bush
about an accident involving Mr. Cheney's hunting party on Saturday
Later, the briefing produced one of the more surreal e-mail messages
from this White House in its five-year history. Around 4:40 p.m., the
press office dispatched a clarification to reporters, titled "Response
to a Question From the Briefing," which began, "Q: So when did the
president definitively know that the vice president had shot
The answer given was that Mr. Card had called to tell the president
about the accident at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, without knowing of Mr.
Cheney's involvement, and that Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief
of staff, had then spoken to Ms. Armstrong. Mr. Rove, the e-mail
message said, "then called the president shortly before 8 p.m. E.S.T.
to update him and let him know the vice president had accidentally
shot Mr. Whittington."
Pictures of Mr. Cheney accompanied by hunting puns appeared on
television all day Monday. CNN ran a photograph of a stern-looking Mr.
Cheney alongside a picture of three quail under the headline "Friendly
Fire." Later, it changed the headline to "Cheney's Fowl Shot."
Mr. Simpson, for one, said he was outraged by the media frenzy, and
blamed Mr. Whittington for not announcing that he was coming up behind
Mr. Cheney in the field, which is protocol.
"When it's all through after a few days, people are going to laugh at
the media for their overreaction," Mr. Simpson said in an interview
from his home in Wyoming. "This is a hunting accident, created by the
victim. Dick Cheney didn't do anything. He's a master hunter. And
they're portraying him as some sort of assassin. I mean the headline I
saw today was 'Cheney Bags Lawyer.' "
The shooting was fertile ground for Jon Stewart, the host of "The
Daily Show," the popular fake news program on Comedy Central. On
Monday night one of the show's correspondents, Rob Corddry, introduced
as a "vice-presidential firearms mishap analyst," said that "according
to the best intelligence available, there were quail hidden in the
brush," and "everyone believed there were quail in the brush," and
"while the quail turned out to be a 78-year-old man, even knowing that
today, Mr. Cheney insists he would still have shot Mr. Whittington in
On July 11, 1804, Vice President Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a
duel in Weehawken, N.J. Hamilton died of his wounds the next day.
John Files contributed reporting for this article.
"Democracy is rooted in the impertinent belief that
our rulers are no better than we are, and that they
are answerable always. We're occasionally amazed
to discover that people who are used to power forget
that. That's why, every now and then, we have to