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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dick Cheney Lack of Accountability Watch, Day 5



MSNBC is reporting this morning that Vice President Cheney may finally speak about his shooting a hunting companion in the face, neck and chest.
Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to make his first public statement about the accidental shooting of a hunting partner, sources told NBC News on Wednesday.

Cheney will “certainly” speak to the issue, the sources said, but they also cautioned that “we're at Wednesday” and suggested that progress made by Harry Whittington, the 78-year-old lawyer shot by Cheney, will play a big role in how any public comment is handled.
According to MSNBC, Cheney had breakfast with the President and lawmakers this morning, and I'm assuming they were pressing the Veep to stand up and take responsibility. He has no scheduled public events until Friday, and there is no word as yet when such a statement will be made. My guess is they want to give some more time for doctors to have a better idea of how Whittington's condition is going to go -- wouldn't want the Veep standing at the podium answering press questions while Whittington was having a heart attack or anything.

Especially since McClellan already covered that during yesterday's presser. (C&L has the video, in case you missed it.) Look for a very heated exchange for an already embattled press secretary today. I think yesterday's disengenuous joking performance may have been one lie too far.

What was the Veep doing yesterday? Meeting with legislators on the Hill. (See picture above.)

I don't want to downplay how difficult it can be to shoot another human being. Having worked with police officers who have had to shoot someone in the line of duty -- appropriately and after much warning, with no question that they did the right thing -- I know how that can still tear you up. I also know a guy that worked with my dad who had a hunting accident, and how tough it was for him to deal with that fact (he never went hunting again, ever, and spent the first month after the accident happened breaking into sobs every time he even thought about it -- his victim was wounded superficially and young and healthy and came out fine, but it was still incredibly traumatic for everyone -- it was also, btw, a shotgun injury, but at a much larger distance.)

So sure, a little time to get yourself in order is not only appropriate, it's expected. I mean honestly, we all joke about Cheney coming out of his crypt, but he likely feels quite badly about shooting someone in the face, neck and chest, and causing his victim to have a heart attack after a pellet penetrated the man's chest and lodged on or near his heart, not to mention the other pellets lodged all over which will likely stay in his flesh, causing pitting and scarring and spending a week in the ICU. Oh, and he'll never be able to have an MRI because of the metal in his body, and will always have to worry about a pellet getting into his bloodstream and travelling to the small blood vessels in his brain. I sure as hell would awful, were I Dick Cheney, I know that.

But he's the Vice President of the United States on top of just being a person who shot another man. His office has issued only one, terse statement on his behalf yesterday about the heart attack, and they have been less than forthcoming about Cheney's view of what happened, the facts and the timeline otherwise. (Read: he's lawyered up.)

The press coverage has shifted to a theme of "White House unhappy with Cheney" or "White House and GOP angry about how things have been handled." Take your pick. Take a look at these headlines:

-- Cheney's Response a Concern to GOP: Vice President Urged to Make Public Statement on Shooting (WaPo via MSNBC)

-- Cheney Controversy Persists: Failure to Disclose Shooting Information May Have Gone Against President's Wishes (ABC News) [Hello Karl, is that you again?]

-- White House Deferred to Cheney on Shooting: In A Break with Policy, Hunting Accident Was Not Disclosed for 14 Hours (WaPo)

-- Slow Leak: How Cheney Stalled News Reports of Hunting Accident (Time)

-- Growing GOP Concerns About Cheney (CBS News)

Is it me, or would you be watching out for a big ole bus if you were the Veep? Because it sure as hell sounds to me like a whole lotta people in the Republican party, already skittish about the President's tanking poll numbers and their own shaky chances in the fall elections -- they've all gotten together over the last week and decided to throw the Veep under a bus for the good of the party. At least, it sure looks that way at the moment.

So, Dick is deciding whether or not to make a public statement -- not because his remorse and civic duty are pushing him the conclusion that he has to take public responsibility for his actions. But because his not doing so is making him politically unsupportable. Good ethical behavior that.

Bob Harris has a fairly good round-up of where things stand in terms of this Administration and how far they feel they can push the honesty and integrity boundaries. My personal favorite is this one: "Shootings by vice presidents are always reported by local newspapers, who learn a few carefully-chosen details from a friend of the vice president, after she has spoken with Karl Rove." Ahh, how true.

BarbinMD points out in her DKos diary that Katherine Armstrong, cheif spokesperson and self-described "eye witness" was actually 100 YARDS away from the incident. So how is it that she knew the exact play by play again? That's a pretty hefty distance away from the scene. She wouldn't have heard Whittington, had he actually spoken up softly to let the group know he was coming up behind (and he would have been speaking softly, because you don't do a lot of yelling around quail). And if it was shurbby terrain, as she said, her field of vision could easily have been blocked.

That overnight period between the shooting and the time Cheney spoke with police officers gets more and more curious. Especially given that Armstrong spoke with Rove and the crack cover-our-asses team at the WH. Getting everyone's story straight, were we?

Finally, there was a note from a police officer about the "two beers" issue that I thought would be interesting to everyone. He's right, it is the excuse you hear most frequently -- and I have no idea why, because for most people, anything over one beer puts them over the legal limit in most states. (But I digress...)

As Jane pointed out yesterday, Armstrong initially reported to MSNBC (before they scrubbed the story) that some beer may have been in the community picnic basket lunch the hunting party shared. No idea whether the Veep partook or not -- but we'll never know, since the police officers were turned away at the front gate by Katherine Armstrong's security staffers.

Yeah, like that would work for any of us, right? It's good to have friends in high places.

Oh, and Taylor says that the 30 yard question was raised on yesterday's Olbermann by Paul Burka, Executive Editor of Texas Monthly Magazine, who said:
"I'll tell you what really doesn't add up here. It's the 30 yards distance. When I talked to friends of mine who were avid hunters, a 28 gauge shotgun is not a powerful weapon unless you happen to be a quail or you happen to be very close. And I think that there's just a question whether at that distance those kind of injuries could occur."
Taylor also has some other great quotes, so it's worth clicking through the link to get more of a feel for the "Cheney going under the bus" thought process in the wider GOP at the moment. I bet Lynn Cheney is pissed off this morning. Wonder when Larry King will have her on as his very special guest for the evening?

UPDATE: Looks like the Texas Park and Wildlife Service is now saying that the accident was a result of Dick Cheney's error in judgment, according to the Houston Chronicle. So much for the "blame the guy in the ICU" tactic. (Hat tip to reader Mimi Schaeffer.)

NOTE: Chertoff testifying today regarding the DHS/FEMA response (or lack thereof) to Katrina and problems within the Department. He'll be testifying live on C-Span later this morning. I'll update with a time when I get it.

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