Howard Kurtz graciously encapsulated the media’s idiocy on the Cheney incident into one convenient article. Thanks, Howie! Let the pithy commentary begin!
Other than the fact that a sitting vice president hasn’t shot anyone since Aaron Burr dispatched Alexander Hamilton, why is Dick Cheney the non-sharpshooter getting so much coverage?
Okay, other than the fact that the comics haven’t had so much fun since President Bush choked on a pretzel. (Letterman: “We can’t get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney.”)
Okay, other than the fact that the VP saw no reason to tell the press and immediately went into the metaphorical equivalent of a secret undisclosed location?
What’s metaphorical about the fact that he hasn’t made a public statement?
And other than the this-isn’t-so-funny-after-all news yesterday that the birdshot had caused Harry Whittington to suffer a minor heart attack?
And yet, you led the article with a Letterman joke.
The reason this is such a crossover hit, I believe, is that it encapsulates everything we know, or think we know, about Vice President Cheney.
So secretive that he even waited to tell Bush. So taciturn that he feels no need for a public apology. So insulated that he defers a police interview until the following morning. So defensive that he has not so much as acknowledged a mistake.
What, should he have wiped out his cell phone while standing over Whittington out in the field?
At 2:47 p.m. yesterday, Cheney’s office finally put out a statement, saying he had called Whittington and wished him well–but still not even a hint of public regret.
What regret, exactly does he owe the public?
Part of the dynamic here is that the birdshot brouhaha gives everyone a chance to play their assigned roles.
The White House press corps is outraged at the 21-hour delay in informing the world.
21 hours? The local sheriff knew within an hour. It was public information at that point. The local media was contacted less than 14 hours later. If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to witness it, is it a secret?
Liberals say this is typical of the way the administration botched the war, and they wonder why journalists didn’t get this exercised about being misled on WMD.
Yea – I wonder that myself all the time: Why hasn’t the media been exercised about the missing WMDs?
Conservatives say this is nothing but a common hunting accident, and they blame journalists for blowing it way out of proportion.
I hate to sould like a shill, but: True enough.
I’m happy to report that Bill O’Reilly reads Media Notes online (or at least someone on his staff does). He responded last night to my observation that he led with Al Gore saying in Saudi Arabia that the U.S. has mistreated Arabs (no coverage in major newspapers, he’s right about that) and inexplicably reduced the Cheney accident to the day’s most ridiculous item. The veep’s failure to come clean, says Mr. O, is because of his “well-known press phobia. . . . The vice president’s hunting accident affects no one, means nothing, and the vice president’s refusal to brief the press was predictable.” O’Reilly did allow that “Dick Cheney’s secret style hurts him.”
I would argue that Cheney’s actions, while physically hurting no one other than poor Mr. Whittington, hurt the reputation of the vice president and the administration.
So in your eyes, the vice president and the administration had a good reputation before? Right.
By the way, Scott McClellan exacerbated matters at yesterday’s briefing by insisting he was “moving on” (standard practice in every administration under fire) but refusing to disclose what he knew, which was that Whittington had suffered a heart attack . I don’t get it.
Of course you don’t. Here’s a clue: McClellan isn’t a spokesperson for the hospital or Whittington. He is under no obligation to reveal his medical condition; in fact, I would argue he was obliged not to reveal it until Whittington himself had authorized it. That’s a pretty basic tenet of medical privacy laws.
Okay, the White House whispers have begun, as we see in this New York Times piece on “the latest example of the degree to which Mr. Cheney’s habit of living in his own world in the Bush White House — surrounded by his own staff, relying on his own instincts, saying as little as possible — had backfired since the accident in Texas on Saturday. Mr. Cheney’s staff members have kept their comments to chronological details and to repeating the vice president’s written statements.
Which, to any rational observer, has been sufficient.
Philadelphia Inquirer : “Dick Cheney’s weekend ‘peppering’ of a 78-year-old hunting pal on a private ranch owned by wealthy Republican donors is threatening to become a metaphor for his tenure as America’s number two.
“It’s not always easy for voters to track all the details of Cheney’s documented preference for secrecy: his secret war planning (which circumvented the State Department and the intelligence community);…”
Isn’t war planning always a secret?
…his secret energy-policy meetings with Enron and other major GOP contributors (he was sued by public-interest groups, in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court);…
(a suit which he won)
…his ties to I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, the ex-aide (now indicted)…
“his ties…” I love that. Makes it sound so seedy and ilicit, when in fact Scooter was his chief of staff.
who may have helped to discredit a whistle-blower;…
Joe Wilson is a whistleblower now? Please. “Helped dicredit a charaltan” is closer to the truth.
…his insistence that secret warrantless surveillance of Americans is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.”
As usual, a bit of fudging the facts to make it sound as if the government is listening in on Grandma and little Cindy, when “warrantless surveillance of Americans in contact with suspected foreign terrorists” is in fact what was going on.
But “Here we have a case where Cheney chose (by his own inaction) not to inform his fellow Americans that the man who is one heartbeat away from the presidency had pulled a trigger and put somebody in intensive care.”
Well, the local sheriff is a fellow American, and he knew. The folks at the local paper are fellow Americans, and they knew. Is the problem that he didn’t inform his fellow Americans, or that he didn’t inform the Washington media elite?
The New York Post headline: “DICK DUCKS.”
Subhead: PRESS PREENS.
Cheney’s boss also had a brush with a hunting mistake, as Slate’s John Dickerson recalls:
“Perhaps the even more apt analogy was Bush’s own hunting incident in 1994. When the gubernatorial candidate accidentally killed a protected killdeer during a dove shoot, he wrote that he reacted this way: ‘Karen [Hughes] and I looked at each other. What now? “We confess,” we both said, almost simultaneously. Bush then called every reporter who had been on his hunting trip. He then announced it at a press conference. The lesson of the shooting, Bush wrote in his biography, is that ‘people watch the way you handle things; they get a feeling they like and trust you, or they don’t.’
“Unfortunately for the president, Bush wasn’t able to give his vice president this advice. (He learned about the shooting from Karl Rove, who talked to the ranch owner.) Cheney played his own press secretary after this incident, agreeing with the owner of the ranch that there would be no official notice and that she could release the information herself. Cheney’s allies (and those are different than Bush allies in this case) argue that Cheney cared more about his hurt friend and his host than he did about informing the Beltway press. Maybe for the first hour or two, but to wait so long only points out what we always have known about the vice president: He doesn’t give a damn about the public or press’ right to know.
That assumes that the public and the press have a right to know on a timeline established by the press. And by “the press,” of course, they mean the Washington press. Notice that the local paper isn’t complaining that they weren’t notified in a timely manner.
The Huffington Post devotes much of its home page to the topic, with Arianna saying of McClellan and the media: “Talk about your dysfunctional relationship. The air of a love affair gone sour hung over the gaggle like a cheap perfume. It was actually very appropriate viewing for a Valentine’s Day morning. The emotional intensity reminded me of many failed relationships I’ve witnessed — and a few I’ve been part of. . . .
So many bad metaphors…. so little time…….
“Channeling Dr. Phil for a moment, I couldn’t help but wonder: is the press really this worked up about being kept out of the shooting loop for 18 hours or are there bigger issues at play? What the relationship gurus call ‘baggage’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this isn’t a big story — especially now that Cheney’s victim has suffered a heart attack. But it was only a few days ago we learned that Cheney might have authorized Scooter Libby to leak classified information to reporters — and that story didn’t generate a tiny fraction of the coverage.”
What, Arianna makes a valid point? Mark your calendars. That’s right Arianna – the Cheney/Libby story didn’t involved the press themselves, so they weren’t nearly as interested.
Lawrence O’Donnell gets a little tipsy in writing:
“How do we know there was no alcohol? Cheney refused to talk to local authorities until the next day. No point in giving him a breathalyzer then. Every lawyer I’ve talked to assumes Cheney was too drunk to talk to the cops after the shooting.”
Does anyone still take this idiot seriously? If every lawyer he’s talked to assumes that, he lives in a very interesting cocoon. It explains a lot about Larry, actually.
National Review posts a transcript of ex-senator Alan Simpson dissecting Cheney for Chris Matthews:
“MATTHEWS: Doesn’t he have a special responsibility as someone in line to be President and Vice President of the United States to let people know that something this serious happened this Saturday?
“SIMPSON: Nothing happened to the Vice President, so what did the people of America need to know? Nothing happened to the Vice President, nothing.
“MATTHEWS: But he was the shooter in an accident that shot a guy.
“SIMPSON: That’s right.
“MATTHEWS: You don’t think that’s newsworthy?
“SIMPSON: All I know, Chris, is after a life in Washington, Dick Cheney, and I’m not paranoid, is not popular with the media, they don’t like him because he’s aloof and he doesn’t answer their questions and sometimes he tells them to stuff it, so any time Dick Cheney makes a fluff, it’s going to be the news of the day. I have been called by 20 different news agency today as if they had bombed Iraq again. I mean, this is nuts, absolutely nuts.”
God, I love Alan Simpson. A national treasure.
Harry Shearer sees a case of delayed outrage by the press:
“Of course, the Bush administration’s media strategy–keep it secret, deny it if it leaks, fire the dissenters–has been practiced far more than thrice. But the first two major versions of the strategy–the runup to the Iraq War and the aftermath of Katrina–occurred as tragedy. Now the gods reward us with the Dick Cheney shooting story, in which the media strategy resurfaces as farce.
“And, predictably, the White House press corps, which sat still and silent for the tragic versions, is up in arms over the farcical one.”
Again – you’re saying the media has been silent about the runup to the Iraq War and the mishandling of the Katrina response? Really?
In the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina professor and hunter Scott Denham fears for the image of his pastime:
“It is unfortunate that upland bird hunting has gotten this kind of bad press because of irresponsible hunting practices by a prominent member of the upper class. Hunting preserves open spaces for use by all; hunting connects younger generations with the land and with traditions; hunting is about conservation. As a hunter and conservationist, I feel misrepresented by Cheney and his ilk. They portray hunting as a sport for the rich, carried out on vast private lands, where pulling the trigger takes priority over everything else.”
ekno ,e wnwken.ske…. Sorry. The self-absorption there was a bit nauseating…. lost control for a minute….
Ed Morrissey rips The Post’s Dana Milbank for appearing with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann in an orange cap and orange safety vest:
“No, this isn’t a tryout for America’s Worst-Dressed Nerds; it’s Milbank trying to be funny and only succeeding at being funny-looking. Since when do serious journalists pull stunts like this? Heck, most bloggers I know wouldn’t be dumb enough to dress like this on national TV even as a joke, not if they wanted to maintain any credibility.
“Memo to the Exempt Media: it was an accident. Report it and get over it, and then shut . . . up so that we can listen to the real comedians make fun of Dick Cheney. Anyone want to guess how much higher the ratings for Jay and Dave will be tonight?”
I missed the memo. When did we become the exempt media, and what are we exempt from ? The normal rules of human discourse?
Um, how about the normal rules of rational human discourse? And would it have been o.k. for reporters to discuss Ted Kennedy’s, uh, accident, at Chappaquidick while wearing a life preserver?
Betsy’s Page wonders if this is just Beltway myopia:
“I suspect that the great majority of the American people realize that this was an accident. They know that Cheney must feel awful about injuring his friend. But they also know that the American people didn’t suffer by having to wait a day over the weekend to learn the story. I wonder how many of the Washington press corps have ever been hunting in their lives.”
Actually, Cheney probably does feel awful about injuring his friend. But how would we know that since he hasn’t uttered a syllable in public?
Well, Howie, the fact is that he shot Whittington, and he surely expressed his feelings to Whittington, and that is all that is important in this tragic personal story. He doesn’t owe the public an explanation or an apology. The fact that he undoubtedly will, on his own timeline, is a matter of grace that the press has no right to demand.
Sorry, but all that pith wore me out. I don’t feel like including all the links in Kurtz’s article. Please go there for links to his sources of this oh so rich material.
Hat Tip: The Professor.