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Phil's Rambling Rants
February 16th, 2006
04:18 pm

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I'm sorry.  There IS an issue here.
Other people -- people I consider intelligent, whose opinions I respect -- have said on other journals that the Cheney hunting accident has been blown way out of proportion and we need to stop worrying about it.  They say that it was only an accident, that Cheney has done the right thing by apologizing and taking responsibility, and we're all done here. They say there is no evidence of a cover-up.  Some imply that the only reason to continue the discussion is a political desire to score points against the administration.

With all due respect, I cannot agree.

  1. While the shooting was certainly not intentional, it does raise questions of whether it was truly unavoidable given that the group was going hunting in the first place, or whether there was real negligence involved.  When legitimate questions about whether alcohol was involved are met with the kind of a stern "no comment" that really looks like an admission of guilt, and when it comes to light that the Vice President didn't care enough about following the rules of hunting to have the proper license, I do not think it is unfair to wonder whether this was a genuine accident, or a case of recklessness.

  2. Cheney has apologized and taken responsibility, but when he waits three days before he does it and does it by an exclusive interview with a network so friendly to him that half of the country does not consider it a reliable news source, he only gets a "C" in my "doing the right thing" book.  He passes, but not with a praiseworthy performance.

  3. The White House has a large staff whose job is to work with the press on getting important information out to the public in a timely fashion.  It is not right that the story came out through the owner of the ranch talking to an obscure newspaper in a minor city, rather than through the channels the White House uses when they consider the story important.  I truly cannot imagine any motivation for this other than the hope that nobody would notice the story so they could avoid a scandal.  Cover-up?  Maybe not really.  But certainly an attempt to hide it.

  4. There are more important issues before the country, such as the President's illegal wiretap program and Iran working as fast as they can to develop nuclear weapons.  It would be nice if the news media could cover an important, timely, but not top-of-the-heap issue like this without making it the only topic of discussion.  But I do believe we need to talk about the real problems I outlined above.  It should not continue to be front page news just because it is embarrassing to the Administration, but it also should not be dropped or suppressed just because it is embarrassing to the Administration.

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From:singlemaltsilk
Date:February 16th, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
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I detest the man, but Cheney has stated that no one in the hunting party had been drinking.
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 16th, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC)
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But only after days of having Scottie McClellan say "no comment".

If he were drunk, he would need to resign immediately. If Whittington were drunk (which is what the rumors claimed), it was worth talking about. If no alcohol was involved, he needs to say so right away. I think lawyers and politicians don't understand how damning "no comment" looks to Joe Sixpack.
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From:billroper
Date:February 16th, 2006 10:51 pm (UTC)
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1. As singlemaltsilk observed, the hunting party wasn't out drinking. Cheney said that he'd had a beer with lunch some hours before, which -- if true -- is pretty clearly going to leave him well below dangerous blood alcohol levels. As far as the missing (cheap, $7) stamp for the (expensive, $125) license that Cheney had, it seems to be a new requirement this year and a lot of folks are getting warnings as a result.

As someone who has actually gone quail hunting (years ago, with my father), I find it very easy to picture exactly how this would occur by accident. Cheney "knew" that he was on the end of the line, tracked a low-flying bird, and realized as he squeezed the trigger that he had just made a big mistake, because what he "knew" was just wrong.

2. Yup, Cheney probably should have done something about making a statement more quickly. But if you're going to ding him for choosing to go through Brit Hume (who actually does appear to be a journalist, as opposed to some of the folks on Fox), you'd have to ding Clinton for his various appearances on 60 Minutes and other CBS News programs when he wanted to fess up about something. Anyone in this situation is going to pick a news outlet that is going to conduct an interview, as opposed to an interrogation.

3. Cheney says that he didn't have any of his press people with him on vacation, which seems pretty reasonable. As far as his explanation of why he let Armstrong explain this to the Texas reporter, that's actually also persuasive to me: have someone who understands hunting explain the incident to someone else who understands hunting. This improves the chance that the initial report won't get screwed up beyond recognition by someone who doesn't know which end of a shotgun he's holding. I don't think there can be any doubt that the national press would become aware of the story once published, even if it were published in the Free Shopper.

4. I despair for the ability of the national news media to cover anything that can't be reduced to a sound bite.
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From:figmo
Date:February 16th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC)
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I was under the impression the first thing on their minds was getting the victim to the hospital.

I'm no fan of Cheney, but I'd cut him slack on handling stuff in what could have been a life-and-death emergency.

I would rather hear more information on how to avoid filling one's hunting partner full of buckshot than about who said what when.

The Bush Administration is having a field day with this because it's taking attention away from issues like the illegal wiretapping.
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From:billroper
Date:February 16th, 2006 11:34 pm (UTC)
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Birdshot, actually. Buckshot's larger and more damaging.

The short-form answer on how to avoid hitting your hunting partner: know where he is and don't shoot anywhere near him. Don't shoot if you have any doubt about whether the direction you're aiming is anywhere near someone in your party.

This still won't work, since no one's infallible. The bird is flying low across the brush, you're swinging to follow it, you've focused on the target, and you don't see that someone in your party is where you didn't at all expect them to be, despite the fact that they're wearing bright orange. It's like the auto accidents where someone gives a statement like "I changed lanes and hit a car that wasn't there."

As far as the Administration enjoying this, I've seen reports that indicate that folks in the Administration "suggested" to Cheney that perhaps he ought to get out there and make a statement. I saw a left-of-center friend of mine on LJ suggesting that the right-of-center folks wanted to continue flogging this beast as a distraction, but mostly I've seen the flogging coming from the left wing.

Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places. :)
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From:figmo
Date:February 17th, 2006 12:20 am (UTC)
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I'd call it an equal opportunity flogfest.
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From:duncanmac
Date:February 19th, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
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I do agree that this subject has been worked to death, but there are two
other points that come out of it:

Auto accidents are much more common -- and lethal -- than people realize.
Anything that kills 40,000+ people each and every year in the US -- and
another 4000 or so in Canada each year -- should *not* be trivialized.

Secondly, this episode reminds me *very* much of a similar scene in H.
Beam Piper's short story "Day of the Moron," except that in that case,
the victim was hit in the part of one's anatomy used for sitting down.
The technology in that story may be dated, but I believe the point he
made is *not* dated -- it's just very politically incorrect to repeat
it.

Sic transit gloria Monday ... and Tuesday's usually worse. :-)
(Deleted comment)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 18th, 2006 07:23 am (UTC)
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If some random nobody cheats on their taxes, is caught DUI, or pulls out a gun and shoots somebody in a bad neighborhood, it would also be a complete non-story, so the fact that people only care because it was the Vice President isn't a very good argument that it's not a story.

If "nobody would give a shit" actually means *nobody*, as opposed to nobody in the media business, I need to point out that the authorities do want to know about it when joe blow has a hunting accident, and I think they would take a dim view if it looked like joe blow was trying to hide it. They're required to give a shit when someone shows up at the hospital with a gunshot wound, and when you say it's a hunting accident and they ask if there was alcohol involved and you say "no comment", I think that's the point where you need a lawyer. Assuming for the sake of the argument that the story they took days to tell us is straight, the problem is not the accident itself, the problem is the way they handled it afterwards.
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From:tigertoy
Date:February 18th, 2006 07:25 am (UTC)
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You know, if I ever meet the people on the LJ staff responsible for this new login scheme, there had better be someone there to restrain me or I'm gonna get myself in trouble.
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