The Cheney shooting is just a tragic, relatively minor accident. It’s getting huge coverage for two reasons: “Vice president shoots lawyer” makes good copy, and his handling of the aftermath was, frankly, mystifying.
But for students of media bias, I wouldn’t look at the media frenzy through a liberal or conservative lens. Instead, consider another past victim of the same phenomenon: President Jimmy Carter.
In 1979, Carter found himself embroiled in a flap over his encounter with a “killer rabbit”. That story was similarly blown out of proportion by the press (the Washington Post ran a front-page headline that declared “President attacked by rabbit”).
All that aside, here are some thoughts on the subject:
1. Cheney apparently shot *behind* the hunting line, not in front of it. That was always pretty much a no-no when I was growing up. The whole *point* of a line is that nobody wanders into somebody else’s sights. Approaching from behind is supposed to be the safe zone.
2. Waiting 18 hours to report the incident (after a good night’s sleep and everything) illustrates Cheney’s reflexive secrecy — and also illustrates why such secrecy is stupid and self-defeating. Apparently McClellan pleaded with Cheney and the administration to go public, in detail, as soon as he found out about it. He knew what this would look like.
3. Cheney strongly defends the idea that quietly releasing the story to the local paper was the proper response. That’s just plain stupid. He’s the vice-president of the United States. What happens to him is national news, not local trivia. If we can’t count on the administration to tell us when stuff like this happens we can’t count on them to come clean about bigger things, either.
None of this adds up to a big deal, but the way Cheney handled it reflects some of the least-flattering parts of his personality.
As for other details:
1. The fact that Cheney was missing a $7 stamp is a nonissue. His staff asked the state, and the state got it wrong. Cheney did not apparently get special treatment in that regard.
2. Any speculation about drinking (of which there has been a surprising amount) is a nonissue unless actual evidence pops up.
3. I’m glad the victim appears to be recovering nicely.