It’s a new low for the liberal media: a hunting accident was transformed by the national press into a Watergate-style scandal that could result in high-level resignations. The Cheney hunting accident was fodder for the late-night talk shows, but a popular joke circulating on the Internet was that hunting with Cheney is safer than driving with Ted Kennedy. The media acted as if they were going to discover that Cheney, “the shooter,” had been on the grassy knoll.
The media’s handling of the incident was not funny. Members of the White House press corps engaged in a feeding frenzy that only made themselves look bad.
There apparently was a communication breakdown, and the White House could have handled it differently. But most of the controversy was driven by dismay over the fact that a local paper was informed of the incident before the national press, and that a “private citizen” had provided the information. But there were other issues. For example, did Cheney have a hunting license? And did he take a hunting safety course?
Or how about this one, offered at a White House briefing: “Is it proper for the Vice President to offer his resignation or has he offered his resignation?”
How about this exchange:
“Q: Scott, when you consider the chronology you’re trying to go through here, and all of the various wrinkles of how long it took for the primary information that the Vice President was the person who shot this fellow to get through to the President, himself, is there any notion here of reviewing your own communications apparatus? I mean, this is sort of reminiscent of the levee story, frankly, you know?
“McClellan: I reject that. I disagree with that fully, Peter. I don’t know what you’re referring to there, but I reject the insinuation there.
“Q: Well, when you look at how long it took for the information in that case to get through and the information in this case to get through, or you could look?
“McClellan: Peter, there are certain facts that you don’t know necessarily immediately; people are getting that information together, in terms of exactly what happened. I mean, I don’t think you immediately know all the facts in situations that you bring up, particularly in terms of a hurricane that was unprecedented in terms of the scope of the damage that occurred. So I don’t know how you can leap from here to that comparison.”
On cable, Ron Reagan turned in a laughable performance. He lost his show on MSNBC and it’s easy to see why. Brought back on the network to comment on the hunting accident, Reagan said on the Hardball show that local authorities should have looked into whether Cheney had it in for the victim?”if he had anything against Mr. [Harry] Whittington.” Reagan also said that Cheney or other members of his hunting party should have been asked about whether they had been drinking.
On CNN, Jack Cafferty read an email from someone suggesting that Whittington was the target of an assassination attempt because he could tie Cheney to Abramoff.
What’s funny in a strange sense is that the media would try to inflate this controversy into a national scandal. Everybody saw through it. It may reflect their disgust with Cheney or the Bush Administration in general. But by acting in this rabid manner, reporters only reinforce the public perception of a liberal media bias.
I guess it’s better for the press to beat up Cheney than to come up with lame excuses about why they won’t publish or show those controversial Muhammad cartoons.