You knew Maureen Dowd would have something to say about The Incident. Today’s column (via True Blue Liberal) doesn’t disappoint, as she describes the “swift-BB-ing” of Harry Whittington.
Private citizens have been enlisted to blame the victim. Maybe poor Mr. Whittington put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he was, after all, behind Vice, not in front of him. And the hunter pulling the trigger is supposed to make sure he has a clear shot. Wouldnâ€™t it be, well, classy for Shooter to express just a bit of contrition and humility?
Instead, the usual sliming has begun, with the Cheney camp trying to protect the vice president by casting a veteran hunter as Elmer Dud.
Indeed, righties are lashing out at everyone in North America except those in the Bush Administration. Get this editorial at National Review Online:
Never has an accidental shooting occasioned so much glee. Whatever mistakes Vice President Dick Cheney might have made while hunting on the Armstrong Ranch in Texas this weekend, or in deciding how to make the mishap public, have been eclipsed by the disgusting wallowing in the accident of all his critics and the unsurpassable self-regard of national reporters outraged by a delay of at least 14 hours in getting alerted to the story. They worked themselves into a first-class tizzy at Monday’s White House press briefing, proving that no matter what the story is, reporters think itâ€™s all about them. It is understandable that Cheney would not consider notifying the media his first priority following an accident during a quail-hunting trip with friends, and the meaning that is being read into the incident â€” about Cheney’s character, the administration’s competence, Bush’s foreign policy, and much else â€” is absurd.
This little tantrum is followed by the mild suggestion that, um, maybe the Veep should make a public statement now. But how juvenile is this? NRO sounds like a kid who got in trouble for not doing his homework and who then complains to Mom and Dad that Teacher picks on me.
Dear righties: Vice screwed up. Big Time. Stop making excuses for him and let him take his lumps like a man.
Fact is, even some Republicans are acknowledging that Cheney’s behavior is seriously weird. Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker write in today’s Washington Post:
Vice President Cheney’s slow and unapologetic public response to the accidental shooting of a 78-year-old Texas lawyer is turning the quail-hunting mishap into a political liability for the Bush administration and is prompting senior White House officials to press Cheney to publicly address the issue as early as today, several prominent Republicans said yesterday.
The Republicans said Cheney should have immediately disclosed the shooting Saturday night to avoid even the suggestion of a coverup and should have offered a public apology for his role in accidentally shooting Harry Whittington, a GOP lawyer from Austin. …
… “I cannot believe he does not look back and say this should have been handled differently,” said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota who is close to the White House. Weber said Cheney “made it a much bigger issue than it needed to be.”
Marlin Fitzwater, a former Republican White House spokesman, told Editor & Publisher magazine that Cheney “ignored his responsibility to the American people.”
This episode does speak volumes about Dick Cheney’s character. And what it’s saying isn’t good. Whatever happened in that quail hunt, the fact that the Vice President couldn’t even tell the President what happened, and that he still cannot publicly state that he is sorry he pulled that trigger, bespeaks a pathological lack of character.
This is genuinely disturbing. Even your standard sociopath could have managed an act of contrition for the public once he understood it was in his best interest to do so.
And if the Veep is so unglued by a hunting accident that he can neither inform the President nor speak in public about it, what’s he doing a heartbeat away from the presidency?
David Sanger writes in today’s New York Times that The Incident has created a serious rift between the President’s and Vice President’s staffs. “The tension between President Bush’s staff and Mr. Cheney’s has been palpable,” Sanger writes.
Until this week, the periodic disconnect between Mr. Cheney’s office and the rest of the White House has been the source of grumbling, but rarely open tension. … In the past five years, Mr. Cheney has grown accustomed to having a power center of his own, with his own miniature version of a national security council staff. It conducts policy debates that often happen parallel those among Mr. Bush’s staff.
Um, so who’s in charge?
At WaPo, David Ignatius placed The Incident in the context of “An Arrogance of Power.” The Bush Administration, he writes, has become intoxicated with a belief in its own “God-given mission.”
I would be inclined to leave Cheney to the mercy of Jon Stewart and Jay Leno if it weren’t for other signs that this administration has jumped the tracks. What worries me most is the administration’s misuse of intelligence information to advance its political agenda. For a country at war, this is truly dangerous.
The most recent example of politicized intelligence was President Bush’s statement on Feb. 9 that the United States had “derailed” a 2002 plot to fly a plane into the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. Bush spoke about four al Qaeda plotters who had planned to use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door. But a foreign official with detailed knowledge of the intelligence scoffed at Bush’s account, saying that the information obtained from Khalid Sheik Mohammed and an Indonesian operative known as Hambali was not an operational plan so much as an aspiration to destroy the tallest building on the West Coast. When I asked a former high-level U.S. intelligence official about Bush’s comment, he agreed that Bush had overstated the intelligence.
“Bush and Cheney are in the bunker,” Ignatius concludes. “That’s the only way I can make sense of their actions.” And the hard-core culties are in the bunker with them, outraged that anyone dare question the Vice President’s actions.
Criticize a politician? In America? Unthinkable. Our dear leaders are beyond reproach. Unless they’re Democrats.
(Cross-posted to The American Street)