Tuesday, February 14

THE SHOT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD -- A DAY LATER

I'm in agreement with a Houston Chronicle editorial published today that appropriately chides the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney for their failure to notify the news media in a timely manner on the shooting accident involving the vice president (the shooter) and a member of his hunting party, Harry Whittington, who was accidentally shot. The 18-hour gap between the inadvertent shooting and the subsequent acknowledgement of the accident is newsworthy.

The administration's failure to alert news media to a weekend shooting accident in which Vice President Dick Cheney pulled the trigger has magnified a minor incident into something far more substantial: a symbol of the disdain shown by the nation's top leaders for timely and truthful public disclosure.

Having said that, I also think the White House press corps was over-the-top in many of its questions -- a good number rhetorical -- to White House spokesman Scott McClellan in what became a contentious, over-heated exchange yesterday. You'd think the Vice President had given a speech in the Middle East to a group of Saudis charging that the U.S. government had committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs on the heels of the "9/11" attack on American soil.

But, folks, that wasn't Dick Cheney. No, that was Al Gore, and neither he nor his office has provided any substantive evidence of his preposterous charges. And yet the national press is giving the former vice president a pass, while forging full steam ahead into whether or not the current Republican veep was properly licensed, incontrovertibly sober, and wearing the obligatory orange vest. Captain Ed provides a good example of just how unprofessional and trigger-happy some in the press have behaved in the wake of the hunting incident. Aren't journalists supposed to be distinguishable from late night comics?

At least it can be said fairly of the injuries to Harry Whittington that they were the result of an accidental shooting. Certain of the Washington press corps are now seen taking dead aim at Dick Cheney and the Bush administration with malice aforethought. Trigger-happy journalists gunning for Cheney may, in short order, become more the story than the failure of the White House to provide a timely press release.