Gunning for Cheney

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 15, 2006; 10:24 AM

Other than the fact that a sitting vice president hasn't shot anyone since Aaron Burr dispatched Alexander Hamilton, why is Dick Cheney the non-sharpshooter getting so much coverage?

Okay, other than the fact that the comics haven't had so much fun since President Bush choked on a pretzel. (Letterman: "We can't get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney.")

Okay, other than the fact that the VP saw no reason to tell the press and immediately went into the metaphorical equivalent of a secret undisclosed location?

And other than the this-isn't-so-funny-after-all news yesterday that the birdshot had caused Harry Whittington to suffer a minor heart attack?

The reason this is such a crossover hit, I believe, is that it encapsulates everything we know, or think we know, about Vice President Cheney.

So secretive that he even waited to tell Bush. So taciturn that he feels no need for a public apology. So insulated that he defers a police interview until the following morning. So defensive that he has not so much as acknowledged a mistake.

At 2:47 p.m. yesterday, Cheney's office finally put out a statement, saying he had called Whittington and wished him well--but still not even a hint of public regret.

Part of the dynamic here is that the birdshot brouhaha gives everyone a chance to play their assigned roles.

The White House press corps is outraged at the 21-hour delay in informing the world.

Liberals say this is typical of the way the administration botched the war, and they wonder why journalists didn't get this exercised about being misled on WMD.

Conservatives say this is nothing but a common hunting accident, and they blame journalists for blowing it way out of proportion.

I'm happy to report that Bill O'Reilly reads Media Notes online (or at least someone on his staff does). He responded last night to my observation that he led with Al Gore saying in Saudi Arabia that the U.S. has mistreated Arabs (no coverage in major newspapers, he's right about that) and inexplicably reduced the Cheney accident to the day's most ridiculous item. The veep's failure to come clean, says Mr. O, is because of his "well-known press phobia. . . . The vice president's hunting accident affects no one, means nothing, and the vice president's refusal to brief the press was predictable." O'Reilly did allow that "Dick Cheney's secret style hurts him."

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