Cheney Under Pressure

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, February 15, 2006; 12:18 PM

Five days after he shot his hunting partner, Fox News announced today that Vice President Cheney will break his public silence this afternoon in an interview with anchor Brit Hume.

The pressure had been mounting for Cheney to address the public, and in this morning's press coverage the big question was when, precisely, he would crack.

Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker write in The 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. . . .

"Some current and former White House officials said Cheney's refusal to address the issue or accept any blame has the potential to become a political problem for Bush because it reinforces the image of a secretive and above-the-law White House. . . .

"One person close to both men said that Bush is the only person in the White House who could persuade Cheney to change strategy and that even high-level White House aides are reluctant to take on the vice president's office."

On NBC's Today Show, Matt Lauer talked with Tim Russert , who explained why the White House was hesitant about insisting that Cheney go public.

"I think the concern is the questions that will be asked. . . . Why did it take so long to report this to the American people? Was there any special consideration given to the vice president because of his office? What was the distance involved between the vice president and the victim? A lot of unanswered questions. And they realize that if it's a full-blown press conference, it also could involve questions about Scooter Libby, his chief of staff who resigned, Katrina, Iraq, and so forth."

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Cheney the Drag

Mark Silva writes in the Chicago Tribune: "The hunting saga follows much deeper-reaching Cheney-related problems for the White House. Last week, court papers surfaced that showed Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, had testified to a grand jury that 'superiors' had authorized him to disclose national intelligence in the summer of 2003 to drum up support for the war in Iraq. That followed Libby's indictment last year for alleged obstruction of justice in a federal probe of who leaked a CIA operative's identity.

"For President Bush, attempting to regain footing after the most politically difficult year of his presidency, the Cheney-related controversies have served to undermine the administration's efforts to direct attention toward positive news about the American economy, focus new attention on the president's remaining second-term agenda and renew flagging support for the war against terrorism."

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press: "His strong insistence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction helped build the case for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He also has played the role of point man in the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program in the war on terror.

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