Not Exactly Clearing Things Up

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, February 16, 2006; 1:00 PM

Vice President Cheney's sit-down with Fox News yesterday ended his four days of hiding out after shooting a 78-year-old lawyer in a hunting accident. Speaking with Brit Hume, Cheney publicly accepted responsibility for the shooting and called it "one of the worst days of my life."

But he did little to clear up the many mysteries swirling around the shooting and his decision to keep it secret for almost a day.

For instance: Was Cheney reckless? Obviously, the shooting of Harry Whittington was an accident, but could it have been prevented? Understanding what happened would require a much more detailed recounting than Cheney -- or any of the other witnesses -- have given thus far.

In fact, where are all those other witnesses? Why haven't we heard in more detail from Cheney's other hunting partner that afternoon, Ambassador to Switzerland Pamela Willeford? Even more significantly, why haven't we heard a word from the hunting guide on horseback who it turns out was right there, as well? Or from the Secret Service, which was presumably keeping an eye on things?

What was the real reason Cheney didn't want to make a public announcement right away? Even the generally deferential Hume didn't buy Cheney's repeated insistence that he was waiting to get accurate information about his victim's condition: "But there were some things you knew. I mean, you knew the man had been shot, you knew he was injured, you knew he was in the hospital, and you knew you'd shot him," Hume said.

And is Cheney answerable to anyone in the White House?

So Many Unanswered Questions

Here's the transcript and video of the Fox News interview.

Craig Gordon and Tom Brune write in Newsday: "Vice President Dick Cheney's public mea culpa yesterday did little to clear up significant questions surrounding the accidental shooting, including why the White House sat on the story for almost a full day and whether he received preferential treatment from local deputies.

"Here is a look at some of those questions:

"Why didn't Cheney just put the word out Saturday night to avoid risking charges coming from critics now of a cover-up?. . . .

"The White House has an elaborate media operation. Why did Cheney bypass it and the national media outlets that cover the White House around the clock?"

Dick Polman writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Cheney said yesterday that 'the White House was notified' about the shooting Saturday night. But who exactly informed White House chief of staff Andrew Card about the shooting -- without telling Card who the shooter was? Did Card not ask who it was? Shortly thereafter, according to the White House, Card told President Bush that a shooting had occurred but said nothing to Bush about a shooter. Did Bush not ask who it was? . . .

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