One Cheney Answer That Is Hard to Believe

Thursday, February 16, 2006

One Cheney Answer That Is Hard to Believe

An exclusive interview with Fox -- good reason for Cheney to grin

My initial impressions of the Cheney bird-hunting incident were that it appeared to be a fairly insignificant event. But reading over Cheney's interview with Fox's Brit Hume makes one wonder yet again whether Dick Cheney is spinning or distorting the truth.

NPR's David Green reported this morning that Hume "didn't press" Cheney when the vice president was interviewed yesterday. No great shock there. But perhaps other reporters will try to press Cheney on one of his answers. Consider this exchange:
HUME: "And what did you do then? Did you get up and did you go with him, or did you go to the hospital?"

CHENEY: "No, I had -- I told my physician's assistant to go with him, but the ambulance is crowded and they didn't need another body in there. And so we loaded up and went back to ranch headquarters, basically."
A crowded ambulance would explain why Cheney might not accompany Harry Whittington to the hospital by squeezing into the ambulance. But it doesn't explain why Cheney didn't get in the other vehicle and drive to the hospital. Instead, he chose to return to "ranch headquarters." Why?

After all, Cheney had just described Whittington as a "good friend" he has known for 30 years. And he had also told Hume that he believed Whittington's condition "could have been extraordinarily serious."

If you had accidentally shot a good friend of 30 years and you felt his condition might be "extraordinarily serious," would you drive back to a ranch and wait there for news? I highly doubt it. You'd almost certainly want to be there at the hospital if only to meet any of Whittington's family members who might show up, as well as to be one of the first persons to hear of any changes in his condition.

This answer may well contribute to the speculation that the vice president may have been under the influence of alcohol when he was hunting this weekend. Cheney has already acknowledged having drunk beer at lunchtime, but he asserted that his group didn't resume hunting until after 3 p.m.

Of course, it's no surprise why Hume was chosen by Cheney to conduct the exclusive interview. The day before the interview, Hume had made his feelings clear, essentially saying the controversy was much ado about nothing:
"It doesn't seem to me, from what I can tell, from what I'm reading from the public, that the public much cares about whether they found out about this on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon or Monday morning."
On what basis did Hume reach this conclusion? What was he "reading from the public"? I haven't seen any polls on the shooting-and-disclosure issue.

In a statement, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) declared, "Now that [Cheney] feels forced to talk, he wants to restrict the discussion to a friendly news outlet, guaranteeing no hard questions from the press corps."

In any case, it will be interesting to see if any reporters explore the question raised by Cheney's decision to blow off a hospital visit and drive back to the ranch.

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