Cheney doesn't go off half-cocked
February 18, 2006 - Vice President Cheney seemed forthright about his own responsibility - “Ultimately, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger” - for the unfortunate hunting accident in south Texas last Saturday. Unfortunately, in an interview Wednesday with Brit Hume of Fox News Channel, Cheney still displayed a certain tone deafness about when it would have been appropriate for him (or his people) to inform the news media about the shooting.
This is hardly to deny that some in the news media have been more petulant than is appropriate, perhaps even childish, about their purported right to know immediately. But the vice president did not seem to grasp that anything a vice president does, especially anything as dramatic as accidentally shooting a friend, is rightly subject to public disclosure and public scrutiny.
In his interview, Cheney went back several times to the assertion that if he had notified the press Saturday night, the statement might not have been entirely accurate, since there was still some uncertainty about just how serious the wounds to Texas attorney Harry Whittington were. That may be true, but irrelevant. It would have been quite possible and much wiser to announce what they did know, acknowledge what they didn't know, and let the media know that updates would be provided.
By delaying the announcement, Cheney made himself the butt of countless jokes, aroused suspicions that his instinctive secretiveness is more appropriate to an autocracy than a republic, harmed himself and the administration he serves and launched a thousand conspiracy theories and speculations.
You would think politicians would learn that the cover-up - in any form - is often worse than the crime - even if there seems at this point no evidence of a crime. Nobody is eager to publicize incidents that put him or her in a bad light. But people elected to high office in this country live in a fishbowl and have a special duty to be open with the people who elected them. Nobody forced them to run for office. They should be prepared to take the heat and to do so promptly and openly.