Still more questions than answers in Cheney shooting

If Vice President Dick Cheney thought his staged appearance on Fox News would put questions to rest over his shooting of a lawyer/friend during a hunting trip last weekend, he was wrong.

Reports Mark Babineck in the Houston Chronicle:

The South Texas sun hung low on the sprawling Armstrong Ranch when Vice President Dick Cheney’s hunting party encountered two last coveys of quail.

The late-day find could have meant a winged bonanza for Cheney, prominent Austin lawyer Harry Whittington and Pamela Willeford, U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Instead, the final shot from Cheney’s 28-gauge Perazzi Brescia shotgun found Whittington, peppering his right torso, neck and face with up to 200 pellets.

"I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend," Cheney said Wednesday on Fox News Channel, his only public account of the Feb. 11 shooting. "And I say that is something I’ll never forget."

But despite a week of details trickling out from Cheney, Whittington, eyewitnesses and official reports of the incident, a clear picture of exactly what happened on the ranch’s Comal Pasture has yet to emerge.

The White House also has been battered with questions about why Cheney waited until the next day to announce the shooting and then did so by having ranch owner Katharine Armstrong call the local newspaper.

Calvin Woodward of The Associated Press:

Vice President Dick Cheney said he didn’t immediately disclose his hunting accident because he wanted the confusing details to come out right. Instead, authorized accounts came out slowly – and often still wrong.

The result: a week of shifting blame, belatedly acknowledged beer consumption (not “zero” drinking after all) and evolving discrepancies in how the shooting happened, its aftermath and the way it was told to the nation.

“There’s a reason they call this crisis management,” said corporate damage-control specialist Eric Dezenhall, “and that’s because it’s a mess.”

The Kansas City Star (via the The Salt Lake Tribune):

Now that Vice President Dick Cheney has bagged his limit on lawyers, he should take a refresher course in gun safety.

Despite testimonials to Cheney being an experienced and "very safe sportsman," initial accounts of what happened last Saturday suggest he made some serious mistakes that could have resulted in tragedy.

To qualify for a "very safe" ranking as a hunter, for example, one should ensure that no humans are in the line of fire before pulling the trigger on a shotgun. Cheney obviously failed that test on his quail-hunting trip in Texas.

Cheney’s office did not disclose what had happened until nearly 24 hours later, after a newspaper Web site had spilled the beans.

Perhaps the administration will now want to investigate another damnable leak to the press. After all, we wouldn’t want the nation’s enemies to think that behind the vice president’s facade of sober, tough-minded competence is a trigger-happy bumbler.