News flash: Cheney story doesn’t matter
News consumers on a 24-hour cycle are somewhat peeved at the vice president – it took less time for us to learn about Britney Spears’ new baby than Dick Cheney peppering a 78-year-old man with birdshot. For my money, the birdshot story is a lot more entertaining, and thus deserved to be told earlier.
Half the people who don’t like Cheney now, never liked him before. And the other half never knew he was a hunter. (Hint: The translation for “undisclosed location” is “duck hunting in Boise.”) Maybe they are generally opposed to hunting, and especially opposed to bagging humans. A Tahoe Daily Tribune Web poll last week asked “Did Vice President Dick Cheney inform the public of his hunting mishap in a timely enough manner?” With just under 300 responses, the jury was split almost 50-50, like a Florida election.
I happen to fall into the 50 percent who don’t really care. And I’m apparently one of the few people in the press who doesn’t think the V.P. was “obligated” to tell the press within “X amount of time” … except for the entertainment value. Just because CNN wants the story right away, doesn’t mean anyone is obligated to give it to them. I was kind of happy to learn the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times scooped “mainstream” media. Why does a hard-hitting journalist like Bill O’Reilly deserve it first?
If there’s any real cause for concern, it’s that the local Barney Fife (all due respect to the late Don Knotts) didn’t fully investigate the potential Mr. Cheney had a few pops that day, and perhaps a lazy trigger finger. Cheney says he had one beer with lunch before the accident. Without any investigation, or even a simple breathalyzer, we’ll have to take his word for it.
And personally, as a shooting sports enthusiast and someone who believes hunters are a generally responsible group of people, my other concern is that high-profile accidents like this reflect poorly on the larger community. Shooting a human, even if only with a shotgun, is generally frowned upon by outdoorsmen – a somewhat unforgivable breaking of “the gun is always loaded” rule. But in bird hunting it happens, usually at 30 or 40 yards where it doesn’t hurt so bad.
Cheney’s punishment, other than having to hear his name mentioned 20 times in a Jay Leno monologue, should be to have his 12-gauge withdrawn and demotion back to Red Rider BB gun status. He should show contrition by taking a hunter safety course, and wear a blaze orange vest every day for a year – and no keynote addresses at the National Rifle Association convention. Reducing the bore of his rifle should also, with practice, improve his aim.
And what of the political fallout?
TV talking heads may say the shooting is a direct hit to the White House’s political agenda. But to me it sounds like the issue will turn out to be another loser for the Democrats, who can’t attach themselves to anything with meaning. And with the Dems rolling out the old “This is indicative of a larger pattern of secrecy … blah, blah, blah,” they will only continue to do more damage. Damage upon damage, eliminating the possibility of a healthy, good old-fashioned two-party system – like during the Newt Gingrich/Bill Clinton years.
Let’s face it, Cheney shooting his friend (who, believe it or not, apologized from his hospital bed), is about as important as Britney Spears giving birth. No more, no less.
– Jim Scripps, managing editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, can be contacted at email@example.com.
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