On Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said that Vice President Dick Cheney "did the manly thing" in withholding information from the public concerning his accidental shooting of hunting companion Harry Whittington.
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On the February 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said that Vice President Dick Cheney "did the manly thing" in withholding information from the public concerning his accidental shooting of lawyer Harry Whittington during a hunting excursion in Texas on February 11. Krauthammer said that, in withholding the information, Cheney had decided, "I'll take the heat, but I'm going to give my host and my friend, who just got shot, a half a day of reprieve." Krauthammer's characterization of Cheney's handling of the accident as "manly" is interesting, given the fact that, in the four days since it occurred, the vice president has not once appeared in public to address the incident and remained silent as the White House press secretary, the host of the hunting party, and the vice president's own adviser laid blame for the incident on the man Cheney shot.
During a February 13 White House press briefing -- after the "half a day of reprieve" observed by Krauthammer had elapsed -- press secretary Scott McClellan responded to a reporter's question about whether Cheney followed appropriate safety procedures by noting that Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the ranch where the incident occurred, said publicly that it was Whittington who was not following the safety protocol.
Cheney also disclaimed any responsibility for the shooting through a spokesperson on February 12. The Washington Post quoted Republican political strategist Mary Matalin as saying that Cheney "felt badly, obviously. On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the [rules]. He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do." According to the newspaper, Matalin conferred with Cheney the morning after the shooting before speaking to the Post.
From the February 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
KRAUTHAMMER: It's not about the shooting. And it's disproportionate, because as Mort [Kondracke, Roll Call executive editor] indicated, this is about other issues. This is about the press thinking that, on weapons of destruction, on the torture and all this other stuff, information is being withheld. So it takes it out on McClellan, the poor guy, on this trivial delay. It is a trivial delay. In fact, I can understand, if you were the vice president and you just shot a friend, you feel awful for him. You want to worry about him. And you know that if you call up NBC, you're going to have the world at the hospital, the world at the farm. You're going to have your host and your victim and all of the others besieged. You might want to give them a 12-hour reprieve to sort of get things straightened out.
MARA LIASSON (National Public Radio national political correspondent): Well, give him a 12-hour reprieve and issue a statement. Don't just call a local newspaper.
KRAUTHAMMER: What I'm saying is it was a decision that I think -- look, he knew -- Cheney knew he would get a lot of heat for withholding this, and I think he did the manly thing. He decided, "I'll take the heat, but I'm going to give my host and my friend, who just got shot, a half a day of reprieve." Anyway, it's a minor issue, and to make it into this -- I mean, it was a zoo at the White House yesterday. I think the public had the right reaction. It was disproportionate and unseemly.
From the February 13 White House press briefing:
QUESTION: I know you had a chance to speak to, I assume, the president and the vice president today. Did the vice president follow all of the appropriate safety procedures that are familiar to hunters in this case?
McCLELLAN: I think if you've got specifics about that, probably direct them to the vice president's office. I don't know all the specifics about it, but I think Mrs. Armstrong spoke publicly about how this incident occurred. And if I recall, she pointed out that the protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington, when it came to notifying the others that he was there. And so, you know, unfortunately these types of hunting accidents happen from time to time. And all of us were most concerned about Mr. Whittington. And as I said, the vice president was glad to see he was doing fine yesterday and that he's in good spirits. He is someone that many of us here know and have great respect for, and we look forward to him getting out of the hospital soon.