Media Matters

Firestorm and Media Brimstoning

Symptoms of a collective nervous breakdown -- and David Gregory was one of the saner haters.

By 2.16.06

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The mainstream media's petulance peaked this week after they disapproved of Vice President Dick Cheney's notification method about his hunting accident in Texas. Once again the White House press corps reminded us that it's not about the story, or the victim, but about them.

The usual journalism suspects who always exhibit "objective" criticism of the Bush administration displayed especially feral cattiness, and I'm not even talking about the demonstrative David Gregory of NBC News. No, the think-strained wretches of print did themselves proud as well.

Stories in the national newspapers linked the alleged disclosure delay about the unfortunate shooting of his friend, Harry Whittington, to the following Cheney behavioral peculiarities:

(USA Today)

-His "penchant for secrecy"

-His fight against releasing the "names of oil and gas company executives who met with the energy task force he headed"

-His failure to hold news conferences or to tell reporters of his whereabouts

(New York Times)

-Cheney's "habit of living in his own world in the Bush White House"

-His "freedom that only a political figure who knows he is in his last job...can get away with"

-His suspected "fear of leaks"

-His "power center of his own"

(Washington Post)

-Cheney's "unparalleled autonomy"

-His heavy influence over Iraq policy after the 9/11/01 terror attacks

-A "string of political embarrassments linked to Cheney, including not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," and the indictment of chief of staff Scooter Libby

I don't know what any of Cheney's alleged traits and actions, listed above, has to do with the timing of his hunting accident disclosure, but the press never needs a clear connection when it comes to whining about their access to him.

Perhaps most ludicrous is the press's insistence that this incident had something to do with Cheney's alleged "secret" tendencies. For someone whom the media has depicted as the brains of the administration, do any of them really believe -- or expect their readers to believe -- that the vice president thought shooting somebody could be kept private? Hence we have a herring shaded scarlet.

Even sillier is the idea that Cheney should have notified the press corps immediately and delivered an explanation of the incident, and of his feelings. Howard Kurtz of the Post emphasized how long it took the vice president to show "public regret." And after disclosure, on Thursday following his interview with Fox News' Brit Hume, the papers universally noted how Cheney accepted responsibility for shooting Whittington but refused to take blame for not sending his message boy to the Washington press corps. Meanwhile the New York Times reported that Cheney told his story to Hume in a "just-the-facts monotone."

Obviously it's the enigmatic Cheney's fault that the media misunderstand him so much, that after six years they are still waiting for him to emote.

In the eyes of that press, Cheney's persistent reticence is causing real problems between him and the White House. Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker of the Post claimed the "slow and unapologetic response...is turning the quail-hunting mishap into a political liability for the Bush administration." Susan Page of USA Today said Cheney is "at the center of a White House firestorm," which "is an unwelcome interruption at a time (President Bush's) approval rating has slipped to 39 percent in the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll."

And under the headline, "Handling of Mishap Creates Strain in the White House," New York Times reporter David Sanger wrote that Cheney's "habit of living in his own world....had backfired since the accident in Texas on Saturday."

Leave it to the White House press corps to have the audacity to blame Cheney's information management, and not their own badgering of presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan, as the source of "tension" and "strain" in the administration. David Gregory's antics alone could have made anybody in the room blow a gasket.

Even more arrogant is that they think their opinion of how they are handled directly correlates to the Bush administration's approval ratings.

Kind of makes me wish that, despite Hume's respected reputation, Cheney had done his television interview with KZTV News in Corpus Christi instead.

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About the Author

Paul Chesser publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, a news aggregator for North Carolina, and is a contributor of articles, research and investigative reports for both national and state-level free-market think tanks.