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US press returns fire on Cheney

American Vice-President Dick Cheney
Cheney's poor aim has been seized upon by critics of President Bush
Grim news about the condition of the 78-year-old Texas lawyer shot by US Vice-President Dick Cheney appears to have focused the opinions of US newspapers and bloggers.

Up until Valentine's Day, coverage of Mr Cheney's mishap had provided fertile ground for TV sketch writers and offered editorial writers across the US a little light relief from the Washington grind.

But then came confirmation that Harry Whittington suffered a minor heart attack as a result of his wounds, and evidence of disagreements and secrecy within the White House about how to limit the public fallout.

Newsday analyst Craig Gordon suggests on Wednesday that as the incident takes a more serious and embarrassing turn for the vice-president, it is more likely to stick in the minds of the US public.

Give the guy a break. He just shot someone - that has to be fairly traumatic
Robert Schlesinger
Huffington Post
"In this case, secrecy surrounding wiretaps and questions of competence surrounding Hurricane Katrina and Iraq could become wrapped up in the errant shot of a vice-president whose approval ratings are among the lowest in the administration," he writes.

The transformation of Mr Cheney's misfire from comic turn to political metaphor is most in evidence in the New York Times.

The newspaper dissects the White House's apparent reluctance to reveal the full story, offers a detailed graphic on the workings of a shotgun, and lets star columnist Maureen Dowd loose on Mr Cheney.

"With American soldiers dying in Iraq, Five-Deferment Dick 'I Had Other Priorities in the 60s Than Military Service' Cheney gets his macho kicks gunning down little birds and the occasional old man while W rides his bike, blissfully oblivious to any collateral damage," Ms Dowd writes.

"Shouldn't these guys work on weekends until we figure out how to fix Iraq, New Orleans, Medicare and gas prices?"

Righteous anger

For the Wall Street Journal, the real culprits were the media, guilty of seeking scandal at every turn.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan briefs the press on 14 February
Scot McClellan's jousts with the press received a lot of coverage
"Don't these Bush people understand that the cover-up is worse than the crime?" Wednesday's edition asks, lampooning what it sees as the US media's fixation with sleaze.

Online, at The Huffington Post, the influential Ariana Huffington was also more piqued with the press than with the White House, but the vice-president did not escape criticism.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this isn't a big story - especially now that Cheney's victim has suffered a heart attack. But it was only a few days ago we learned that Cheney might have authorised [his former aide] Scooter Libby to leak classified information to reporters - and that story didn't generate a tiny fraction of the coverage.

"Cheney and the Bush White House have been blatantly lying to the press - and the American people -for over five years now. But this is the story they are shouting 'How could you?!' over."

Fellow political blogger Robert Schlesinger calls the incident "great joke fodder", but wonders over its wider significance.

"So give the guy a break. He just shot someone - that has to be fairly traumatic.

"Let Scotty M change the subject. Chances are there will be something to cry foul (as opposed to crying fowl) about before too long."

SEE ALSO
Cheney in spotlight for shooting
15 Feb 06 |  Americas
Cheney shooting delay under fire
14 Feb 06 |  Americas
Cheney shoots man in hunt error
13 Feb 06 |  Americas
Cheney faces impropriety claims
06 Feb 04 |  Americas
Profile: Dick Cheney
03 Sep 04 |  Americas

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