Dick Cheney yesterday, in his first interview since accidentally shooting a hunting acquaintance on Saturday, shouldered full blame for the quailing mishap, and said no one was under the influence of alcohol, though he conceded drinking a beer at lunch, more than four hours before.
Britt Hume of Fox News got the get.
Q Was anybody drinking in this party?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. You don't hunt with people who drink. That's not a good idea. We had --
Q So he wasn't, and you weren't?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Correct. We'd taken a break at lunch -- go down under an old -- ancient oak tree there on the place, and have a barbecue. I had a beer at lunch. After lunch we take a break, go back to ranch headquarters. Then we took about an hour-long tour of ranch, with a ranch hand driving the vehicle, looking at game. We didn't go back into the field to hunt quail until about, oh, sometime after 3:00 p.m.
The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon. Nobody was drinking, nobody was under the influence.
Digby won't let that pass without noting a CNN report in which hunting party host Katharine Armstrong is quoted as saying the vice president fixed himself a cocktail after the shooting. Digby's post is headlined, "Hiding From the Breathalizer."
The Kenedy County Sheriff's Department interviewed Cheney the morning after the accident, and concluded there was "no alcohol or misconduct involved in the incident."
Meanwhile. Atrios focuses on another issue Hume raised toward the end of the interview:
Q Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is an executive order to that effect.
Q There is.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Have you done it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order --
Q You ever done it unilaterally?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President.
If he has the right, Atrios writes, does that include the right to selectively leak information without classifying it? Such as to Bob Woodward or to have former chief of staff I. Lewis Libby do it for him?
Peggy Noonan, the former speechwriter for President Reagan, asks in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece whether the accident will ever really go away. Like Gerald Ford's reputation for tumbling, and Jimmy Carter's misadventure with a Killer Rabbit, the event could develop symbolic stick:
Same with Dick Cheney. He's been painted as the dark force of the administration, and now there's a mental picture to go with the reputation. Pull! Sorry, Harry! Pull!
Based on who she knows at the White House, Noonan guesses a quiet conversation among Bush insiders is taking place, one which wonders if there's a better choice for vice president:
This is a White House that likes to hit refresh when the screen freezes. Right now the screen is stuck, with poll numbers in the low 40s, or high 30s.
The key thing is Iraq. George Bush cares deeply about Iraq and knows his legacy will be decided there. It has surely dawned on the White House that "Iraq" will not be "over" in the next two years. Iraq is a long story. What Dick Armitage or Colin Powell said about the Pottery Barn rule was true: If you break, it you own it, at the very least for the next few years.
George Bush, and so the men and women around him, will want the next Republican presidential nominee to continue the U.S. effort in, and commitment to, Iraq. To be a candidate who will continue his policy, and not pull the plug, and burrow through.
The Captain's Quarters finds Cheney's explanation for how the news broke credible - he allowed host Armstrong to notify the local paper, rather than involve White House press staff. CQ thinks this has to do most with Cheney's adversarial relationship with Beltway journalists.
I do think Cheney made a mistake with this decision. If he wanted Armstrong to release the statement, that makes sense, but he should have probably involved his media team to release it directly to the national media rather than wait for the story to make it through the wires. A seasoned politician should know better. However, two mitigating factors come up in the interview. The first is that none of his media team had accompanied him on this trip; the second was the obviously distressed mental state he experienced this weekend. Cheney made a poor decision about the method of publishing the news, but he didn't intend on hiding it from anyone.
Cheney just couldn't bring himself to admit that, however. He said he knew it would be a national story, but that he felt the best way to handle it was to release it to the local press and let the national desks pick it up for themselves. When Hume gave him an opportunity to review the decision in hindsight, Cheney stuck to his initial analysis, saying that Armstrong had the best look at what really happened and could give the most accurate report. He leaned on accuracy as a driving measure, but Armstrong could have been just as accurate with the AP and the networks. He passed on an opportunity to end the argument by simply agreeing that he could have handled it differently, but it looks like the lunatic reaction of the White House pool has Cheney's hackles up. He's obviously not in the conciliatory mood with the DC gaggle, and that also affected his judgment here.