For a short time, it seemed from Saturday's editorial page even the World-Herald was implicitly acknowledging the ridiculousness of its choosing to let the story about the story eclipse Vice-President Dick Cheney's shooting a man and allowing more than the appearance of impropriety to fester by embracing an immediate lock-down mentality that showed total disregard for the ideal of open government and the concerns of the American public.
Giving short shrift and still notably qualified to a pathetic degree (why any mention of "critics" rather than speaking on its own behalf as it does on any other issue it pleases?), the World-Herald editorial board wrote in one of its "Furthermore" footnotes:
Critics of the Bush administration were quick to accuse the White House of arrogance for sitting so long on the story of the Dick Cheney hunting accident. Arrogance or incompetence, take your pick. Neither possibility instills confidence in a presidency that, well into its second term, still seems at times to be in training.
Fair enough. The still inadequate gesture is almost enough to forgive the fact that this inconvenient admission (for a Republican-leaning newspaper) didn't originally take precedent over critiquing the media's response. Who cares that such choice was far more indicative of bias than most of the supposed claims of it the World-Herald itself is constantly suggesting?
But wait, this little bit of semi-honorable back-tracking in the little-read Saturday paper was quickly counteracted in the Sunday paper when Andersen chose to echo the earlier editorial's obscuring the facts and the public's legitimate concerns so as to make another over-generalized and uncalled-for pot-shot at the media.
Cheney properly has taken full responsibility for the accident. A fundamental rule of safe shooting is that you know where every other hunter and guide - and, yes, the dogs, in case of possible low-flying birds - are before you shoot.
But the flap in the press has not revolved around the fact that the vice president accidentally wounded a hunting companion. The screams from reporters and commentators - a major percentage of whom are constantly alert for any way to discredit President Bush and anyone connected with his administration - are based on the fact that no one on Cheney's staff or in the White House immediately announced what had happened.
For example, the Washington Post editorialized: "Neither Cheney nor the White House gets to pick and choose when to disclose a shooting. Saturday's incident required immediate public disclosure - a fact so elementary that the failure to act properly is truly disturbing in its implications."
"Required immediate public disclosure." Why? Who decrees such a requirement? The Washington Post?
From Cheney's standpoint, prompt announcement would have kept journalists and commentators from having one more reason to snipe at the Bush administration. The incident itself, even if promptly reported, would have been used by bashers of Bush and Cheney as offering some kind of new grounds for renewing their attacks.
Some in the press have played the story responsibly, reporting it fully but not as something of nation-shaking importance. But not the New York Times.
For two consecutive days, top play on the Times' front page, in a spot customarily reserved for a story that Times editors should consider to be the most important news in the world, was given to stories dealing with the shooting incident.
USA Today gave front-page play to the Cheney interview on the Fox News Channel. USA Today's story carried this large headline: " 'I'm the guy who pulled trigger.' " This was news? I hadn't been aware there was any doubt about who pulled the trigger.
* * *
Some Democratic politicians joined the attack on Cheney as, even more predictably, did late night talk-show hosts.
Some of the talk-show hosts, true to form, offered supposedly funny comments ranging from nasty to vicious....
One of the less nasty jokes that was making the rounds went like this: "Dick Cheney shot the last moderate Republican in Texas."
The Internet quickly delivered this rebuttal...in the form of a proposed bumper sticker: "I'd Rather Hunt With Dick Cheney Than Ride With Ted Kennedy."
I shouldn't even have to mention that Andersen's attempt to rationalize Cheney's failure to disclose because there are "Bush-bashers" who would use the information to attack the administration is so lacking in logic as to be utterly nonsensical. The attempt to kill a story does not, in itself, make a story less valid. Rather, it makes it that much more deserving of the public's attention and the media's scrutiny. Following Andersen's failed reasoning, all cover-ups - from G. Gordon Liddy's crow bar to Monica Lewinsky's lips - would be justified as a legitimate act of political self-preservation. How utterly absurd and contemptible.
Of course, Andersen also completely neglects to mention why Cheney's admission of guilt was newsworthy - because his staff had earlier suggested, in most perverted fashion, that the shooting was the victim's fault.
With such twisted and dishonest reporting on display, it then comes as little surprise when Andersen stoops to that most familiar of refrains used by Republicans to excuse their representatives' most heinous and indecent crimes - making reference to the sad and unfortunate, almost 40-years-old Chappaquiddick incident and thinking themselves clever for doing so. It's a pathetic fallback position that reveals just how low their sort is willing to drag a debate before ever taking the slightest bit of responsibility for their own failings.
And so, everything is back to normal at the World-Herald. That is, everything is back to being twisted and distorted to fit their despicably partisan agenda.