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If you missed Monday's White House press briefing, you missed a lengthy, heated give-and-take about Vice President Cheney and his shooting of a hunting partner Saturday. Little was settled, other than the fact that the administration has again decided to place roadblocks between America and the truth. In fact, the situation only got murkier.

Repeatedly, Scott McClellan provided reporters a false choice: Either we could have gotten Harry Whittington proper medical attention or we could have alerted the media. This, however, is flatly false. No one would disagree that the first priority Saturday was making sure Whittington received the care he needed. He was, after all, shot - not sprayed, shot - by the vice president. It would be ludicrous to expect the first call to go to the Associated Press, not paramedics.

That said, how does the White House account for the 22-hour delay between the incident and its revelation? Or the fact that the Secret Service prevented authorities from speaking with the vice president? Or the growing doubts that the West Wing would have even released the information if the owner, Katharine Armstrong, hadn't done so herself?

As for the final question, the early answers are puzzling. When pressed by the New York Times, Cheney's spokeswoman Lea Ann McBride said, "We deferred to the Armstrongs regarding what had taken place at their ranch." Excuse me? Cheney shoots a man, injuring Whittington badly enough that he was in the intensive care unit, yet the vice president's office decided to allow the ranch owner to break the story? Something doesn't add up.

While questions outpaced answers, what can be determined is that the White House appeared more interested in not letting this story get out than either Whittington's health or our right to know whether or not our vice president shot somebody. And while, in the big picture, this latest debacle clearly doesn't reach the heights of Bush-era incompetence, it does speak to this administration's standard operating procedure. A high-ranking official does something stupid, negligent and illegal. The government stifles the investigation. And the West Wing scrambles to make sure you never hear about it.

So, in that sense, we've all been Harry Whittington at one time or another over the past five years.

Originally posted to BobcatJH on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 06:15 AM PST.

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