The first question out of the box:
Q Scott, do you think that the shooting accident involving the vice president on Saturday should have been disclosed to the public on Saturday?
Simple and to the point, right? Scott chose the let's-imply-you're-heartless-response, one which he returned to repeatedly throughout the briefing:
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think that the first priority was making sure that Harry Whittington, Mr. Whittington, was getting the medical care that he needed. And I think that's where everybody's attention should have been focused and was focused when the hunting accident took place.
Of course, I don't recall anyone arguing that Mr. Whittington should have been left bleeding in the field while they rushed to inform the press, so Scott (as per usual) wasn't bothering to address the actual question. Then Scott gave what had to be the most unlikely explanation for the delay in getting the information out.
The initial report that we received was that there had been a hunting accident. We didn't know who all was involved, but a member of his party was involved in that hunting accident, and then additional details continued to come in overnight.
Does anyone honestly believe that in this day of instant communication, never mind that we're talking about the Vice President, that the White House didn't immediately know: that Cheney shot a man, who the man was, what the man's condition was and who was present during the incident? But this White House wants us to believe that it wasn't until 7:00 or 8:00 that night that George Bush even knew that Cheney was the shooter and not the victim. I don't buy it and neither was anyone else in the room. Scott said (about Bush being informed):
MR. MCCLELLAN: No, I think initially, again, Andy had the same report that I had, or a very similar report to what I had, and so we didn't know who was involved. But then there was additional information that was coming in later in the night -- or later in the day and on into the morning.
Q (Off mike) -- the vice president and find out that he was the shooter. How is that possible?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, Kelly, I can only tell you what the facts are.
But facts were in short supply. Several times, Scott said that they had to wait for the information to "come together" and that new details were coming in, "all the way until 3:00 in the morning," but he could never explain why it would take so long to get the details of what should be a straight story. Who was shot and their condition, who shot him, how did it happen, who was there? The White House was monitoring events out the Situation Room, for crying out loud. Hell, why didn't someone just pick up the phone and ask Dick what happened? Scott explained:
MR. MCCLELLAN: There wasn't a press corps traveling with the vice president. He didn't have his full entourage that he might have on other trips, official trips. This was a weekend hunting trip.
And then secondary to that is gathering the facts. And so you want to get the facts together, so you can provide that information to the public. And I think that's important to do. And so they gathered facts together, and those facts were coming back to us throughout the evening and into the morning hours of Sunday.
Q Who was gathering the facts? Who was --
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Who was doing that?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think there's information on the ground there, as well as information then being provided -- from the ground there being provided back here.
Q Right, and who was doing the providing? And who were they providing it to?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, people with the Vice President's Office. I think he can probably -- I will check with his office on more specifics.
Why couldn't Scott answer this simple question?
Q But when did the president specifically know that the vice president had shot somebody?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q When did the president know that the vice president --
MR. MCCLELLAN: He was learning additional details into that evening, on Saturday --
And when pressed?
Q But you've got like a -- you've got a situation room here. You've got people who monitor stuff. It's impossible to find out -- I mean, the vice president knew immediately, "Oh, no! I've shot somebody accidentally," and it takes 24 hours --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well -- and you know what his first reaction was? His first reaction was go to Mr. Whittington and get his team in there to provide him medical care.
And how about how the story finally came out? When asked why the White House wasn't the one who announced the story, Scott said:
MR. MCCLELLAN:...Now, the vice president agreed with Mrs. Armstrong that it was best that she provide that information publicly first.
But he can't really explain why that would be best (or even make sense, for that matter):
Q I just want to clarify one thing. Is it appropriate for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the vice president of the United States has been -- has shot someone?
MR. MCCLELLAN: That's one way to provide information to the public. The vice president's office worked with her -- well, I should say the vice president -- the vice president spoke with her directly and agreed that she should --
I would certainly like another example of the White House having a host of the President or Vice President putting out the press release on their activities together. And consider this:
Q Katharine Armstrong talked to CNN Sunday evening. She said that she thought this was going to become a story, so she was going to go to the local press.
She also told CNN that she did not believe the Vice President's Office was aware that she was going to go to the local press. How do you square that with your account --
MR. MCCLELLAN: The vice president spoke with her directly, and they agreed that she would make it public.
Q So you're saying that she's lying, that her --
MR. MCCLELLAN: No, you ought to check with her.
Q We did check with her. But you're saying that that's not correct.
MR. MCCLELLAN: The vice president spoke directly with Mrs. Armstrong, and they agreed that she would make the information public.
Scott makes a statement, it's pointed out that he just called Cheney's alibi a liar and his response is to simply repeat the statement and move on. Interesting.
And frankly, on one of his many attempts to explain why the White House didn't handle announcing the details, Scott said something that I found extraordinary:
Q Let's just be clear here. The vice president of the United States accidentally shoots a man, and he feels that it's appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell the local Corpus Christi newspaper and not the White House press corps at large, or notify the public in a national way?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think we all know that once it is made public, then it's going to be news and all of you are going to be seeking that information.
First they decided to "let" Mrs. Armstrong make the announcement, and now they were going to wait for the press to set the frame? That strikes me as very unlikely.
And apparently the Vice President's office has been stonewalling the press:
Q You've repeatedly said that the vice president's office will share this information with us. Will you tell us -- will you now ask them to share this information with us, because they're not.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Share what information?
Q Details of what happened during the shooting incident --
MR. MCCLELLAN: I don't know the -- with the way you --
Q -- and more information about --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, Mrs. Armstrong provided that information. She was eyewitness to what took place.
Q Can we get someone from his office in here to answer?
Q Why can't we get someone from his office to answer the questions.
Q Yeah, get HIM.
I was picturing torches and pitchforks at the, "Yeah, get HIM."
There is much, much more and I urge you to read the entire transcript. What should have been a story that was simply fodder for the late night comedians has become a mass of contradictions, unlikely explanations and downright bullshit. Let me finish with a couple of my favorite questions, one pure snark:
Q Briefly back on the topic du jour, if I may. How long did it take until everyone involved was sure that Mr. Whittington was in the proper medical care that he needed? Did it take 12 to 14 hours?
And one eliciting an interesting response:
Q Is it proper for the vice president to offer his resignation, or has he offered his resignation?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Connie, that's an absurd question.
Didn't he say it was absurd to ask if Rove was involved in the CIA leak too? ;-)
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