Once it was clear that the man sprinkled with birdshot would survive, Vice President Cheney's hunting accident was widely expected to become a late-night comedian's bonanza, a frenzy like Wal-Mart shoppers scrambling for $29 DVD players.
As "Today" replayed the comedian clips on Tuesday, NBC's Matt Lauer asked, "Had a feeling that was coming, didn't you?" Katie Couric replied: "Well, I mean when you heard the story you just knew they were gonna go crazy with it, so they did."
With apologies to the Cheney friend who received the pellet facial, the incident was funny. Now we learn the vice president received a warning citation from a Texas Ranger for not buying a $7 hunting stamp in advance. As a friend e-mailed me, "Where else can you shoot a lawyer in the face with a shotgun and get off with just a warning?"
What really shocked people was the way our Cheney-hating press corps went crazy with it. The Big Three networks aired 34 stories in the first 48 hours of evening and morning newscasts.
They treated this not as a mishap, and then a punchline, but as a brewing national scandal. The 18-hour delay in alerting the media! The failure to pay a $7 hunting stamp! "Questions remain"! "White House under fire"! "Growing political fallout"! The focus of the story quickly shifted from an embarrassed Cheney to the shamelessly egotistical press corps.
Look no further for a poster boy for egotism than NBC White House reporter David Gregory, who was captured in an untelevised morning "gaggle" in the briefing room Monday morning yelling at Bush spokesman Scott McClellan. First, he accused the spokesman of "ducking and weaving," leading McClellan to quip that he should emote later, when the cameras were on.
"Don't accuse me of trying to pose to the cameras!'' Gregory shot back. "Don't be a jerk to me personally when I'm asking you a serious question!'' McClellan said, "You don't have to yell," and Gregory replied, "I will yell! If you want to use that podium to try to take shots at me personally, which I don't appreciate, then I will raise my voice, because that's wrong!''
In how many ways is this a joke? These reporters take shots at McClellan and the rest of the administration on a daily basis, in the briefing room, and in their news coverage. Some of those shots are quite personal. But how dare the president's spokesman lecture them! The incivility of it all!