The Cheney Doctrine

Posted: Feb 17, 2006 10:32 AM

From the

Winnebego County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

  • First, the weather report. On this trip I have been to New Jersey (cold and windy, but clear); Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (mid-80’s and humid); Paris (chilly, mid-40’s); and Oshkosh (BLIZZARD with a low of SIX degrees last night dropping to MINUS SEVENTEEN tonight).

  • When I joked about being in Saudi Arabia while the East Coast was catching up to 22” of snow, I should have remembered that God takes a dim view of those who tend toward self-satisfaction.

  • Fifty miles south of Green Bay. Minus seventeen. Wind chill: Minus thirty six. The Frozen Tundra of Oshkosh.

  • Yikes.

  • Now to the Cheney issue. I read through the NY Times timeline (called, in the trade a “tick-tock”) and it seems clear that the Vice President was truly shaken by the accident and everyone – properly – was more interested in making certain that the victim, Harry Whittington, received proper medical attention than they were making certain that NBC White House correspondent, David Gregory, got his scoop du jour.

  • The accident happened at shortly before six Saturday evening.


      One of the reporters who tracked me down to my undisclosed location here in Oshkosh, Double-U-Eye talked about the hunting party having reported that “nobody was drinking” but then it was learned that the Veep had consumed a beer at lunch.

      I said that lunch, according to the Times, had been at about 1 o’clock, so the accident occurred nearly five hours later. Moreover (I didn’t actually say “moreover,” but I darned well thought it), in usage – in Texas usage – having a beer at lunch does not qualify as “drinking.” “Drinking” is walking around with a gun under one arm and a flask of Maker’s Mark under the other.

      Even my Texan debating partner, Paul Begala, will back me up on that one. Off camera, of course.


  • By the next morning it appeared that Mr. Whittington would make a full recovery and the matter turned to releasing the fact that the accident had occurred.

  • Keeping in mind I have not spoken to anyone at or near the White House or the Veep’s office, this is my theory:

  • Dick Cheney was a Member of Congress from Wyoming for nearly 10 years from 1979 until he was appointed Secretary of Defense by George H.W. Bush in 1989.

  • Cheney was a Congressman in the era when the press doctrine was:

      Never respond to an attack by your challenger. It raises awareness and, by responding, you show weakness. In short: Strong incumbents ignore charges by challengers.

  • But, that was before the internet and wall-to-wall cable news.

  • The current doctrine is:

      Never let a charge go unanswered lest it be Googled ten years from now with no response. Not only that but the charge should be answered in the same news cycle and, if possible, with an even more damaging countercharge attached.

  • In fact, the current understanding is: If a charge is not immediately answered, that shows weakness, if not being an outright admission of guilt.

  • A political campaign in 21st century America doesn’t consider itself legit unless it has at least one person designated the “rapid response guru” who sits in a “war room” watching four or five television sets and monitoring the national and international wires for anything which might brush up against the candidate.

  • It appears to me, that the Vice President went with his Congressional instincts – now some 20 years out-of-date:

      - Mr. Whittington was out of danger and his family had been notified.

      - This was a hunting accident; unfortunate, but certainly not rare during hunting season in places where people shoot guns at furry or feathered beings.

      - If the information about the accident had been released out of Washington it would have immediately become a White House-driven news event.

      - On the other hand, Cheney hoped, if it came from the owner of the ranch to a local paper and bubbled UP through the system, it would demonstrate that the incident, while serious, did not rise to the level of a national issue.

  • It didn’t work, of course, because the press understands the current doctrine of instantaneous response and considers anything less evidence of a cover-up.

  • Thus, does Pellet-gate live on.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the International Herald Tribune’s reprint of the NY Times tick-tock (no reg. req.); A brief explanation of how a shotgun gauge is measured; Two Mullfotos – one of the Red Sea and one of Oshkosh; and another bird-themed Catchy Caption of the Day.