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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Details, from AP ...

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said that about an hour after Cheney shot Whittington, the head of the Secret Service's local office called the Kenedy County sheriff to report the accident. "They made arrangements at the sheriff's request to have deputies come out and interview the vice president the following morning at 8 a.m. and that indeed did happen," Zahren said.

At least one deputy showed up at the ranch's front gate later in the evening and asked to speak to Cheney but was turned away by the Secret Service, Zahren said. There was some miscommunication that arrangements had already been made to interview the vice president, he said.

Gilbert San Miguel, chief deputy sheriff for Kenedy County, said the report had not been completed Monday and that it was being handled as a hunting accident, although he would not comment about what that meant they were investigating.

He said his department's investigation had found that alcohol was not a factor in the shooting, but he would not elaborate about how that had been determined. The Texas Parks and Wildlife hunting accident report also said neither Cheney nor Whittington appeared to be under the influence of intoxicants or drugs.


All sounds pretty transparent, information flowing freely.

Terrible how some miscommunication led to that sheriff's deputy come to interview Cheney being turned away.

Small world.

We noted earlier that little more than an hour after the Cheney shooting incident, Karl Rove was on the phone with Katharine Armstrong, the ranch owner who witnessed the incident and was designated as the person who would speak to the press. Turns out her dad helped Rove set up his first business.

This from a 2003 article in The New Yorker ...

Rove left the Bush pre-Presidential operation to work in the gubernatorial campaign of Bill Clements, an oilman who in 1978 became Texas’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Rove was appointed Clements’s chief of staff. In 1981, he left to set up a direct-mail business in Austin called Karl Rove + Company. This put him in a position to make more money than you can as a politician’s full-time employee, and allowed him to work for many Republican candidates at the same time. Rove had the imprimatur of Texas’s Republican aristocracy from the beginning, through his connection to the Bush family and to Clements. An early financier of Karl Rove + Company was Tobin Armstrong, the owner of a Texas ranch (it was on land leased from Armstrong Rove and Bill Frist were planning to go hunting) and the husband of Anne Armstrong, a former Republican Cabinet officer. Becoming chairman of the College Republicans provided Rove with an introduction to such people, which may be one reason that winning mattered so much to him; it also seems that Rove, the self-made man, gets pleasure as well as practical advantage from his association with the Texas upper crust, people who give off the glow of ease, charm, and connection which he detected in George W. Bush the first time they met.


I guess they go way back.

It just gets better and better. Karl Rove had a chat with Katharine Armstrong, the Bush pioneer and estate owner, who was on the hunt and is the only eyewitness who has been allowed to talk to the press. Apparently within 90 minutes of the shooting.

And it was her idea to go to the press, right?

This is from a late piece in the Houston Chronicle (emphasis added)...

Dr. David Blanchard, director of emergency services, said Whittington had more than 10 shotgun pellets embedded in his face, neck and torso as a result of Saturday's accidental shooting. He said the pellets would not be removed, but added it is normal to closely observe a patient with multiple gunshot wounds.


Before proceeding, let's stop and award Dr. Blanchard a special award for understatement of the week.

In any case, yesterday I asked hunters to chime in on what they made of the story. Now I'd like to hear from doctors.

From a layman's point of view, I'd figure you'd want to remove these pellets if you could do so without too much difficulty. (Depending on the metal, there might be some risk of blood poisoning. Who knows?) We're hearing that these were basically just superficial wounds. But if they're making no attempt to remove them, I'd figure that means they're imbedded pretty deep. Or perhaps, if they're in the neck, they may be close to major arteries or something.

In any case, the floor is open to the doctors. Can we infer anything from the fact that the doctors treating Harry Whittington aren't trying to remove the shot from his body?

Late Update: The Austin American-Statesman says Whittington was hit by as many as 200 pellets. Some were removed; others weren't.

I was out of touch with the press follies for much of the day today because I had to make my way -- delayed a day -- back to New York City. But on this Cheney stuff, just for the moment let's set aside all the questions about how the veep managed to shoot Harry Whittington.

Let's put ourselves back on the scene of the shootout some time Saturday afternoon. The accident happens. All is chaos for a while. Whittington is medivaced off to the local hospital.

Now, it's early Saturday evening. Presumably the veep isn't in a great mood. Who's going to bring up the question of letting the press know? "Mr. Vice President, we have to ..."

Well, you get the idea. Did no one want to pop the question? Did they just figure maybe they could brazen it out? (That one gets my vote.) What do you think?

One other point about the Cheney shotgun goof.

There's been some questioning about why the White House waited a day to notify the press about what happened. Apparently, they never did. They left it to the property owner, Katharine Armstrong, to announce it to the public.

The WaPo account says ...

It was Armstrong's decision to alert the news media. Cheney's office made no public announcement, deciding to defer to Armstrong because the incident had taken place on her property. Armstrong called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and when a reporter from the paper called the White House, the vice president's office confirmed the account.

Cheney's office referred other reporters to Armstrong for a witness account, but after speaking to some members of the media yesterday afternoon, Armstrong stopped returning phone calls.


The Times, meanwhile, was able to press the point a bit more fully.

Asked why the vice president's office had made no announcement about the accident, Ms. McBride said, "We deferred to the Armstrongs regarding what had taken place at their ranch."


The vice president shoots someone seriously enough to require ICU treatment in the hospital and the White House doesn't see fit to make a public announcement? It's left to the owner of the ranch to let people know?

Clearly, it's not really left up to her. It's a passive decision. They don't want to touch it presumably. So they leave it to Armstrong to be the public face of it.

Still, very weird. But, soup to nuts, par for the course.

Okay, in response to my question below, I've gotten a slew of emails from hunters, many of them from Texas and longtime hunters of doves or quail. So let me try to summarize what they've said. Because, while the emphases are different, they all come back to the same basic points.

(ed.note: You hunters already know this information. So I'm going to try to take what I've heard and learned and summarize it in laymen's terms as best as I can.)

First, needless to say, hunting accidents happen. This may be particularly the case with quail hunting since the prey can rise into the air suddenly and unexpectedly and you're hunting in groups. So you have a lot of variables in play.

That said, one point that comes through really clearly from everyone is that when you're hunting and you hit a person -- that's your fault. Period. End of story. Outside of extreme cases of negligence or self-destructive behavior on the part of the victim, it's not his fault. You're responsible, as the shooter, for knowing no person is in your line of fire before you pull the trigger. So this stuff about Whittington being at fault for the accident just doesn't wash for any of the hunters we've heard from.

The other point that comes through in the emails we've received is that most of our emailers seem to have a pretty clear idea what happened here, based on the description provided in the AP article. Some find the facts as described improbable; but most seem to have a general sense what happened.

Again, I'll try to explain what's been described to me using laymen's terms.

You're out hunting for quail with a small group of people. For basic safety purposes you keep a clear mental picture of where your fellow hunters are at every moment. Based on that mental picture of where people are, you create a safe fire area, a range in front of you covering some number of degrees where you know no one else is.

Things can get chaotic and excited when a bunch of birds (I'll just try, as a blanket matter, not to use the jargon) come into range or rise up. But if you don't shoot outside that safe fire zone, then everyone should be safe.

Now, if you read the description provided by Katharine Armstrong, the Bush-Cheney fundraiser on whose 'ranch' this happened, what she seems to describe is this: The birds 'flush'. Cheney picks out a bird and starts following it. In the process he basically wheels around doing a 180. So he's spun around and is now firing backwards relative to the direction he had been facing. And Whittington was just, for whatever reason, where Cheney didn't expect him to be.

Now, this happens. One TPM Reader actually describes watching the same thing happen to his father-in-law. But when it happens it's a matter or carelessness and/or recklessness on the part of the shooter and it involves ignores some of the most basic rules of gun safety.

So, from the information available, Cheney screwed up -- a relatively common hunting accident, based (as most accidents are) by not following basic safety guidelines and being careless. Trying to blame it on the guy who got shot just doesn't wash.

Late Update: On the other hand, Mary Matalin told the WaPo: "The vice president was concerned. He felt badly, obviously. On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious or violate any of the [rules]. He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do."

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