Cheney Shoots, McClellan Ducks
The press was astounded that an event like a sitting vice president shooting a man would be conveyed to the American people late and by an average citizen, versus someone in an official governmental capacity.
Q: But 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?That was an ongoing theme throughout the entire press briefing… That Cheney, the Secret Service and his entire staff were so busy making sure that the victim got to a hospital – for 18-24 hours! – that nobody could talk to the press about the incident. Questioning then went to how soon President Bush was notified that a shooting involving his second-in-command had occurred.
McClellan: Well, I think we all know that once it is made public, then it's going to be news and all of you all are going to be seeking that information. And the Vice President's Office was ready to provide additional information to reporters. There was no traveling White House press corps with the Vice President, as there is with the President in a situation like this --
Q: Right, that's a distinction without a difference, really. I mean, we have Blackberries --
McClellan: So there is some different circumstances. And the other circumstance here was that someone was injured and needed medical care. And the Vice President's team was making sure he was getting taken care of and that he got to the hospital and received additional treatment.
Q: You said this morning that the President was informed Saturday night by Karl Rove and Andy Card.But the witnesses knew it was Cheney who shot the dude. How could that detail have not made it to the president? Is he consider that insignificant a player in the federal government? But, again, the media wanted to know why there was such a delay in the public finding out something like this had happened.
McClellan: Yes, initially by Andy Card.
Q: At that point, what was he informed? Was he informed that the Vice President had accidentally shot somebody?
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: They knew exactly what happened --
Q: -- to not reach the Vice President to find out that he was the shooter? How is that possible?
McClellan: Well, Kelly, I can only tell you what the facts are.
Q: This doesn't make any sense, though. This happens at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, and you're saying that until the morning, the President of the United States --
McClellan: No, I didn't say that. I said there was additional information coming in later that evening and into the morning hours of Sunday.
Q: You've got to clarify this timeline, Scott; it just doesn't make any sense.
Q: When did the President know that the Vice President was the shooter? What time?
McClellan: Again, there was additional information coming in that night. And the details continued to come in throughout the morning, into the Sunday morning time period.
Q: Wait, wait, hold on. Human beings are not normally this inefficient. I mean, was the Vice President immediately clear that he had accidentally shot his friend, or not? Or did that information become available later? You make it seem like there's all this information that had to develop.That was the intrepid David Gregory of NBC News and I think he eventually hung himself from a rafter in frustration.
McClellan: I wouldn't suggest that at all. I'm sure that that was the case. I mean, Mrs. Armstrong was there and saw that --
Q: I don't understand what information had to trickle in?
McClellan: Well, David, again, what's important when it happened was to make sure the medical care was getting to --
Q: Fair enough.
McClellan: -- Mr. Whittington.
Q: Fair enough.
McClellan: That's where all the attention was focused, and making sure he was getting to the hospital --
Q: That's been stipulated here. Everybody agrees that that's fine.
McClellan: That's correct.
Q: And it doesn't seem to me that that would take an inordinate amount of time, it certainly wouldn't take 22 hours.
McClellan: This is happening Saturday evening.
Q: But 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 22 hours for that --
McClellan: 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.
Q: I'm sure his first reaction -- absolutely. But why is it that it took so long for the President, for you, for anybody else to know that the Vice President accidentally shot somebody?
McClellan: Well, early the next morning, Mrs. Armstrong reached out to the Corpus paper -- that's her local paper --
Q: Oh, come on.
McClellan: -- to provide them information.
Q: But that's ridiculous. Are you saying that you don't know within the White House? What took you so long?
McClellan: Listen again to what I said. The first priority is making sure Mr. Whittington is receiving medical care. Secondary to that is making sure you get the facts together and then as quickly as possible provide that information to the public. Now, the Vice President agreed with Mrs. Armstrong that it was best that she provide that information publicly first --
Q: Understanding that, but he doesn't even --
McClellan: -- because she was --
Q: That's fine if you want to deal with the public that way --
McClellan: -- hang on, hang on -- she was an eyewitness to what occurred and could provide the facts to the press. And the Vice President's Office was ready, they were on point to provide additional comment on the incident that took place.
Q: Scott, do you think it's appropriate for a private citizen --
Q: Scott, the Vice President has a –
Here’s the question that gets my “nice try” award:
Q: Is it proper for the Vice President to offer his resignation or has he offered his resignation --Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask – and it helps keep the dream alive for the rest of America.
McClellan: That's an absurd question. Go ahead, Ken.