(White House photo by David Bohrer)
It's not just liberal media bias, and all the "I'd rather be hunting with Dick Cheney than driving with Ted Kennedy" bumper stickers in the world won't make this accident go away.
The reason is the icongraphic and symbolic resonance of Dick Cheney's accident. Yes, it was an accident, he didn't shoot his hunting buddy on purpose, it could have happened to anyone, and so forth.
1. Dick Cheney appears to be careless.
A careful hunter simply wouldn't shoot his buddy. Maybe he got carried away, maybe he wasn't paying attention, maybe he just didn't see, but still--he was aiming at some quail and hit his buddy. That's careless, and it goes to the general impression of the Bush administration's handling of Katrina, Iraq, and the search for Bin Laden, among other things. They are careless. This impression is reinforced by Cheney's hunting accident.
2. Dick Cheney appears to be trigger-happy.
Again, the claim against the US in Iraq is reinforced by the accident. Shoot first, ask questions later, it seems, whether hunting or making foreign policy.
3. Dick Cheney appears to have missed his target.
Like the US going after Bin Laden, Dick Cheney created "collateral damage" but didn't bag his quail.
4. Dick Cheney appears to be secretive.
That the story leaked out through Kate Armstrong's phone call to a friendly reporter, rather than an announcement from the Vice-President's office parallels complaints about news management related to the Iraq war. Again, a simple hunting accident resonates with larger problems for the administration.
5. Dick Cheney appears to be incompetent.
The whole accident story raises the question--doesn't he have better things to do? How come the Vice President has time to go quail hunting while the US is involved in a showdown with Iran, a crisis in Palestine, a botched Saddam trial in Iraq, and the Danish Cartoon crisis.
The story won't go away, not because it isn't trivial in itself, but because this little accident reflects in microcosm the very big problems with the administration--including the wounding and injury of friends like Denmark and Israel by botched American foreign policy; and the wounding and injury of American citizens in New Orleans and the South Coast by botched handling of Hurricane Katrina.
It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.