Once the jokes and laughter subside over Dick Cheney's errant shooting in South Texas, there are serious matters at hand.
The vice president has revealed once more his penchant for secretiveness, his undeniable arrogance, and his tendency toward embarrassing behavior. Even Republicans are squirming now.
First, Cheney's idea of informing the public is to not inform it. The incident at the Armstrong ranch is just the latest event.
Recall his stonewalling on releasing any documents on his secret meetings with Big Oil in the first Bush administration. Recall his unwillingness to reveal any important details on his health problems and frequent hospital visits. And, most important, we know little about how powerful his voice was in leading this country into war based on the intelligence he wanted to hear.
We do know he predicted the handling of postwar Iraq would be simple because we would be regarded as liberators. What a monstrous misreading.
And his former company, Halliburton, has won huge contracts in the aftermath of the war. Some of them have been called wasteful and worse.
All of this is more puzzling and disturbing when you remember Cheney as the young chief of staff in the Ford administration. Cheney was an outgoing, cheerful, and determined aide who helped reporters get the story straight. To some, including me as a reporter with U.S. News, he was a vital and truthful source.
But there obviously was a dark side. Cheney had to be hiding a deep anger over Democrats in Congress, then in the majority, intruding on the executive branch after the transgressions of Richard Nixon and his White House cronies. In interviews today, Cheney harps on that subject as if the White House should almost be allowed to ignore any attempt to slow down its stretch for more power.
As for those interviews and speeches, Cheney rarely steps beyond speaking to the choir. Appearances on Fox, before conservative political action groups and in the Washington Times do not amount to heavy lifting.
In this congressional election year, the Republicans are lucky the vice president's shooting of a friend, albeit accidentally, didn't occur during the campaign. As for now, maybe the president will show a little gumption and tell Cheney to:
• Stay home on weekends
• Speak to groups that might broaden the administration's line; and
• Leave his gun at home.