By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Matalin denies reality

Who are you going to believe? Republican spinner Mary Matalin or your own lying eyes and ears?

I practically drove off the Southeast Expressway today while listening to the podcast of yesterday’s “Meet the Press.” Tim Russert began a segment on media coverage of Dick Cheney’s errant shot by offering two specific examples of Cheney partisans’ blaming the accident on the victim, Harry Whittington.

First, Russert noted, was ranch owner Katharine Armstrong. Let’s go to the transcript.

RUSSERT: The vice president said that he talked to Katharine Armstrong about getting the story out. And the story that first appeared was this: “After shooting two quail, ranch owner Katharine Armstrong said Harry Whittington dropped back to pick them up, but he did not vocally announce to the others when he rejoined the group. The mistake exposed him to getting shot. ‘It’s incumbent on him,’ Armstrong said. ‘He did not do that.'”

Next up, Russert observed, was White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who said of Armstrong, “She pointed out that the protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington when it came to notifying the others that he was there.”

RUSSERT: Initially, there was — seemed to be an attempt to blame Mr. Whittington. Was the vice president part of that? Aware of it?

MATALIN: Absolutely not. When I spoke to the vice president Sunday morning, he made it more than clear that it was his fault, no matter what the conditions, no matter how much the shared risk. That this should not be blamed on Harry. What happens here is that’s not the first account. That’s the wire account of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. The very first account, Katharine Armstrong just lays out the facts, and she includes in there how apologetic the vice president was at the immediate scene.

What happens as these stories go from the local to the national is you stop giving out facts. You stop answering questions, and you start making denials. “No, Cheney wasn’t drunk.” “No, it wasn’t Cheney’s fault.” So as it progressed through the week, that’s what happened.

If you go back to Katharine Armstrong’s original description, given in context to locals who understand the frequency of hunting accidents, unfortunately, the culture of Texas, through the eyes of a person who actually saw, who has an expertise, there was no fault described. She laid out the facts: What Mr. Whittington had done, what the vice president had done, and included, clearly, the vice president’s immediate reaction, which was profuse apologies.

Russert, incredulous, came back with, “But they were quoting her directly…” He didn’t push. He didn’t have to. Matalin had already showed herself to be winging it in the most disingenuous manner imaginable. Armstrong and McClellan are on the record as having tried to blame the accident on Whittington. It was actually Cheney himself who put a stop to that ridiculousness. Now Matalin would have us believe that the blame game never happened. Amazing.

Instant flashback. Here, from Feb. 13, is the New York Times’ even more specific account of Armstrong’s blaming Whittington:

“This all happened pretty quickly,” Ms. Armstrong said in a telephone interview from her ranch. Mr. Whittington, she said, “did not announce — which would be protocol — ‘Hey, it’s me, I’m coming up,'” she said.

“He didn’t do what he was supposed to do,” she added, referring to Mr. Whittington. “So when a bird flushed and the vice president swung in to shoot it, Harry was where the bird was.”

And Whittington looks so much like a quail, don’t you think?

Instant update. Yes, I should have checked Josh Marshall first. Anyway, here is what he wrote about this yesterday.

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  1. Anonymous

    Yeah, what Josh said. Let’s hope this once and for all stamps out the whole cutesy “Oooh, how neat, James Carville and Mary Matalin–can you believe they’re married?” novelty. It doesn’t matter who she’s married to, it doesn’t matter if she’s a darling of the Sunday talk circuit. She’s a hack like the rest of them. She spins and lies for this administration, which is ruining our country. I hope she rots in hell.

  2. Anonymous

    Way to reintroduce civility, 10:19….

  3. Anonymous

    I think a little less civility would do Dems well these days. F Mary Matalin and anyone else carrying stank, murderous, lying water for this “administration.” Civility didn’t steal the 2000 election for Repugs, and it didn’t get them re-elected either. F civility. As this country slowly circles the bottom of the toilet, as we kill and spy on and go to war illegally on false pretenses and reclassify documents that were once classified and cut welfare and college loans in order to keep sending young poor boys & girls off to die, you stay civil. Just, stay civil.

  4. Bill Baar

    Bush was talking sending Nato to Darfur last week. I favor that but some will argue against intervention.The left blogosphere consumed with Cheney’s hunting accidents.We go into Darfur in a big way, don’t say you were bamboozled by Bush. He said it clearly, just as with Iraq, but no one was paying much attention to substantive stuff…. just focused on the inconseuquential. Which may be exactly where Rove wants you… if think cynically… I don’t and suspect Bush would prefer support for American Nato intervention in a region much ignored by Europeans and North America.

  5. Anonymous

    Guess I was out of class the day they covered “Whining as effective P.R.”…

  6. Anonymous

    You may call in whining, I call it reminding people every chance I get what a galactically horrible job these people are doing. I mean, c’mon. Anyone who agrees with one iota of slime that oozes out of this administration’s collective mouth is either evil or stupid. And I truly, truly believe that. I’m not just saying it in the heat of the moment, or in an attempt at hyperbole. By any objective measure, Bush and his crew have royally f-ed up this country–possibly permanently. The facts are on my side, and that’s a beautiful thing.

  7. Anonymous

    Opinion=Facts. And they wonder how a bozo like Bush was elected..

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