Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney Hunting Accident Discrepancies = Log in Beholder's Eye

Nothing demonstrates that it's been a slow news week so much as the ongoing attention to Dick Cheney's hunting accident. And nothing illustrates that as well as the story posted today by AP. With the title "VP Accident Tale Filled With Discrepancies ," the story details such republic-threatening issues as the following:

  • First White House spokesmen put the blame on Harry Whittington for not announcing his approach. Then Cheney, interviewed by Fox News, placed the blame on himself.
  • First everyone denied that anyone was drinking. Then Cheney acknowledged that he'd had a beer with lunch five hours before.
  • First everyone said that Whittington was fine. Then it seems that he had a heart attack.
  • First everyone said that Cheney had all of his hunting licenses. Then it was noted that his license lacked an "upland game bird stamp."
  • First it was said that the story was slow in coming out because the VP's office wanted to get the details right. Then it was acknowledged that the owner of the ranch where the hunting was going on asked Cheney's permission to call the local paper.
  • First it was stated that the President got news about the accident on Saturday night. Then press spokesman Scott McClellan said that he didn't learn about it personally until the next day.

Of course, none of these points is open to the interpretation that events are open to interpretation. What does it mean not to be drinking? Is having a beer five hours before "drinking" in the present tense? Is a person who has been shot but whose life, limb and overall health are never in danger "fine"? Does anyone outside of Texas government and the conclave of fanatical hunters have any clue that you need an "upland game bird stamp" to shoot quail? Can we give Cheney credit for a bit of graciousness in accepting the responsibility when Whittington himself assumed responsibility in a later public statement?

Clearly reporters need something better to do. The folks who thought that Clinton's hairsplitting of "is" in a legal deposition was acceptable now dispute whether it's right that reporters were not immediately escorted to the hunting party to record Mr. Whittington's medical evacuation for the ages.

Given our profession, SWNID cannot but compare such allegations of "discrepancies" to the chestnuts of popular-level criticism of the Gospels: did Jesus heal the blind man while going into or out of Jericho, did he exorcise one or two demoniacs in the Decapolis, did he say that whoever is not for me is against me or whoever is not against me is for me, did he allow or forbid his disciples to wear sandals on their preaching tour, et cetera ad nauseum. Such non-issues are raised by those who seek to undermine the general credibility of a witness or text by ignoring the nature of the discourse on any particular occasion and suggesting malice or incompetence in the superficial differences between utterances.

For the Gospels, such issues have been discussed for centuries, and thoughtful analyses aplenty have noted the inconsequential differences of rhetoric that they normally involve (we refer gentle readers to that book that we have required many hundreds of students to buy and read, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by the saintly Craig Blomberg, for specifics). It's easy to affirm the integrity of the Gospels' witness in light of such considerations. Yet folks continue to blather on about how many discrepancies the Gospels contain.

So Mr. Cheney, you have good company.

And so does SWNID. As the inimitable Charles Krauthammer put it Friday:

Secrecy? This was hardly an affair of state. And it was hardly going to be kept secret. Arrogance? The media laying these charges are the same media that just last week unilaterally decided that the public's right to know did not extend to seeing cartoons that had aroused half the world, burned a small part of it and deeply affected the American national interest. Having arrogated to themselves the judgment of what a free people should be allowed to see regarding an issue that is literally burning, they then go ballistic over a few hours' delay in revealing an accident with only the most trivial connection to the nation's interest or purpose.

Cheney got a judgment call wrong, for reasons that are entirely comprehensible. The disproportionate, at times hysterical, response to that error is far less comprehensible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to one of the "hysterical" responses CK referred to. I couldn't help but laugh - though that is clearly not the author's intemt.