Cheney shoots, but there's other news to blow away

With bad news on Katrina, Iraq and Abramoff, the White House just might prefer to talk about the vice president's accident.

Published February 13, 2006 7:00PM (EST)

Here's the odd thing about the White House decision not to go public with news that Dick Cheney had shot a man: All things considered, it's a better story for the White House than some of the others that might be getting attention today:

Hurricane Katrina: As the New York Times is reporting, Republicans in the House of Representatives are about to release a "blistering" report on the Bush administration's response to Katrina. In the report, 11 Republicans say that the administration slowed the evacuation of New Orleans by ignoring an early report of a levee break -- a report the White House initially claimed not to have had. "If this is what happens when we have advance warning, we shudder to imagine the consequences when we do not," says a draft of the report. "Four and a half years after 9/11, America is still not ready for prime time."

Iraq: In what's being described as a victory for Muqtada al-Sadr and a setback for the Bush administration, Shiites selected Ibrahim Jafari as their nominee to become Iraq's prime minister. Even before the vote, Nebaska Sen. Chuck Hagel -- a Republican -- was raining on the Bush administration's parade of progress. Three years into the war, Hagel said, "things haven't gone the way the administration said and others said it was going to go. In fact, I think were in more trouble today than we've ever been in Iraq."

Leaks: Responding to reports that Dick Cheney authorized Scooter Libby to leak classified information to bolster support for the war, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said this morning that the vice president may have committed a crime. "If Vice President Cheney has, in fact, ordered the leaking of ... intelligence information, that means he has to step aside," Dean told CNN. "We don't know if it's true, but he has been accused of it. If it's true, he has to step aside."

Abramoff: Over the weekend, Time became the first news outlet to publish a photograph showing George W. Bush with disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The photo comes from an event in May 2001 in which the president met with Abramoff client Raul Garza, who was the chairman of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas at the time. As Time explains, the White House initially denied that it had any record of any such meeting. The White House is still refusing to turn over the Bush-Abramoff photos in its collection, but it now concedes that the Time photograph is legitimate. "The president has taken countless, tens of thousands of pictures at home and abroad over the last five years," Scott McClellan tells Time. "As we've said previously a photo like this has no relevance to the Justice Department's investigation." Although Abramoff is little more than a speck in the background in the photo, Time says the lobbyist had closer contact with Bush right after the picture was taken: "Abramoff has told friends, 'I was standing right next to the window and after the picture was taken, the president came over and shook hands with me, and we chatted and joked.'" Time says that it has seen a photograph of that exchange, too.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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