Now we’re not saying the press sensed a big story, but the first 18 pages (out of 27) of the transcript of today’s White House press briefing are about the vice president’s ill-fated quail-hunting trip Saturday. McClellan was in fighting mood today, not just with David Gregory but also when he called on ABC’s Jessica Yellin and made the wry observation that she was “keeping with the practice of at least two or three reporters from each news organization today.”
Some choice exchanges:
Q But let’s just be clear here. The Vice President of the United States accidentally shoots a man and he feels that it’s appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell the local Corpus Christi newspaper, and not the White House press corps at large, or notify the public in a national way?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we all know that once it is made public, then it’s going to be news and all of you all are going to be seeking that information. And the Vice President’s Office was ready to provide additional information to reporters. There was no traveling White House press corps with the Vice President, as there is with the President in a situation like this —
Q Right, that’s a distinction without a difference, really. I mean, we have Blackberries —
MR. McCLELLAN: So there is some different circumstances.
And the other circumstance here was that someone was injured and needed medical care. And the Vice President’s team was making sure he was getting taken care of and that he got to the hospital and received additional treatment.
There are two lines of questioning the press are following: (1) the tick-tock of how exactly it allegedly took nearly a day for word to trickle back to the White House, the President, and McClellan that the Vice President himself was the triggerman in the shooting; and (2) whether it was appropriate for the ranch owner to call the local paper and announce the incident instead of any sort of official announcement to the national press.
Sample Point #1 Exchange:
Q: Scott, when you consider the chronology you’re trying to go through here, and all of the various wrinkles of how long it took for the primary information that the Vice President was the person who shot this fellow to get through to the President, himself, is there any notion here of reviewing your own communications apparatus? I mean, this is sort of reminiscent of the levee story, frankly, you know?
Sample Point #2 Exchange:
Q: I just want to clarify one thing. Is it appropriate for a private citizen to be the person to disseminate the information that the Vice President of the United States has shot someone?
MR. McCLELLAN: That’s one way to provide information to the public.