Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

If, like the White House, I found anything humorous in this shooting situation, I could make some kind of link between this story and Valentine's Day:

The 78-year-old lawyer who was shot by Vice President Dick Cheney in a hunting accident has some birdshot lodged in his heart and he had a "minor heart attack," a hospital official said Tuesday.

Peter Banko, the hospital administrator at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial, said Harry Whittington had the heart attack early Tuesday while being evaluated.

He said there was an irregularity in the heartbeat caused by a birdshot pellet, and doctors performed a cardiac catheterization. Whittington expressed a desire to leave the hospital, but Banko said he would probably stay for another week.
One of the real values of blogs is bringing disparate strands of a story together. The humor part, we'll get back to. Let's stay with the "minor heart attack" a moment. This takes a bit of ferreting out.

First, there's this report:

David Blanchard, chief of emergency care, called it "a silent heart attack, an asymptomatic heart attack. He's not had a heart attack in the traditional sense."
According to Blanchard:

He said a roughly 5 mm piece of shot became lodged in or alongside Whittington's heart muscle, causing the organ's upper two chambers to beat irregularly.
It's hard to tell from this language whether the doctors mean an arrythmia was detected, or whether a true myocardial infarction occurred. The latter is the medical term most commonly referred to as "heart attack," and it means necritis, or death, of heart muscle. The NYT story indicates a catherization was performed to "determine the extent of the damage," but the other stories seem to indicate that procedure was used to locate the pellet itself. The purpose of such a test, generally, is to determine the pumping ability of the heart muscle. Which would at least explain the terminology "asymptomatic heart attack."

And would mean Mr. Whittington has lost some cardiac function.

Which at least means this story isn't quite as funny as the reporters at the press gaggle thought. Dana Milbank tells us:

After a not-entirely-successful effort on Monday to explain the vice president's hunting accident, press secretary Scott McClellan reloaded this morning and took aim at Dick Cheney himself.

President Bush, he announced, would be on the South Lawn with the national champion University of Texas football team. "The orange they're wearing is not because they are concerned that the vice president will be there," he deadpanned.

The reporters, so recently his tormenters, guffawed. "Although," he continued, pointing to his orange tie, "that's why I'm wearing it, so hopefully none of y'all will --''
If McClellan finished that thought, it was lost in more laughter. But the goodwill ended quickly.
Very quickly indeed:

The White House has decided that the best way to deal with Vice President Dick Cheney's shooting accident is to joke about it.

President Bush's spokesman quipped Tuesday that the burnt orange school colors of the University of Texas championship football team that was visiting the White House shouldn't be confused for hunter's safety wear.

"The orange that they're wearing is not because they're concerned that the vice president may be there," joked White House press secretary Scott McClellan, following the lead of late-night television comedians. "That's why I'm wearing it."

The president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, took a similar jab after slapping an orange sticker on his chest from the Florida Farm Bureau that read, "No Farmers, No Food."

"I'm a little concerned that Dick Cheney is going to walk in," the governor cracked during an appearance in Tampa Monday.

Cheney, an experienced hunter, has not been joking or saying anything publicly at all about the accident Saturday, when he accidentally sprayed a hunting partner with shotgun pellets when aiming for a quail.
It takes a lot to make Cheney look good in this situation, but the President's Press Secretary and brother have almost managed to do that. And clearly that "good will" Milbank caught in the gaggle didn't last long, when the reports lead with attempts to "yuk it up" about what is, in fact, a very serious incident.

We also now know why the doctors didn't want to retrieve all the shot from Mr. Whittington. Obviously it wasn't because it was inconvenient or too painful for the patient; they didn't want to open his chest unless they just have to, and for all practical purposes, they can't go on a "fishing expedition" for each piece of shot. Which is unfortunate, indeed. The sad news this morning puts the lie to the "peppered" and "minor injuries" stories, too. And it may be the press corps is starting to "get" that:

The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller tried to sort out the shooting timeline. "Why didn't the vice president call the president?" she pressed. "I don't get it."

"Karl [Rove] spoke with the vice president."

"He's not the president."
About time someone else noticed, isn't it?

And then it ended this way:

The New York Post's Deb Orin, no Cheney antagonist, tried to sum up what "we're all trying to get at" with the questioning. When Bush accidentally shot a protected bird called a Kildee, he took immediate and public responsibility. Orin wondered why "the vice president has failed in any way to stand up and say, 'I made a mistake.' "

"He has commented through his spokeswoman," McClellan offered, his orange tie failing him.

"But why haven't we heard from him?" interjected Plante.

"I don't think he had any public events scheduled," McClellan replied.

"He could schedule one," Plante persisted. "It would be easy. If he wanted to come over here, you'd probably let him. We would turn up."

McClellan was done taking advice. "OK, then you can start running the vice president's office, Bill."

The spokesman spun and walked away from the podium.
Funny what it takes to make people start to pay attention to what's going on.

No comments:

Post a Comment