The "Cheney's Got a Gun" story has been a goldmine for the pundit business. In a series of radio interviews last week the one question I got over and over wasn't about Harry Whittington or Scott McClellan or gun licenses or booze. The question was "does this story have legs." Legs are what matters. If a story is just a 48-hour media swirl, it doesn't cut it. But Legs, well that's a different matter.
On Friday it looked as if the Cheney Shoots legs were getting weak. Cheney did his thing with Brit, Harry got out of the hospital and the press was about to move on. But then, both Time and Newsweek decided to put Cheney on their covers which guaranteed at least a few more days of legs. Here's how a few the stories from the past week stack up on the leg-o-meter.
Dick Cheney: Beyond the shooting incident, "The Dick Cheney Story" has sturdy legs. Last Sunday morning as the gang who couldn't spin straight on the Armstrong ranch was strategizing about how to "put this story out," Howard Dean was on CBS News' Face The Nation suggesting that the Vice President should step down if he had indeed told Scooter Libby to release classified information. With the demise of Tom DeLay, Cheney has become the Darth Vader of the Bush administration for the Democrats. Even before he pulled the trigger, Cheney's poll ratings were low, his personal style unpleasant and the Democrats were poised make him the poster boy for what's wrong with one party government. Now his personal rating is at 29 percent and he has become an even easier target. Call this one "Legs, Big Time."
Paul Hackett and Iraq Vets Running for Congress: Split legs. Iraq Veteran Paul Hackett who burst onto the national political scene when he won a Congressional seat in a heavily Republican district looked like he had major legs. He fit the profile of the story political reporters were dying to write, "Democratic Vet Takes on the GOP on the War." The Democratic Party which tends to have a tendency to look gift horses in the mouth, at first dismissed Hackett and then went to work to get him out of the Senate race in Ohio. He dropped out last week but the story line is set. There are a dozen more for the media to focus on. Legs.
Tom DeLay: He is no Dick Cheney but he is back on the Appropriations committee and Democrats are salivating at the prospect of taking him altogether in November. "Legs."
The Runaway Dog: Face it. A runaway dog — especially an ugly one — is no runaway bride. Unless the dog turns up in a remake of "Roman Holiday," this puppy is over. "No Legs."
Newt: With only minimal effort on his part "What Is Newt Up To" is an engaging story. Everyone is going to Iowa, but when Newt says he is going it is a big deal. "Democrats Need a Newt of Their Own" wrote Hotline's Chuck Todd. NBC's Elizabeth Wilner and everybody wants to know if 2006 will be 1994 in reverse. "Legs."
George Pataki's Appendectomy: Hardly even a scar. "No Legs."
When Will the Democrats Get a Message?: Mainly because the Republicans are getting great traction on this question and the Democrats seem to be in constant angst over it, this one has staying power. Every few weeks some Democrat announces that the big '06 socko message will be unveiled soon. Last week House Dem leader Pelosi said it would be here by spring. Others say the Republicans didn't have the Contract with American until the fall of 1994, so what's the rush. "Boring Legs."
Bode Miller: Miller went to Torino with a bad PR hangover and showed just how well he could do skiing after a big night. "No Legs."
Katrina: With Mardi Gras coming and the mayoral race in April even more attention to what went wrong and whether it can be fixed. "Unfortunate Legs."
Gay Cowboys: The Willie Nelson song was a one day wonder, but a few Oscars could bring them back. "Possible Legs."
Legs have gone from street slang to political cliché to defining principle. If you don't have legs, you're nothing.
By Dotty Lynch