Bloggers Battle Over Cheney Misfire

GENERIC Dick Cheney hunting shooting accident. In background cheney hunting in 2002
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This story was written by CBSNews.com's Melissa McNamara

Vice President Dick Cheney's weekend misfire brought verbal combat to a boil between left- and right-leaning bloggers.

The Kenedy County Sheriff's Department has closed its investigation into Cheney's accidental shooting of hunting pal Harry Whittington and issued a report that largely supports the vice president's account of the weekend's events.

But that hasn't stopped the shooting in cyberspace, where liberal bloggers were particularly riled up over the role alcohol might have played in the mishap.

Many bloggers on the left also smelled a cover up, while many right-leaning bloggers said it was all much ado about nothing.

The nearly 24-hour delay in reporting the accident immediately ignited suspicion on the left.

Attorney-turned-blogger, Alan Dershowitz speculated: "What is the most likely thing to happen during a 14-hour delay that is worth the negative publicity? One possibility is that it takes approximately that period of time for alcohol to dissipate in the body and no longer be subject to accurate testing. It is fairly common for people involved in alcohol-related accidents to delay reporting them until the alcohol has left the body."

Liberal comedian Al Franken was also suspicious. Why didn't Cheney accompany Whittington to the hospital, he questioned. "It's inconceivable that you don't go to the hospital unless there's a reason you don't go to the hospital. If you had been drinking you wouldn't go to the hospital," Franken said. "Or, you're an amazing jerk, that's the other. Or both."

But Paul at the conservative Wizbang blog offers a simpler explanation. "If he had allowed this to get out 'fast break style' the media would have screwed it up completely. Totally and completely," he blogs. "Can anyone blame him for not wanting the story to come out screwed up?"

Missouri State University Professor Andrew Cline at Rhetorica agrees Cheney was just playing smart politics. "I can't blame Cheney for making an excellent choice in how to play this situation," he blogs.

Cheney's television interview Wednesday night also roiled the waters since his his account differed from the report ranch owner Katherine Armstrong gave to a Corpus Christi newspaper Monday.

When asked during the television interview whether anyone in the group had been drinking, Cheney replied, "No, you don't hunt with people who drink. That's not a good idea."

Nevertheless, the vice president acknowledged he did have a beer at lunch. Liberal bloggers pounced on the fact that Armstrong insisted there was no drinking. "No, zero, zippo, and I don't drink at all. No one was drinking," Armstrong said in an interview in The Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

"Cheney's admission that he was drinking, along with Armstrong's clumsy attempts to downplay the alcohol issue raises more questions than it answers …," blogs John Nichols, author of "The Rise and Rise of Richard B. Cheney." "As with her over-the-top efforts to blame Whittington, the victim, for getting in the way of Cheney's birdshot blast, Armstrong's line on liquor smells a little more like an attempt to cover for the Vice President than full disclosure," Nichols writes.