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Thursday, February 16, 2006 | One thing we do know about the Cheney shooting incident on a Texas ranchland last weekend: Dick Cheney did the wrong thing.

The right thing would have been to act like the Vice President of the United States of America and report the incident immediately to the White House press office, then let them distribute the news and report subsequent events, such as condition reports on the victim Whittington and quotes from the Armstrong family and other authorities involved.

And that’s all we need to know. In the hours between the incident and the release of the story by the White House, any number of thoughts, ideas or strategies about handling the situation may have gone through Cheney’s head. But none of that matters, at least to me, because none of that thinking included me.

And so I feel shut out. Again. Damn it, I want to cheer on my leaders. I want them to be heroes. Instead they do the wrong thing, every time it seems, then turn their backs on me – on us and fly away.

This shooting thing reminds me of President Bush, that first Wednesday in September, flying above the Gulf Coast in Air Force One. By then, three days late, even he was aware that this hurricane was “the big one,” and that the devastation below was already becoming a landmark in American history.

It was a moment in time that screamed for leadership. It must have screamed at the president: “Here is a golden opportunity for leadership! Seize it!”

But he did not hear. He flew on to Washington and left the golden opportunity – for him and for all of us in the country – behind. If he had commanded the pilot, “Get this thing on the ground at Baton Rouge,” we would be living in a different country today. Imagine this country under a presidential administration that understood the value of outpour over uproar.

Last Saturday, it was Dick Cheney pulling the trigger on a bird, a human being and the opportunity to connect with his country. Of the three, he only hit one. He ran to his wounded hunting companion and while kneeling over him, was looking the right thing right in the eyes.

Did it occur to him? I have no way of knowing, but I am inclined to doubt it. He didn’t hear the right thing screaming at him, “seize it!” any more than President Bush could hear opportunity screaming on Air Force One.

If he had, he would have seen to it that his injured friend had proper attention, then gotten on his cellphone, right there in the field. Did he call the president? I am inclined to think so. Did he call Karl Rove? I am very inclined to think so too. Did he call the White House press office? No, and that is the call that matters. From him – the Vice President of the United States of America, and not some ranch owner – the country would have received the straight word about what happened, how it happened, and a quote or two from Cheney expressing regret.

If the White House had gotten that story onto the Sunday evening news and into Monday morning’s paper, we would be living in a different, well, slightly different, world today. That’s the same thing I thought after the president’s neglect of Katrina leadership.

But the world remains the same: my world, and their world. Are they even aware of the potential of such a thing as our world?

I am not inclined to think so. Cheney had a golden opportunity to share with me and us, a moment of genuine camaraderie. Instead he chose to fly away, which is another slap in the face for people like me, and that is the real story here.

Will anybody in this administration ever recognize the opportunity to do the right thing?

Can’t anybody here shoot straight?

Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.

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