The news cycle this week was dominated by our unlucky Vice President's attempt to give hunting partner Harry Wittington an Extreme Makeover with a few shotgun pellets. The blogs and talk shows have fallen in line with endless speculation about why Cheney shot him (was he drunk? popping pills?) and his reluctance to come clean (was there another body involved? maybe Karl Rove took a shot, too?).

Believe me, this issue is a non-starter outside the D.C. beltway, especially in "hook and bullet" states in the South. Hunting mishaps, while never a proud moment for those involved, aren't exactly unusual (when liberals say that "only 30 accidents have happened in Texas in the last year," as David Corn proudly claimed on the Diane Rehm show today, they reveal a profound ignorance about the role sheepishness plays in the under-reporting of hunting follies).

Cheney's misfire makes for a good laugh, but liberals haven't been doing themselves any favors by taking it too far. It's also pulling them way off message for the headlines that REALLY needed hammering over the past week. To take a few at random:

ITEM: U.S. Has Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies: "The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years." (NY Times, 2/13)

ITEM: Greenland ice cap breaking up at twice the rate it was five years ago, says scientist Bush tried to gag: The Drudge Report has made a bigger deal out of this horrifying news than liberal websites. (Independent [UK], 2/17)

ITEM: Marriage Plays Starring Role in Politics... Again: The right is gearing up to make same-sex marriage a wedge issue in 2006, which "could be critical in states where there will be contested national races for governor or the U.S. Senate -- such as Tennessee, Wisconsin and Illinois." The Democrats are taking a bury-your-head-in-the-sand-and-hope-the-issue-disappears approach. (NPR, 2/15 -- thanks to Pam Spaulding for keeping the spotlight on this)

ITEM: The House committee's report on Katrina is now available -- all 379 pages (pdf) and 141 appendices (pdf) -- conluding the Katrina response was disasterously "late, uncertain and ineffective." Why does Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff still have a job, and why isn't everyone demanding he step down for such failures? And what about the 12,000 families evicted from their temporary housing this week?

I could go on, but you get the point. This is the stuff that will have impact in real-world politics outside of Washington.