We know Vice President Cheney shot a companion while hunting quail. Based on what has come out so far, we have likely not heard the true version of events that day. In the unlikely event that we have been told the truth, the White House has so badly bungled it, they have forever tainted the story with doubt and skepticism.
Here are the possible scenarios as I see 'em:
1. It happened just like they claim. Covey is flushed. Cheney, following a bird, wheels around, fires, hits Whittington at a distance of thirty yards. Clear violation of many rules of common sense and hunter's protocol. A terrible mistake by Cheney. Story is dependent on assigning Whittington some blame, and hoping injuries are minor and Whittington recovers quickly and completely. Unfortunately for Cheney, this story is starting to seem implausible...
2. Not exactly like they claim. Covey is flushed. Cheney, following a bird, wheels around blindly, fires, hits Whittington at a distance much closer than 30 yards. Meaning Whittington was right next to or behind Cheney. Close enough that Cheney knew or should have known, Whittington was nearby when he raised his gun, but lost track while following his target. Whittington has to be completely absolved—even by hard-core Cheney-apologists. A clear fuck-up by Cheney. Since that is like Fonzie saying he's "sorry", they start to concoct an "enhanced" version of events to take heat off Cheney.
3. A Dumb Cover-Up. Cheney shot Whittington while they were walking the line, by doing something retarded like stumbling with his finger on the trigger or dropping his gun. This, too, was an untenable story to release for a macho-man like the Veep, since there was no other patsy to have holding the gun, they contrived a "more manly" mistake. Once again, this was dependent on Whittington's injuries remaining minor. This will be the classic case of "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up" if it comes undone.
4. Necessary Cover-Up. It happened like one of the above choices, with the added wrinkle that Cheney was impaired. This requires a cover-up, and starts to explain the delay in releasing the story and particularly explains why Cheney was not interviewed by police until the next day.
In scenarios 1-3 Cheney would have best served with being honest and coming forward immediately. Of course, that is completely unnatural for this crew, thus the corner they've painted themselves into. In scenario 4, with Cheney criminally responsible, I almost cannot blame them for a cover-up... which is why anything falling short of that, it was stupid to lie/delay.
Things I feel comfortable labeling "facts":
1. Ranch owner Katharine Armstrong isn't a witness, she's a spokesperson. She wasn't close enough to know what the fuck happened. Not if she was sitting in the car, and thought the medical team was running to assist a Cheney "heart problem." Her account is horseshit. Why they trotted her out to release the info is beyond me, and might be the biggest mistake they made (aside from shooting a guy in the face). Link added: Excellent breakdown of the flaws in this part of the story.
2. Cheney is completely at fault for the shooting. Regardless of whether Whittington screwed up by leaving the line. Their story is that Whittington snuck up behing the VP without announcing himself. Irrelevant. For him to get shot means Cheney wheeled around and fired behind himself. What the fuck was he thinking? He's lucky he didn't nail a SS agent as well.
3. Cheney sat down to a dinner at the ranch while a guy he was hunting with hours earlier was lying in the ICU with his shotgun load in his face (and, now, apparently his heart). This is worse than Brownie looking for a happy hour after Katrina. Come on, Cheney, you fucking shot the guy in the face, I don't care if everyone thought he'd be fine, drag your sorry ass to the hospital and act concerned. Pace around outside his room. Have a creme soda, do some fucking thing.
Feel free to add your own theories in the comments.
NOTE: It's late, and I'm tired. I hope this makes some sense.
UPDATE: Title changed, typos fixed, minor additions to text for clarity.