“Vice President Back in Circulation” – USA Today headline, Feb. 25, 2002

“Secret Service agents shopping for Olympics souvenirs lost a document detailing security plans for Vice President Dick Cheney’s appearance at the closing ceremony” – AP, Feb. 26, 2002

Secret Service Lapse Probably Just an Accident, He Says

Washington, D.C. ( Update – Vice President Dick Cheney, kept in seclusion for nearly six months to ensure his safety, insisted today his emergence back into public view does not mean the administration thinks it’s all right if he dies now.

Cheney somehow relaxes
A remarkably unconcerned Vice President Dick Cheney.

“The President has assured me he is no less concerned for my safety than he was before, and he promised that the Secret Service thing the other day was a total coincidence,” said Cheney, referring to reports that agents “accidentally” left a paper describing his security detail in Salt Lake City prior to the Olympics’ closing ceremony. “The agents just forgot it. I’m sure it’s happened before.”

“Yes, he’s right,” responded Secret Service spokesman Dan Gordon. “I do remember something like that happening with President Lincoln.”

While the Vice President asserted the slip-up didn’t mean anything, the American public disagreed.

“Like most people, I’ve been on edge since September, but I have to say that when I saw Cheney on Jay Leno last week, it made me feel so much better,” said Michelle Gagnon, a systems analyst in San Francisco. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, we’ve really turned a corner. We’re now strong enough to absorb the loss of the Vice President'”

“That’s not what it means!” Cheney insisted.

Political observers, meanwhile, said the administration’s decision to put Cheney in harm’s way may forever change the office of the vice presidency.

“Historically, vice presidents have been viewed as expendable, but that’s always been in the metaphorical, politically expedient sense,” said George Washington University law school professor Dean Anders. “But here we have a vice president who is interpreting this literally. He is saying, ‘I’m expendable. I’m ready to go now. I don’t care what happens to me.”

“Now cut that out!” Cheney replied.

But Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, said the administration’s new stance on the Vice President is more than just an indication that Bush is stronger and no longer needs Cheney. “I honestly think you have to look at this in terms of self-sacrifice,” said Matthews. “I mean, Cheney’s private meetings with the Enron folks have been an embarrassment for the administration, so if they let him out in public, and let slip where he’s going to be, where his agents are positioned, that could tidy things up a bit.”

“But…” said Cheney.

“In my opinion, the Vice President should be up for a Congressional Medal of Honor,” Matthews added. “I think they can award those posthumously.”

“But…” said Cheney.

To learn more about the Vice President, tune in to the History Channel Saturday at 8 p.m. for “Remembering Richard Cheney: Second-in-Command, First in Courage.” Or check his upcoming travel schedule, which the Secret Service will accidentally be losing at retail and specialty stores along the way.

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