The PHANTOM VEEP
So he can move about freely in public, some experts believe Dick Cheney, left, occasionally poses as Father Archibald DuPont, shown at right.
Will the real Dick Cheney
please stand up?
By CHUCK McFADDEN
An audiotape carrying what purports to be the voice of Vice President Dick Cheney has surfaced, declaring that he would run for re-election.
U.S. officials said they would subject the tape to tests to establish its authenticity.
"It could very well be Cheney, since we know he has made recordings in the past, but we won't know for sure until the tests are completed," a Deception Undersecretariat Headquarters spokesman said.
Cheney is believed to be alive. The vice president, or a man bearing a striking resemblance to him, has materialized occasionally on Sunday morning talk shows. It is not known if Cheney has used a double since he was moved to his Undisclosed Secure Location.
If the tape is authenticated, Cheney ironically would join two of his deadliest enemies, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, in using audiotapes to rally supporters while remaining personally elusive. A Cheney spokesman said that it was neither fair nor accurate to compare Cheney to either bin Laden or Saddam, however, since the vice president has not advocated political repression, religious fanaticism or terrorism.
"As for violent overthrow of the government, that depends on what government you're talking about," the spokesman added.
The voice on the tape called on Republicans to "strike hard against the enemies of the president's tax cut" and predicted that Democrats would lose congressional seats in the 2004 elections.
The tape made a reference to the president's carrier landing, indicating the recording was made relatively recently.
Most analysts believe Cheney survived a recent series of smart speeches made against him by Democratic presidential hopefuls. He has been seen on videotapes speaking before groups of supporters. Experts have attempted to determine the exact date the videotapes were made.
But at least one prominent Democrat, who asked not to be identified by name, said he doubted that Cheney had survived the first speech.
"Whoever has been appearing on television probably is a double," the source said. "For one thing, the man laughed--twice. Anyone who knows Cheney knows the vice president would never do a thing like that. Secondly, the man we saw on television mentioned oil only 15 times during his appearance on 'This Week'--that makes me sure it wasn't the real Cheney."
The latest audiotape was handed to a reporter for Fox News, who said he had been approached by two crew-cut men in dark glasses and black suits.
Cheney had been relatively visible during the first year of the Bush Administration, appearing at Republican party events and exhorting followers to greater efforts on behalf of the party. But since he was moved to the Undisclosed Secure Location, his appearances have been sporadic and confined to carefully controlled venues.
Analysts say that if the audiotape is authenticated, it may herald a series of moves by Cheney to increase his visibility as the 2004 election approaches.
But analysts dismissed as speculation reports that the vice president had been in Hollywood, secretly conferring with CBS on plans for a Cheney reality television show to be entitled "Survivor: The Halliburton Files."
©2003 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel.
The illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA.
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