There has been a lot of speculation in the past few weeks about the possibility of Dick Cheney being dropped from the Republican ticket in favor of a more popular and less polarizing figure, such as John McCain or Bill Frist.
Although the Bush administration has dismissed these rumors as baseless gossip by headline-hungry pundits, a top executive-branch official has confirmed that a review of the vice president's candidacy is, in fact, under way.
According to this highly placed source, Vice President Cheney -- who as the person in charge of picking George W. Bush's running mate in the 2000 campaign ended up giving himself the nod -- has agreed to a request from the president to reconvene his one-man search committee to decide whether he should remain in the No. 2 spot.
Apart from the occasional perfunctory campaign appearance, Cheney already spends much of his time in seclusion, but he has reportedly gone into "extra-special, double super-duper seclusion" to conduct a series of grueling "none-on-one" solo interviews. "This is a guy who knows how to ask some very tough questions, and I don't think he's going to be able to put too much past himself," the White House insider claimed.
"Let's face it," he continued, "on Halliburton, on the intelligence failures, on the health issue, if Cheney has a skeleton in his closet, he knows where to find it, whether it's under the pile of fishing gear on the floor in the corner or up on the back of the shelf with all the old National Geographics."
The source insisted Cheney's screening process would be thorough, albeit somewhat limited in scope. "When he draws up a list of potential replacements for himself, he's going to start with a blank sheet of paper," the source predicted, "and if at the end of the day that sheet of paper is still blank, well, that's something I think he can live with.
"Look," the source concluded, "he's seen the polls, he's heard the grumbling from the party faithful, but the president's left it up to him to make the decision. And when that moment of truth comes, I think he's going to turn to himself and say, 'I hope I'm sitting down, because I have some pretty big news for myself - it's me!'"
-- Beard is the author of "The Dick Cheney Code," a political parody that will be published during the Republican National Convention.