GREENSBORO, NC—In an announcement that has alarmed voters across the nation, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he will personally attack the U.S. if Sen. John Kerry wins the next election.
"If the wrong man is elected in November, the nation will come under a devastating armed attack of an unimaginable magnitude, one planned and executed by none other than myself," Cheney said, speaking at a rally in Greensboro, NC. "When they go to the polls, Americans must weigh this fact and decide if our nation can ignore such a grave threat."
Added Cheney: "It would be a tragedy to suffer another attack on American soil, let alone one perpetrated by an enemy as well-organized and well-equipped as I am. My colleagues and I urge voters to keep their safety in mind when they go to the polls."
Although Cheney would not comment on the details of his proposed attack on a John Kerry-led U.S., national-security experts said he possesses both the capabilities and the motivation to pose a serious threat.
"There is no question that Cheney has the financial assets and intelligence needed to pose a threat to our nation," said Peter Bergen, terrorism researcher and author of Threats And Balances: Former Executive Branch Officials And The Danger To America. "After all, this fanatic can call upon the resources of both the Republican Party and Halliburton to aid him in his assault. America would be foolish not to take his warning seriously."
After his speech, Cheney was asked to confirm his remarks.
"Make no mistake: If Kerry becomes president, no one will be safe from me," Cheney told reporters. "Businesses, places of worship, schools, public parks: No place will offer you refuge. A vote for Kerry is a vote to die in your own bed at the hands of Dick Cheney."
Stepping up to the podium after Cheney, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge vowed to increase surveillance of the vice president.
"Wherever Cheney is—whether in his office in the White House or stumping in battleground states—we will be watching him," Ridge said. "I will not rule out raising the terror-alert level, should Kerry begin to draw ahead in the polls. Every percentage point conceded to Kerry brings the nation under greater threat of attack by Cheney."
In a televised address from the White House, President Bush promised "to serve and protect the nation" by being re-elected.
"A war against Dick Cheney would be a long, hard struggle," Bush said. "It would be a difficult battle against a shadowy nemesis who is able to hide among us, loves only death and destruction, and hates our freedom. I have the experience, the leadership, and the Republican nomination required to protect us all—myself and my family included—from Dick Cheney."
Although the effect of Cheney's remarks has yet to register in the polls, some voters report that the vice president's threats have concerned them.
"Frankly, I'm terrified," said Dwayne Cummings, a 38-year-old metal-press operator from Cleveland, OH. "The idea of getting attacked by Cheney right now, at a time when I'm out of work, uninsured, and have kids to worry about, is overwhelming. I'm not sure I can vote for Kerry anymore."
Mary Pershing, a loom-worker and lifelong Democrat from Limestone, KY, said she appreciates the government's surveillance efforts.
"At least they're warning us about the danger," Pershing said. "I've always suspected Cheney might do something dangerous someday. Now that we have confirmation of a possible attack—from someone as high-ranking as the vice president, no less—we can make moves to stop it."
Cheney's remarks quickly drew a response from the Kerry campaign.
"I urge all Americans to remain calm in the face of this new threat," Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards said. "Rest assured that, once elected, John Kerry has a plan to contend with any threat against our nation, whether from rogue nations, terrorists, or former vice presidents."
"Should John Kerry be elected, he and I will work with, not against, the international community," Edwards added. "I have no doubt that we would be able to assemble a coalition of nations more than willing to aid us in the war against Dick Cheney."