Officials today refused to confirm or deny reports that the Presidential Protection Detail of the Secret Service have been issued with tranquilizer dart guns in the event of President Bush's suddenly running amok in public.
"It is not policy to comment on the methods used to protect the President from members of the public, or even the other way around," said an unnamed spokesman. "All I can say is that we are watching the President very carefully at this time."
The reports come hot on the heels of reports of the President's increasing mental instability. Some White House staffers allege that Mr. Bush's rapid mood swings, which go from Bible-quoting homilies to obscene tirades against real or imaginary opponents, are becoming more frequent and that verbal and physical violence is becoming an almost everyday occurrence in the Oval Office. "Last week alone, we had to replace three water carafes and the frame and glass of a signed photograph of [U.N. Secretary-General] Kofi Annan," claimed one aide.
Commentators have remarked on Mr. Bush's appearance at public events, noting that medication for a psychiatric condition might be a factor in his notoriously poor language use and communication skills. Recently, it has been reported that White House physician Colonel Tubb prescribed anti-depressants for his presidential patient, following Bush's stalking off the stage after a press conference in which he was asked about his relationship with indicted ex-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. The possibility of a Presidential rampage against members of Congress or the public is also in the minds of some Congressional Republicans.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one senior GOP Senator said, "Quite frankly, we're terrified. Many of us have seen the President in private moments when we were, shall we say, less than convinced of his sanity. Our fear is that he will forget to take his medication, or that his tolerance to it will build up, and that the 'calm, reasonable' mask will slip at a public moment. We've been told that the SS [Secret Service] have been issued with dart guns to bring him down and make it look like an accident if this happens, but it might be too late by then."
A Republican Congressman's aide alleged, "We all knew about a recent 'cycling accident' in Texas which was blamed on rainy conditions, even though weather records showed no rain had fallen for a week. It was hardly a coincidence that both the Secret Service and the President's physician were riding with him when he 'fell' from his bicycle. I suppose we were lucky that this didn't happen at a public event. The fundraisers are another matter--we can keep the general public out, and his long 90-minute ramblings, which quite frankly make no sense, have been kept out of the media so far. But we're living on a knife edge."
An unnamed Republican Party source commented, "Why do you think we're pre-screening the crowds at the rallies? One hostile slogan on a T-shirt, or one heckler, and the man could blow at the seams. We've got to keep him under control until election day. And quite frankly, we don't know what to do about the televised debates."
White House spokesmen refused to comment on the record about these matters.