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— The saga began last month, when the Orange County Register reported that Vice President Dick Cheney would arrive in San Diego County on the third week of February for "unspecified" fundraising events. Then on Monday, February 18, Cheney showed up at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station to review the troops. The next day he was at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, where he received a Tiffany crystal star "Architect of Peace" award from Julie Nixon Eisenhower, following a lunch of lobster and seared sea bass. After a trip to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the vice president headed for more Republican fundraisers around the state before heading off to close the Winter Olympics.

Only later did the Washington Post report that Cheney and his party had actually arrived in San Diego on Sunday, February 17, after a weekend of hunting in Texas. That afternoon, the Post says, he checked into the posh Four Seasons oceanview resort in Carlsbad and later sat down for dinner with California Republican Party chief Gerald Parsky, his wife, and their friends.

The next afternoon, following his appearance at Miramar, Cheney went to Parsky's house in Rancho Santa Fe before heading back for another night at the Four Seasons. The Post reported that Parsky -- a close friend of the Bush administration who was soon to suffer the sting of embarrassment due to the loss of his hand-picked gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan to conservative William Simon -- accompanied Cheney in his limousine to and from Miramar.

But while Cheney was comfortably encamped at the Four Seasons, where rooms start at $400 a night and a bottle of water goes for $7, part of his off-duty Secret Service security detail was making a little low-class history of its own down the road in Encinitas. As later related by sheriff's detectives, four of the agents got into a street brawl with almost two dozen locals outside the rustic Daley Double Saloon on Coast Highway 101.

According to one account, the fight began after one of the agents, who had come over to the Daley Double after a round of drinks at the Martini Ranch down the street, tried to pick up a woman by inviting her back to the hot tub at his hotel. The agents made their escape without being arrested, and the brawlers suffered just two casualties: one agent's nose was broken, and part of a bar patron's ear was bitten off by one of the agents, who reportedly said he had acted in self-defense as the patron went for the agent's gun.

Both Cheney and the Secret Service have refused comment, but a rightward-leaning Washington website called the American Prowler conjectures that word of the nasty fracas -- which didn't surface until almost two weeks later -- had been leaked to the media by Secret Service agents loyal to the Clinton administration. "It isn't the Bush administration that's leaking on us. They've been great," an unidentified agent was quoted as saying. "We think it's coming from other agents, perhaps those few who are loyal to the previous administration."

"The Secret Service agent the Prowler spoke to says that many current agents believe that the Clinton loyalists are paying other agents back for their years of leaking against the Clintons," the newsletter reported last week. "I wouldn't put it past some Clinton people to be getting this stuff out there," an agent told the Prowler. "They took such a black eye for eight years, and now they are trying to get back at us."

Meanwhile, back in Encinitas, the affair has given Nancy Daley, owner of the Daley Double, a brush with notoriety she wasn't prepared for. "I guess it was on CNN, for God's sake. The problem is, when they're shooting the bar, it looks like the fight happened in the bar." Daley says she got word of the brawl the day after it occurred but didn't think anything about it until later.

"The paper said it happened on the 19th. It didn't; it happened on the 17th. That was a Sunday night," says Daley.

"It wasn't anything to start with. I knew there'd been an altercation that happened. Remember, it did happen outside. You know, the bar was closed. We close before two o'clock. They had been in there, and evidently it started sometime outside, and it progressed to the middle of the street, from what I understand, a little bit north.

"The bartenders told me the next day. They didn't call me that night. My bartender did call the police because he heard something going on outside and looked and saw there was a scuffle going on, so he called 911.

"We didn't think anything of it. We knew somebody was hurt, but we didn't think there'd be any big repercussions about this because it was a fight. Some guys got into it, that's all we knew.

"The next thing I heard about it was when the police came in and talked to the bartender or something, and that was a week or ten days later, and then the bartender told me, 'My God, they say some Secret Service agents are involved in this!'

"They said that they had been drinking responsibly. They were there for a little while, but they had been drinking very slowly, and the other group, the younger people, hadn't had very much to drink. And they were inside, and it happened outside. So they can't say for sure what did happen.

"I'm concerned that it makes the bar look like a sleazy joint, which I do everything I can to be sure it isn't. We're talking about a family bar here that's been here for a long time. It really concerns me that the publicity is bad; it looks bad for us.

"We get all kinds of people. That's why I say it's a respectable neighborhood bar, and that's what I want it to be. It's all ages. As the night goes on, it gets a little younger. A wide range of people frequent the place, and it's always been that way.

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