I saw this postcard in last Sunday's PostSecrets, and it struck a chord. Yes, somewhere high on my list of habitual worries is the fear that Obama will be assassinated even before he takes office.
I'm certainly not alone. Hillary Clinton raised the spectre of assassination in May when she seemed to suggest that she was staying in the Democratic primary race in case Obama, like Bobby Kennedy, was assassinated before the election.
"For many black supporters, there is a lot of anxiety that he will be killed, and it is on people's minds," Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a Princeton University professor of political science and contemporary black culture, told the Washington Times. "You can't make a prediction like this — like he has 'a 50 percent chance of getting shot.' But the greater his visibility and the greater his access to people, there is a danger," she said.
The New York Times reported "a hushed worry on the minds of many supporters of Senator Barack Obama, echoing in conversations from state to state, rally to rally: Will he be safe?" The Times quoted Obama supporters who were considering not attending rallies or voting for their candidate because they "feared that winning would put him in danger."
And when Obama celebrated his victory in Grant Park, Chicago, it was from behind bulletproof glass 12 ft. high and 3 inches thick. Michelle Obama, running mate Joe Biden and his wife Jill were under instructions not to stray from the line-of-fire protection zone outlined by lasers.
So is Obama actually at greater risk for assassination? Or do we just perceive him to be because we're still grappling with the unforgettable lesson of 1968, that our most promising leaders -- especially racial pioneers -- are destined to be martyrs?
Obama himself has consistently downplayed the security risk. “I made a decision to get into this race. I think anybody who decides to run for president recognizes that there are some risks involved, just like there are risks in anything,” Obama was quoted in The New York Times. On the campaign trail he typically told concerned supporters,“I’ve got the best protection in the world. So stop worrying.”
Obama also depredated comparisons with President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy which increased when Caroline Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy joined him on the campaign trail.
“I’m pretty familiar with the history,” Mr. Obama said. “Obviously, it was an incredible national trauma, but neither Bobby Kennedy nor Martin Luther King had Secret Service protection.”
Indeed, the assassination of Senator Kennedy in 1968 prompted Congress to authorize protection of major presidential and vice presidential candidates. (Source: New York Times)
I take some small comfort in the fact that Obama's Secret Service team has been personally as well as professionally committed to Obama's safety. The New York Times reported that although initially reluctant to accept Secret Service protection, "Obama had grown fond of the agents who surround him, inviting them to watch the Super Bowl at his home in Chicago and playing basketball with them on the days he awaits the results of an election."
The actions taken by the Secret Service suggests that in this political climate, there's no such thing as too careful. Among the more recentlnews from the agency:
Be good. And if you can't be good, be careful.