Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Politics is a dirty game. Nobody gets into high office completely clean. If they do, well, there's a two headed monster squatting on Pennsylvania Avenue and K Street that will dirty or devour them. The last real outsider to gain the White House was Jimmy Carter who was very effectively shut down. The last reformer to come from the Republicans was Teddy Roosevelt. When he turned his formidable will to the job and the good of the Nation it horrified the Party bosses. They gave the Presidency to the more biddable Taft who furthered their Gilded Age policies.
Barrack Obama is a Senator, a politician and an Illinois politician no less. Jokes about letting him near ballot boxes notwithstanding he's had to make his peace with the Machine. But he's the best candidate out there and has excited the electorate in some very important ways which we haven't seen in decades. Lord knows he's smart and charismatic enough for three or four. It doesn't hurt that he's the first member of the African Diaspora to get within spitting distance of the White House other than by pushing a broom. And anyone who can inspire this sort of vitriol from the economic Establishment deserves at least a second look.
The ability to inspire and desire to shake things up that are beginning to worry me. Forget the "Obama supporters are a cult" crap that the Clinton campaign and various Republicans are spreading. They wouldn't know what to do with an unscripted moment if it bit them on the ass. Come to think of it, that's exactly what it's doing.
No, it's the memory of John and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. America is very very hard on its charismatic popular reformers. If they don't get bought they have a habit of suffering mysterious assassinations that are never really explained. Dr. King says "Black men will not kill Yellow men to keep White men in power" and dies days later after his police protection is mysteriously withdrawn. Ray never goes to trial. The JFK and RFK assassinations have provided forty years of entertainment to thousands of obsessives, paranoids and people with little reason to trust the government. Nobody believes the official accounts of Malcolm X's murder. And so on.
From all reports the racist bulletin boards and websites are full of real hatred for the Senator from Illinois. The more public ones are circumspect. It's difficult not to be when you know that you're being watched by every law enforcement and three letter government agency out there. The more private ones, so I am told, look forward to the prospect of a Black President with open horror and are talking about assassination and race wars. Colin Powell's refusal to run makes a whole lot of personal sense.
That's why this story from the Dallas Star-Telegraph and the follow up are so disturbing. In case they've disappeared by the time you read this post, here are the high points (emphasis mine)
DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.
The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.
Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.
"Sure," said Lawrence, when asked if he was concerned by the great number of people who had gotten into the building without being checked. But, he added, the turnout of more than 17,000 people seemed to be a "friendly crowd."
The Secret Service did not return a call from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.
Doors opened to the public at 10 a.m., and for the first hour security officers scanned each person who came in and checked their belongings in a process that kept movement of the long lines at a crawl. Then, about 11 a.m., an order came down to allow the people in without being checked.
Several Dallas police officers said it worried them that the arena was packed with people who got in without even a cursory inspection.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because, they said, the order was made by federal officials who were in charge of security at the event.
"How can you not be concerned in this day and age," said one policeman.JACK DOUGLAS Jr., 817-390-7700
I'm sure there was a "comprehensive and layered security plan". But a charismatic and controversial Democratic candidate speaks in freaking Dallas, and they suddenly stop checking people for weapons? What are they going to do next? Invite him back to Dallas to ride down Main Street in a motorcade with the Governor and detour along Elm past the textbook repository? If they don't have his best interests at heart you'd think they'd at least get lab tests for the irony deficiency they're exhibiting. The Dallas police seem to have a handle on just how touchy this is. They may be haunted by the ghost of Jack Kennedy in ways that the Boston PD just can't understand.
FORT WORTH -- The U.S. Secret Service on Friday defended its handling of security during a massive rally in downtown Dallas for Barack Obama, saying there was no "lapse" in its "comprehensive and layered security plan," which called for some people to be checked for weapons, while others were not.
A report in the Star-Telegram that said some security measures were lifted during Wednesday's rally sparked a public outrage across the country, with most people saying they were shocked that a routine weapons search was lifted at the front gates of Reunion Arena an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage.
"This relaxed security was unbelievably stupid, especially in Dallas," Jeff Adams of Berkeley, Calif., said in an e-mail to the Star-Telegram, noting the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas more than four decades ago.
Others said they had recently attended large political events, many for Obama, where security screening was halted. Jeremy Dibbell of Boston said in an e-mail that he attended an Obama event in Boston at which "the same thing happened there. We waited for hours in line as people were screened, and then suddenly everyone was just allowed in without going through any inspection at all."
What should the Obama campaign do? That's in the realm of high-level security, far beyond my training and experience. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get a few of the eggs out of the Secret Service's basket and have some very skilled people loyal to the Senator or at least their contract with the Senator reviewing plans and operations. Blackwater and Dyncorp have experience in that sort of thing. So do the Fruits of Islam. The awful possibilities just multiply, don't they?
There's a lot of people who don't want him to be President. Most of them don't want it enough to hurt him. Most of the ones who do wouldn't or couldn't. All it would take would be one with the determination and a lapse like the ones in Massachusetts or Texas. One or two disgruntled nuts or losers. The right opportunity. A word at an opportune moment. His really powerful enemies wouldn't have to get their hands dirty. Someone else would pull the trigger and take the fall. And we're left wondering what sort of mark he might have made.
I'm not terribly good at the whole prayer thing. But mine now include requests that Senator Obama be spared the assassin's bullet. Otherwise we might just have to revise that melancholy Sixties song to "Abraham, Martin, Barrack and John"