Yet here, today, for the Global Understanding Institute, I wish to take a moment to step back and reflect on the sober challenges he faces as the 44th President of the United States, in light of the partisan nature of U.S. and global politics.
Rather than focus on the challenges he faces in office in terms of policy and ideology, for now let us look at the personal and real safety issues he shall be confronted with.
The Spectre of Assassination
In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama raised the memory of another senator from Illinois who ran for the Presidency, Abraham Lincoln. Many see Mr. Obama’s successful bid for the Presidency as a fulfilment of the dream elucidated and spoken forth on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 28 August 1963 by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A few commentators note Barack Obama, born on 4 August 1961, is of the same generation as the children of John F. Kennedy. His campaign reminds them of the young, charismatic President who put forward the declaration to put Americans on the moon, and challenged the nation that it is not what our country can do for them, but what they could do for their country.
Civil rights leaders, such as Reverend Jesse Jackson, predict a new President Obama will change the political landscape of the United States both domestically and abroad. For them, he is the fulfillment of the possibilities presented by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
“Obama's victory will be a huge step in the direction we have wanted America to take for decades.”Yet the one thing he does not have in common with these men—yet—is their fate. For they were all assassinated. Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy while in office. King and Malcolm X while leading the civil rights movements of their generation.— Jesse Jackson, New York Post, 14 October 2008
These fears are not unfounded. Nor have they sprung up overnight. Back on 14 October 2007, the New York Times interviewed Clara Vereen, of South Carolina, of her views of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“I fear that they just would kill him, that he wouldn’t even have a chance.”The prospects for a black president have been contemplated by all parties for a long while. However, now, it is no longer theoretical. It is happening. How will the various factions and actors in America and around the world act? Will there be bluster, or actual bloodshed?— Clara Vereen, quoted in the New York Times, 14 October 2007
The right-wing have been saying this is a “MSM meme” since January 2008, when Warner Todd Huston, of NewsBusters.org declared this: “These faux assassination fears are built on equating Obama with Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Yet is it merely liberal “mainstream media” (MSM) gone wild, or is there an actual threat?
“Actual threat” is the correct answer.
An 6 November 2008 article from The Daily Telegraph, reprinted in The Herald Sun of Australia (remember, they are already one day ahead) notes there have already been two assassination plots foiled against Barack Obama. With his election, there shall be more pressure from racist groups to kill the sitting President of the United States of America.
Not from international terrorists. From our own neighbors. 100% American, domestic racists.
Already, there is speculation that Senator Obama might not live to see out his term - just hours after his victory, the term "Obama assassination" appeared on the top 100 Google search terms.There are some who dismiss the threats of the Colorado ring of four arrested in August 2008. These four sought to assassinate Barack Obama at the DNC convention in Denver as more “aspirational, perhaps, than operational.” Yet such threats cannot be utterly discounted either. Gartrell, Adolph, Johnson, and Gromack were aligned with a common purpose. They had high-powered rifles. The DNC convention, held in the battleground state of Colorado, meant Barack Obama visited frequently and was sure-to-show. Perhaps their arrest actually produced the opposite reaction than they intended, because Obama ended up winning the state.— The Daily Telegraph, quoted in The Herald Sun of Australia
In another unrelated plot, two other men, Daniel Cowart of Bells, Tennessee, and Paul Schlesselman, of West Helena, Arksansas, were indicted just today by a Federal grand jury for planning to assassinate Barack Obama and over 100 black students.
They were arrested in late October in Crockett County, Mississippi, driving around in a car covered with racial slurs and swastikas. The Neo-Nazis, characterized as “skinheads” who “chickened out at the sight of dogs” by the Chicago Sun-Times, were planning to break into a gun shop, begin shooting black students, and go on a cross-country killing spree that would end at the innauguration ceremonies of Barack Obama.
“You know, you couldn’t make it that close (to Obama) by any means.”All told there have been about 500 threats against Senator Obama’s life, of which a dozen threats have been seriously investigated.
“Yeah, but we would die trying.”— Secret Service confronting Daniel Cowart & Paul Schlesselman
Now is the time for the United States to reflect on racial relations in the 21st Century. Even Klu Klux Klan leaders speak openly about Obama being a target for assassination, predicting it likely it may come from someone in the south. Yet there is no need to cross the Mason-Dixon line. In Illinois, and adjacent Indiana—Obama’s own home territory—hate groups such as the Klan are growing in influence and size. Ethnic pride and ethnic prejudice are often spoken of in the same breath, and the distinguishment between healthy and deadly behavior separated by a very thin margin.
Even at a “friendly” event, such as the Grant Park victory speech, 13,500 police were put on active duty to ensure the rally of 240,000 people came off peaceably.
Odds for Barack
So what are the odds that Barack Obama shall face assassination attempts? What is he likelihood they will succeed? What are the chances a black man in America will be murdered? What are the chances that a sitting President of the U.S. will be killed in office?
• Nationwide in 2007, odds of being murdered in the U.S. are 16,929 murders out of a population of approx. 301 million. Odds: 1:17,816.
• In Chicago, the murder rate for 2008 is 427 murders through October 27th. That is one murder per 5,536 residents. Odds: 1:5,536
• Nationwide in 2007, there were 6,223 murders of black males out of a black male population of approximately 18.3 million. Odds: 1:2,950
• Out of 43 prior holders of the office of President of the United States, 4 have been assassinated: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. 2 others may have been assassinated, depending on hypothesis and circumstantial evidence: Taylor, Harding. Including Barack Obama as 44th President would make his odds 1:11. or, 6:44 if one counts those who died under unusual circumstance, making the odds 13.6%. Odds: 1:11 to 1:7.
• Every single one of the seven Presidents since Nixon has had an attempt made on their life: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush. All, so far, have survived. Odds: 100% survival.
This shall be the greatest challenge the Secret Service will ever have to face. And it shall put to the test the concept of Homeland Security. As Pogo said, sagely, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”