By Jueseppi B.
From The Daily KOS:
How does that make you feel? How does it make Sasha and Malia feel? How about President Obama’s wife, our First Lady?
I know how it makes me feel: wearied and worried; wishing sometimes that he hadn’t been re-elected, because he made it safely through four years as our nation’s first black President, and none of us want his luck pushed by hate. Read that sentence again; soak in the sorrow of those absent serifs.
President Barack Obama is the target of more than 30 potential death threats a day and is being protected by an increasingly over-stretched Secret Service. He is the most threatened President in history.
Since the President took office in 2008, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400% cent. Some threats to the President have been publicized, including the well known alleged plot by white supremacists in Tennessee to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate the first black president in American history.
Most however, are kept under wraps because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only increase the number of copycat attempts.
The death of President Obama would be a symbolic blow so crushing that it would rip our nation apart at its existential root. People would fight; people would leave; an entire generation would be left permanently marred by an illusion that was all too good to be true, an illusion we rode for four lucky years and we wished we could for four more. America is a post-racial society in name and desire only. Attitudes toward racial integration have warmed, but in our homes and communities, we’re as segregated as ever; attitudes toward interracial dating have also warmed, but dating patterns remain mostly unchanged, with only 1% of all American marriages taking place between a black and a white person. Yet the historic election of President Obama temporarily halted the cloud of racial pessimism that has hovered over our society since the 1600s and followed us through succeeding eras of hard-earned, if altogether underwhelming, progress:
We have 44 African-American Congresspersons (out of 435, or 10%, near-parity), zero black Senators (out of 100), 1 black governor (out of 56), and just 250-500 black mayors (out of 19,000 cities, or 2.6%).
But we do at least have one amazing black President.
The President is not made aware of all threats against him, however, because as the Secret Service says, “the sheer number would be overwhelming and, frankly, distracting.”
That’s 43,830 death threats for his first four years alone.
But he, the most threatened president in history, still gets up each day to fight for us, befall what may. For those of you who believe in a god, pray for our President, pray for us, that our fears and angst, that my wear and worry, end up being mere markers of the best in us, rather than a prescient affirmation of the worst in us.
The always-sharp Bob Johnson asked about sources, because the article I quoted above does no citing. Here are sources going back as far as 2009:
The Boston Globe reports that a new internal Congressional Research Service report and government sources say there are an unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama — and that the Secret Service is insufficiently funded and staffed to deal with them.
Barack Obama faces 30 death threats a day, stretching US Secret Service via The Telegraph:
Since Mr Obama took office, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush, according to Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service.
Death threats quadrupled over Bush–and, boy, was Bush a hated man. So the next time some right-winger says, “Oh, this isn’t so different from all the threats Bush faced,” you have my personal permission to tell her or him to eat Seamus dogshit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a midnight snick-snack too.
Here’s a quote from a Christian Science Monitor article from two days ago that disputes the notion that Obama gets more death threats than Bush did, posted by Bob Johnson in the comments:
While the Secret Service saw a spike in death threats in 2008 and again in 2012, the total number of daily threats against Obama is for the most part similar to those against his predecessor, George W. Bush, and has occasionally dipped significantly lower, according to reports from the Secret Service.
The article doesn’t actually link to the report in question, but since we’re a facts-based community here on dKos, I did also find this on Wikipedia:
The number of reported threats rose from 2,400 in 1965 to 12,800 in 1969. According to some reports, President George W. Bush received about 3,000 threats a year, while his successor Barack Obama received about four times that many. This figure has been disputed by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, who says that Obama receives about as many threats as the previous two Presidents.
One can only surmise that the frequency of death threats to the president are, unlike America itself, completely race-neutral!
I’m suspicious of the claim that Clinton, Bush, and Obama each got the same number of death threats. Porque (if you’re Latino; ‘pourquoi’ if you’re French), you ask? Look, I’m sure when Clinton and Bush were respectively re-elected, no one said, “Fucking Nigger Won Again“. I’m sure had Twitter been around in their days, the tweet map of hate speech might have looked a tad bit different. Who really knows the real reason AK-47s are flying off of store shelves like hotcakes. Or why or even whether it’s actually true that self-reported or poll-detectable racist attitudes towards blacks have increased since Obama’s election in 2008. I just, I don’t know. How do you get a 755% growth in extremist groupsdriven by a Fear of a Black President but see no reflected rise in death threats? Sure, causation and correlation are different things, and you could theoretically have an increase in expressed racism, a rise in hate speech, and a rise in race-fueled hate groups, and yet see no concomittant rise in the number or frequency of death threats…but come on. Come aaaaaaaaahn. Am I missing something? Anybody?
Here’s a long answer I just wrote to a commentor down below. It’s an exhaustive and much-linked background story on this diary and the information that’s out there on the subject at hand. Make of it what you may.
My original post was about my relationship to the sentence that became this diary’s title. I read the piece, and then began to write. It’s a sensitive topic to which many on all sides of the color line have devoted considerable mental and emotional energy pondering, and so seeing that fear codified in a sentence such as “President Obama Is the Most Threatened President in History” elicited a reaction in me.
In the course of my writing, I wondered about the source blog article’s lack of links. And, you’re right, I didn’t initially check my presumption that the sentence was correct, because I can’t imagine Obama wouldn’t be the most threatened President. They gave him more advance SS protection than any other candidate running for office. You’d think the SS would not expend those kinds of extra resources “just in case” but rather out of cold hard evidence that it was necessary. I’m a racial realist. My most-shared diary was about an open call for Obama’s assassination by a high school teenager from Cleveland. I was thus biased in accepting the sentence at face value–I’ll grant you that.
Subsequently, a commenter, Bob Johnson, pointed out a more recent article that itself was not particularly well-corroborated either. Mine said “Secret Service”. His (CSM link) said “reports by the Secret Service”. An August article at MyNorthwest.com gets more specific and cites an actual Seattle SS agent.
[As an aside, Bob Johnson was making the case that since the CSM article is from two days ago, it must be more relevant (correct?), and I balked at the notion that recency presupposes relevance or even higher accuracy. But I digress.]
In researching links while responding to Bob Johnson, I came across two articles from 2009, from TPM and The Telegraph, both of which cited the 400% threat increase. At this point in the timeline, it became clear to me that the original blog post I sourced for this diary was heavily influenced or mainly sourced from those articles. However, as some point out, that 400% stat has been debunked by the Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan himself in 2009 congressional hearing. Incidentally, the first TPM article cited a more thorough Boston Globe article that did not itself cite the 400% stat. This stat comes from what some hear are saying is a sensationalist book (written by a right-winger, no less) called In the President’s Service. The SS Director went on to say in 2009, at the hearing, that overall death threat numbers are about the same for Obama as they were for Bush and Clinton, which you can read about in this 2012 Federation of American Scientists report titled The U.S. Secret Service: An Examination and Analysis of Its Evolving Missions.
Since the SS does not release the actual numbers, we can’t corroborate Mark Sullivan’s statement, and I do find it hard to believe that Obama’s no more threatened than the previous two Presidents. But he’s the Director, and we don’t deal in conspiracies around here, so we’re either left accepting his proclamation at face value, even though it’s impossible for the civilian population to confirm it as they do not release actual figures, and/or we are left to wonder whether or if the rise in hate speech and in hate groups (if indeed there has been a rise; i.e., if the ‘rise’ isn’t actually the result of bad polling or bad counting) has any effect on the rise of death threats to Obama.
In the absence of cold, hard data, this does not make sense to me. It does not compute. Everything in my life experience and in the complex historical record of the United States is at odds with the idea that heightened enmity towards a black President yields no net difference in animus-driven threat. As there is no way for me/us to know or confirm, I’m/we’re left with, as you say, nothing but a philosophical or sociological framework from which to make an argument. Which, as you also point out, isn’t really preferable to an argument based on cold, hard data.
Believe me, there is nothing I’d like more than to know, incontrovertibly, that the title of my diary is absolutely false.
Thank you The Daily KOS for this post, very informative.
I only wish I were Barack’s personal bodyguard because these punks in the secret service don’t impress me none. Too busy looking for the next hooker.