When Barack Obama began receiving Secret Service protection in May 2007, it marked the earliest application of that regime to any presidential candidate. Is there a record for the latest? It will probably be set by John McCain, who might forego it even after he wins the election:
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) may be the presumptive GOP nominee for president, but, by his own wishes, he is not being protected by the Secret Service.
“He has not requested protection,” Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told a congressional subcommittee this morning. “We have no involvement at this point.”
In opting not to take the protection, McCain is following through on plans he outlined to reporters late last year on his Straight Talk Express campaign bus.
Members of the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee were surprised by Sullivan’s revelation. Sullivan said his agency had been in contact with McCain’s staff. But a candidate has no legal requirement to take protection.
By contrast, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) on May 3, 2007, became the earliest presidential candidate to receive protection outside of his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), who already received protection by virtue of being a former first lady.
McCain wants rethink the scale of protection afforded presidents, if elected himself. He sees the impact to cities when presidents travel and wants to avoid costly urban snarls created by the massive security efforts. Even in the Twin Cities, a presidential visit will have such impact on travel that it disrupts traffic patterns in the suburban ring for hours afterwards, and many grumble about the necessity of it.
However, it is necessary, especially in a time of terrorism and war. Even under the best of circumstances in America, we have had our share of lone nuts taking potshots at Presidents. We have seen four die from assassinations, and several others survive attempts. Ronald Reagan barely survived the attempt on his life, and Gerald Ford got lucky when two attempts in a month both were carried out ineptly. Franklin Roosevelt avoided assassination once as well — and all of these took place before we found ourselves at war with terrorist groups adept at suicide-style assassinations.
Since McCain promises to fight the terrorists vigorously if elected, he should take care to have enough security around him to ensure his survival. It may feel like an imposition and a burden, but it will hardly be the worst of either he will face as President. We can put up with some inconvenience, but we need to show the world that we know how to protect our elected leaders.