Is Obama safe?

The would-be candidate says he'll have to consider security if he runs for the presidency.


Tim Grieve
December 15, 2006 10:39PM (UTC)

For all the metal detectors and Secret Service agents that surround a president or even a presidential nominee, security can be pretty lax for people who are just thinking about running for national office. When we caught up with Sens. Sam Brownback and Barack Obama at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church earlier this month, we were struck by the lack of security surrounding them. Anyone could have walked into the huge church hall where they spoke; with even the slightest effort at deception, anyone also could have made it into a much smaller room where the two men appeared for a press conference.

Should that be a cause for concern? It is for Obama and his family. Just as Alma Powell reportedly feared that her husband might be a target for a racist assassin if he were to run for the presidency, Obama's half-sister tells Elle that she worries for Obama's safety at home and abroad. "At the end of the day, what matters is that he's a black man," Auma Obama says. "The history of America is quite violent."

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In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama acknowledges that his wife and many of his friends are concerned about his safety, and he said he's exploring the possibility of arranging for a security team to accompany him on his travels even before a Secret Service detail would usually be assigned. "I think it is something that will have to be addressed if I ran," he says. "You are not assigned Secret Service protection until you are effectively the nominee."

Understandably, he's not happy about the idea.

"Now I will tell you, this is something, this is one of the least-attractive -- not the part about being shot, obviously, that is the least-attractive option -- but even just having a security apparatus around you; one of the things that I have been very proud over the last several years, is, for all the hoopla, I am not an entourage guy."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama War Room

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