Through the course of this extraordinary primary season, few subjects have been discussed so much privately and so little publicly as the matter of Barack Obama’s personal safety as the first African-American presidential candidate to stand so near his party’s nomination. Earlier this week Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times broached the question in a long news feature that underscored the fact those fears are shared by some in government as well. Zeleny quotes a January letter from Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to the Secret Service’s overseers:
“The national and international profile of Senator Barack Obama gives rise to unique challenges that merit special concern…. As an African-American who was witness to some of this nation’s most shameful days during the civil rights movement, I know personally that the hatred of some of our fellow citizens can lead to heinous acts of violence. We need only to look to the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 1968 presidential candidate Robert Kennedy as examples.”
One curious aspect of Zeleny’s story, published on Monday and datelined Dallas: It fails to mention a disturbing report about an Obama rally in that city last Wednesday, where federal agents apparently ordered that security screeners stop checking the entering crowd at Reunion Arena for weapons more than an hour before Obama was to appear on stage.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that “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…. [Several Dallas police officers] spoke on condition of anonymity because, they said, the order was made by federal officials who were in charge of security at the event.”
More: David Crary of AP writes that fears about Obama’s security run especially high among black Americans; Mark Finkelstein of the conservative media crit site NewsBusters notes that Harry Smith of CBS tried to raise the subject in an interview last month with Ted Kennedy, who declined to play along.