Does POTUS really need that much security?

So the G20 summit has just concluded in my home town of Brisbane. There was security theater galore, but thankfully nothing like the scenes from Toronto occurred. I suppose Australia was too far to travel for the super-serious anarchists, and Australians as a whole don’t give a rats about that for there to be a local chapter.

One of the things that got attention was the amount and level of security provided to Obama. From things I saw personally, to media reports, it seemed to me that his security was at least an order of magnitude more intense than any other of the world leaders. There were three V-22’s on standby, he bought his own armoured limo (two of them), and the hoops required to attend a speech he gave to Uni students was by all accounts very intense.

I understand America is a ‘superpower’, so would expect better security than say for Australia’s PM, or the leader of Malaysia for example, but even when compared to some of the other global heavy hitters (EG, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin) it seems Obama’s security was significantly higher. Angela Merkel for instance actually stopped at a couple of pubs on the way to her hotel and shook some hands and mingled with the plebs.

Curious as to whether you think this level of protection for POTUS is actually needed/warranted? Better safe than sorry? Or is it a lot of overblown ‘theater’?

I think you’re confusing ‘theater’ with ‘overkill.’ The security is very much real and not for show.
It snowballed over the decades. With each assassination attempt, successful or not, more layers were added. If they could seal POTUS in bullet-proof bubble, they would.

There are loads of nutcases out there who know that assassinating Obama would be an instant ticket to notoriety, just look at how much JFK’s murder is still talked about 50 years later. I bet you can’t recall the last assassin of a British Prime Minister, for example (John Bellingham).

An old friend did a stint as White House photographer during Bush 2. Apparently, it is, and W wasn’t black or Democrat. He would make his Secret Service guys nuts. WHP never revealed any details really but there were just a lot of little things done and left unsaid. Daughter2 and I visited in 2006 and got to follow WHP around a bit. WHP is extremely talented and intelligent, went lots of places with W (like on AF1 after 9/11) and offered a view of the POTUS as position I don’t think many get to see. (It was initially disturbing, a picture was presented quite contrary to my own;))

All of the above? Lotta folks are–as a normal thing–gunning for the POTUS and we live in especially perilous times. It might be too much, but I found out that until the recent row in Ottawa Stephen Harper didn’t have 24-hour security, which might be too little.

Keep in mind that they were probably only putting in place what they’re used to doing at home where the risk is far greater due to the availability of firearms.

However, there would also be a bit of theater in it. Putin arranges for some naval ships to be off shore as a display of force, Barry breaks out the cool wheels.

Think of the POTUS as the Mafia Don. He kills a lot of people and makes many more miserable. That’s what they do. The POTUS never meets with the public spontaneously anymore. I went to see Obama speak once and it was like going to the airport. Naturally, they don’t like to advertise this.

There is probably no other world leader who has to live in this kind of shell.

If there were no security at all, would the POTUS be at greater risk in Washington or at a meeting of other heads of state/prime ministers/presidents in a G10 capital?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the POTUS were at greater risk at home when compared to abroad, and that when abroad would be at greater risk than the other heads of state/prime ministers/presidents at the meeting.

Probably a lot easier to follow carefully thought out procedure than to jury rig.

No. Not with Joe Biden as his vice president :wink:

That was always Bush (the lesser)‘s greatest secret weapon. If they were successful in an attack on him, we all get Darth Cheney. NO ONE wanted Darth Cheney. That’s a one way ticket to global thermonuclear jihad. Many a hookah went flying when that fact was pointed out to the more rambunctious youngins’ in the AQ weekly meetings.


That sounds like the level of security that President Clinton had in Shanghai when I lived there. I remember two ambulances in his motorcade.

Interesting. At our visit, VP Cheney got into a vehicle that looked VERY Vaderish. Black Suburban with a big rectangle thing on top. I was told we don’t talk about that. The DV music kept gong through my head.

Probably in DC. But DC has a great deal of built-in security measures, and they aren’t as obvious or visible as you’d get in an outside event.

I saw the President’s motorcade pull into the White House just the other day on my way to work.

I wonder about that for a different reason. If your president goes to The Great White House in the Sky suddenly then your VP takes over. If both pres and VP kick the bucket I recall that you actually have a fairly long chain of succession mandated so in practical terms there is no chance of the office being totally vacant.

So, I can see a reasonable amount of security since he is an important and famous dude, but the massive security precautions your Secret Service takes?? Why??

What Americans do at courthouses and airports is purely theater. The President has real security an order of magnitude more than any other world leader. Four Presidents have been assassinated and there have been many other attempts. The economic disruption of a such an assassination, not to mention the political fall out, more than justifies the expense involved.

The presidential limos, called “The Beast” travels in pairs, with one as a decoy. That is chosen at random. They are the same spec machines. They can stop a rocket propelled grenade that would piece anything else but a full main battle tank.

Al Queda came close when Clinton was President when they were going to bomb a bridge while he was on it in the Philippines. The Secret Service got lucky to get wind of it and changed the route. So whatever intelligence they are gathering, they are also acting on.

Remember when a man out for a morning jog actually ran into Britain PM, David Cameron? It was less than a month ago.

The Secret Service is deathly afraid the jogger is going to turn out to beSara Jane Moore or, worse, John Hinckley.

The Secret Service has disclosed that Clinton, Bush and Obama each received about 3,000 death threats.

Another reason is that America might not have more nutjobs per capita, but we sure as shit have more guns.

Are you really just advocating that we let someone to die because it costs too much? That may be a good idea, but it’s not how Americans make decisions. And on a purely economic level, the president (generically, not just Obama) is beloved by many people, and his death would negatively impact national productivity. The harmful effects of this on gross domestic product probably outweigh the cost of presidential security. In addition, strong security attracts more qualified candidates for president, which we should all be happy for.

100 people die a second on this planet, many of them with responsibilities, friends and relatives.

I wonder if this comes down to a different defensive mentality because American presidents seem to receive much more frequent death threats and assasination attempts than leaders from the other countries. This may or may not have to do with the easier availability of guns in the States, but the result is that American presidents have a much different approach to security than leaders in other countries. Almost all US presidents in the past 30 years have been at the receiving end of actual assassination attempts:

  • Reagan (shot by John Hinckley Jr.)
  • G.W. Bush (live grenade thrown but failed to explode during speech)
  • Clinton (stolen plane crashed into White House; man shoots white house)
  • Obama (man shoots white house)

I don’t know how often the Australian prime minister receives these types of attempts (not just death threats), but this may be a reason why non-Americans sometimes don’t understand why US presidents travel with what may appear to be threatrical levels of security.