Why do American Presidents get so many assassination attempts compared to other world leaders?

We have had 43 American Presidents and four of them have been killed while in office. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg. All modern Presidents with the possible exception of LBJ :dubious: have had multiple, serious attempts to kill them with some very near misses in cases like Ford, Reagan and George W Bush that could have succeeded if the planners were just a little more lucky.

Meanwhile, back in merry old England, the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to have that much security and a rather mundane residence. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has been known to walk down the street in other European countries without any security at all.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. it takes weeks of planning and coordination between different law enforcement agencies for the POTUS to attend something like a college football game. A foreign engagement requires a specially outfitted 747 with countermeasures, bulletproof cars and a load of Secret Service agents sent in advance.

Why is that? I do think it is necessary based on history but I don’t know why it has been that way for so long. I don’t think Putin even has nearly that much security.

I don’t know about that, and I await with you some numbers. But I do have the sense of a regularity in Latin America sufficient that Howard Cosell could be imagined to be present and ready to give a another play by play.

I said “world leaders”, not corrupt, barely functional countries like Mexico. They have their own obvious issues. I am just wondering why so many people want to pop off a U.S. President instead of going for a much easier target that is also well known.

I think this should be in humble opinions, but in my opinion, it is a self-fullfilling prophecy.

Simply put, the extensive security is a challenge to people with a desire to achieve a difficult goal. Make the security tighter and the challenge is greater and people will try harder requiring more security, rinse and repeat.

Second, the American people are very risk-adverse. When there is a threat, as long as we don’t have to pay for it ourselves (and taxes are too indirect to count in this calculation), we expect lots of effort put in to reducing the threat. It may or may not be cost-effective, but cost is rarely a factor. If the public didn’t care so much about losing an occasional President, the level of security could be dialed back a LOT with very little increase in danger.

And lastly, you have a large bureaucracy dedicated to a single easily articulated goal. Anyone can dream up fantastic attacks and threats, each requiring more resources to neutralize. Since virtually none of these threats ever materialize, there is no way to know how much is enough. Are we safe from threat A because we have 10 guards, or just lucky. To be safe, lets add some more guards. Rear covered and kingdom enlarged.

I don’t think it is because people hate the US President that much. It isn’t like millions of people are itching to attack the President at the first chance they get. But lots of people are mad at the US Government and say so. Since every threat is taken seriously, that justifies a lot of protection. No one wants to be the target of a congressional investigation.

Basically, we are a rich country. There are lots of reasons to increase the protection, few reasons to decrease it. Like any inflation it will continue to grow until something snaps. That hasn’t happened yet.

Other countries seem to have a more clear-eyed view of the threat. Important as the UK Prime Minister is, one vote and Parliament has to elect a new one. Though if I have it right, the vote of confidence I am referring to has recently been made much less likely to increase Government stability, but it still exists. They are more used to replacing their leaders unexpectedly. Same in Germany and most democratic countries. It reduces the importance of any single person. Indeed, the harder it is to replace a leader, think dictators as the logical extreme, the higher the security tends to be.

The Prime Minister in Downing Street has security up the wazoo. As a normal citizen you can’t get anywhere near the door of Number 10 nor walk up Downing Street itself. Things used to be very different. When I was a kid in the 50s Downing Street was completely accessible, you could walk up and down it and even snap a photo of yourself at the door of No. 10 (there was a bobby there but it was totally cool to approach the door unless the PM or other politicians were going in and out). Everything changed in the 70s when the IRA assassinated top Conservative Airey Neave. Suddenly there were huge security gates at the entrance to Downing St and the public couldn’t get anywhere near it.

I take your point about US Presidents though. The British only lost one PM to assassination, Spencer Percivall, although I don’t know how the record of other major countries compares to the US. Maybe it’s one of the prices the US pays for the right of its citizens to bear arms. Whether that price is worth paying is a debate for another thread.

Sounds kind of quaint to single out guns in the era of the suicide bomber. In other words, threats to Presidents these days go way beyond somebody with a firearm.

While the OP might sniff at calling them “world leaders”, India has lost two prime ministers to assassinations since 1984, and an impressive collection of other political bigwigs.

That is not the whole answer though. George W Bush only survived a speech in the Republic of Georgia when someone tossed a grenade at him because they wound the cloth around it too tightly so it never detonated.

Assassination attempts go back a long way even well after Lincoln. The most awesome one of all (if there is such a thing) is Teddy Roosevelt being shot outside a Milwaukee hotel before a speech. He still insisted on giving the 90 minute speech while bleeding from his chest before he went to the hospital because of course he could. I am surprised he didn’t ride in on a grizzly bear.

False. The grenade fell a 100 feet from him, the lethal radius is about 30 feet and chances of being hit by shrapnel is about 60 feet. At 100 feet, it was possible that a fragment might have hit him, but very unlikely.

It isn’t false. It was just yet another serious attempt that didn’t work. It was fully intended to kill him but the throw missed. There are lots of those types of incidents including many that are barely publicized or not at all. According to a friend that grew up in a Secret Service family, even ex-Presidents get constant, serious threats for at least a few years after they are out of office. That is why they had Secret Service protection for life that was once restricted to 10 years after leaving office and now has been restored again because it is needed. I am not sure who will want to kill Obama and family in 15 years but it is likely someone will.

The question is just about why so many people want to risk everything to kill the President of the United States or even an ex-President. This isn’t anything new. John Wilkes Booth was a very famous A-list actor in today’s terms when he shot and killed Lincoln. It would be like George Clooney killing Obama today.

Of course other heads of state get assassinated sometimes but it seems like the constant life threats to the American presidency are unique and have been for a very long time. I am just wondering why that is.

Both the Chinese and Russian President have heavy security, and especially back in the Cold War they took things rather extreme with tank companies being used to protect both.

:rolleyes:
Can’t *imagine *why *anyone *would want to off the leader of such a polite, civil people…

There are two (three?) different sorts of threat. Broadly speaking, the domestic crazy and the international terrorist. Historically Door #1 has been the big one. Nowadays there’s increasing interest in Door #2 as one of the ultimate examples of asymmetrical warfare if they can pull it off.

My software firm made various tools for homeland security and public safety. One of which was an intel fusion system for tracking info tidbits and their potential connections. Which we ended up selling to several personal protection companies. Along the way we learned a lot about a shadowy world I’d never known of.

Darn near any celebrity whose name you’d recognize has a collection of crazies that are obsessed with them. “Celebrity” can be an athlete, an entertainer, a politician, a big businessman, etc. As an example who’s now safe to talk about, Steve Jobs would fit this description. I’m not implying he or his family was or is a customer; he’s just a short recognizable name that’s easy to type.

During his life, somebody like Jobs probably received 50 letters, faxes, or emails *every single day *from crazies. A bunch are one-offs, but the others are repetitive, sending messages weekly, daily, or more often. Some asking for money, others wanting to have sex, and others discussing, ad nauseum, the long relationship they’ve had with Jobs and their plans for the future. Folks with well-known spouses and kids find their whole family gets similar treatment from the wackos.

Most of these nuts most of the time live on disability and little else far from where the celebrity lives & works. And hence pose(d) little real threat. Some of them, OTOH, had real jobs, families, incomes, credit cards and all the rest. And could potentially show up any day at any place in the country where their celebrity happened to be.

So somebody has to collect, evaluate, and curate all this stuff. Crazy is inherently unstable over time. Folks get worse or better or wander off to develop a different obsession. But some of them slowly work themselves into a crescendo of agitation and anger and hate. At which point the private security folks start involving the public authorities, perhaps even physically watching the subject to ensure they don’t travel unnoticed to someplace the bigwig will be.

Every trip by the celebrity to anywhere includes checking the database for known threats within a couple day’s drive. And considering whether those semi-locals are worth taking extra countermeasures for this time.

This is all for somebody like Jobs or, say, Bono. I.e. somebody who doesn’t have an entire industry devoted to inciting hatred at them. Unlike the President.

I have to imagine the volume of crazy aimed at hating Obama (or soon Trump) is mind-boggling. Understand also this is only the crazies who bother to write. There are plenty more who don’t. Plus the more serious plotters that may be out there. In the case of Presidents you’ve got sovereign citizens, survivalists, and all the rest.

I had always considered “bodyguards” to be affectations, a form of conspicuous consumption by showy people with show-offy personalities. I think there’s certainly still an element of that for some Hollywood types. But I now understand there’s a lot more steak behind the sizzle.

The relative ease of getting firearms and explosives in this country certainly helps anyone who wants to take action to do so. e.g. In the UK gun control doesn’t slow down the IRA very much, but it does slow down some nutter from the countryside or living in grim public housing. In the US, not so much.

(Emphasis mine)
Everybody and their uncle has some sort of firearm in the UK Countryside. Hunters, farmers, guys with antiques. Getting a firearm legally in the UK is fairly easy. The major restrictions are on handguns. A rifle or a shotgun license is fairly easily obtained.

And anyway, as your country efforts in Iraq have illustrated. Firearms threats are easily controlled. Its the guy with fertilizer, blasting caps and nails and access to the 'Net you need to worry about. And how are you going to control* those*? How well have efforts to stuff drug dealers by restricting the sale and supply of cold pills worked? Except cause shortages of actual medicine.

I just had a mental image of somewhere in the Secret Service offices, there’s a sign like one of those workplace safety signs:

**Time Without a Presidential Assasination:

53 years, 1 month, 23 days!**

Russia didn’t have a president during the Cold War (except for the final few months). It did have heads of state, but they were, as a rule, so obscure that almost nobody outside the country (and probably not a whole lot of people inside the country) knew or cared who they were. Even a lot of heads of state of the Soviet Union itself were largely unknown office holders who simply took care of administering things on behalf of the de facto leader (who held an entirely different government office, or possibly none at all). I’m not buying the claim that these nobodies had heavy security.

I remember this discussion in class not long after JFK was assassinated. The teacher mentioned that there had only been one obscure politician assassinated in Canada, back in the late 1800’s. One of the biggest differences is the parliamentary system. The president of the USA is a lot more powerful and is less easily replaced than a prime minister. A PM is generally the guy chosen by his party to be leader for the time being.

Plus, many of the assassinations in American history have been crazies; you might even put the home-grown anarchists in that category. (they were the early 1900’s equivalent of the Weathermen or Black Panthers, maybe).

Another topic is guns. It’s not impossible to buy guns elsewhere, and many people do - but the regulatory environment and hence the number of guns floating around makes it much less likely that a person will both be crazy and possess guns; will also make it difficult for terrorists to get decent weapons unless they have a pipeline to the middle east. (I see the use of large trucks a symptom of the difficulty in getting effective weapons - and it’s a lot harder to draw a bead on a politican with a Kenworth. )

Not as far beyond as you’re claiming. Every assassination and almost every attempted assassination has been made with a firearm.

The attempted assassination of Bush via hand grenade was an exception; but pointedly it didn’t occur in America. The attempted assassinations of Hoover, Truman, Bush Sr, and Clinton by bombs and of Obama by a knife also occurred outside America.

Inside America, there have been four attempted assassinations that didn’t use firearms; the attempts by plane against Clinton and Nixon, the attempt by car bomb against Kennedy, and the attempt by poison against Obama.

So twenty-two out of twenty-seven assassinations or attempted assassination that occurred in the United States used firearms. Meanwhile, six of the seven assassinations that were attempted outside the United States didn’t use firearms. (The exception was the Nazi attempt to kill the three world leaders meeting in Tehran.) It’s hard to look at the numbers and not see some connection between America and firearms.

Your example is very good. We agree that being a public person draws in the crazies. Doesn’t matter what the reason is or how effective the crazies are, they exist.

Steve Jobs is a great example. I am sure he got a lot of crazy mail. He famously didn’t have much if any security. Perhaps being more than a little crazy himself, it didn’t bother him as much. :slight_smile:
Still, as his biography made clear, he didn’t have the security his rich tech friends did, and he criticized them for their affection. Steve made it through life without it.

And that is the point. Large security details do protect the victim, and the threats are real. The question I think the OP is asking is the cost/benefit justified? Other democracies get by with much less than the US has. Could we dial back the security around the US President and achieve almost the same result?

I think we could and should. Perhaps there will be another IED attack like the one reported against President Clinton in the Philippines in 1996. Perhaps not. A less oppressive and expensive security blanket is in itself a worthwhile goal.

I wouldn’t say that a Father of Confederation was obscure…

D’Arcy McGee was one of the earliest proponents of Confederation of the British North American colonies, starting in the late 1850’s. He was a Cabinet minister in the Province of Canada “Grand Coalition”, which instituted the Confederation project. He attended both the Charlottetown and the Quebec Conferences, and carried one of the key proposals, relating to the religious educational system. He voluntarily took himself out of the running for a Cabinet post in Macdonald’s first Cabinet, to make it easier for Macdonald to put together the Cabinet.

He was assassinated on Sparks Street late one night after coming back from Parliament. The assassin was a Fenian, who likely viewed McGee as a traitor to the Irish cause.

One other Father of Confederation died from a gunshot: George Brown. However, it wasn’t political in nature: he was shot by a disgruntled employee at the Globe, Brown’s newspaper. Brown survived the shooting, as the wound was not too serious, but then it got infect and he died from the infection.

Not for the right to bear arms (which exists pretty much everywhere) but for the way they see that right. What to me is the right to perform a sport I happen to like, to many Americans it is the biggest symbol of their freedoms. What to me is an item to be used in very specific contexts and locations, to those Americans gets a lot more possible usages. In the UK, you don’t see citizens waving guns during a civic protest…