Monday, September 12, 2011

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Something odd today. Glenn Greenwald has a good post on the increasing climate of fear in the United States, despite or because of statements like President Obama's "They wanted to terrorize us, but, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear." Greenwald musters plenty of evidence to the contrary, and the whole article is worth reading.

But one bit of evidence, in the comment section, has me wondering. In response to a reader who argued, "This president, i believe, has had more threats against him then any other", Greenwald replied that "the claim about Obama receiving some huge increase in death threats is myth", citing this article from Politico.

Bit of a bombshell at this morning's Homeland Security Committee hearing:

U.S. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan dismissed published reports that the level of death threats against President Obama are four times greater than typical threat levels against recent presidents — claiming the current volume of threats is comparable to that under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

"It's not [a] 400 percent [increase]," Sullivan said during a heated exchange with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who suggested the service needed additional agents to protect the first African-American president.

"I'm not sure where that number comes from," he said, aHdding that the number of threats against Obama "are the same level as it has been [against] the last two presidents."

Sullivan said he would get more specific in a closed-door session with members of the Homeland Security Committee.

Having written about that subject myself, I decided to see "where that number comes from." I got it from a post at the FAIR blog by Jim Naureckas, which linked to this Talking Points Memo story citing this October 2009 story in the Boston Globe, and a New York Times column by Frank Rich:
This week the journalist Ronald Kessler’s new behind-the-scenes account of presidential security, “In the President’s Secret Service,” rose to No. 3 on The Times nonfiction best-seller list. No wonder there’s a lot of interest in the subject. We have no reason to believe that these hugely dedicated agents will fail us this time, even as threats against Obama, according to Kessler, are up 400 percent from those against his White House predecessor.
The Globe story begins by mentioning the "unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama, a rise in racist hate groups, and a new wave of antigovernment fervor threaten to overwhelm the US Secret Service," according to an "internal report issued in August by the Congressional Research Service." It doesn't mention an increase of 400 percent, nor does it mention Kessler's book. So that's where the number comes from. Whether it's correct I don't know. I don't know how seriously to take a denial by the U.S. Secret Service Director, but considering that he's not talking up the danger or asking for more money for the agency, it seems more likely that he's telling the truth. Still, this was probably worth checking out.

Whatever It Is I'm Against It posted a bunch of pictures of George W. Bush at the 9/11 Memorial festivities, trying very hard to look solemn and serious.
He looks a lot happier when he's surrounded by football players at the game afterward. Maybe they let him do some chest bumps, or even slap an ass here and there. But my favorite picture of the lot is the one where he has a teleprompter in front of him.

Much as I despise Obama, no, I don't miss Bush at all.