Being a police or other type of security officer is, by definition, a risky job. It’s entirely possible to find oneself in a low risk situation, such as the town in which I live. Crimes here tend to revolve around shoplifting, speeding, vandalism, etc. I know of several young officers (and fire fighters) who sought assignments elsewhere because it was just too boring.
Other venues provide more excitement. Being a police officer in South Central LA or the South Side of Chicago, for example, is a wild adrenalin ride, filled with daily threats to the average officer’s health and well being. You need to be brave, committed, and perhaps a little crazy to take on a job like that willingly.
There’s one job, though, that’s quite unique in the dangers it offers. That job, of course, is guarding the President of the United States. You get to travel to exciting places and see amazing things, but you’re also responsible for one of the biggest targets in the world. The threats come from crazy individuals and whacked-out organizations. You are constantly on guard. It is your job to ensure that no one can get near the man at the top. More than that, if they do get near, you willingly interpose your body between the president and the killer.
A perfect example of the self-sacrifice required for the job is the assassination attempt on President Reagan. When shots rang out, the President’s secret service agents instantly interposed their bodies — which are just as vulnerable as the President’s — between Reagan and the bullets:
In other words, people on the White House security detail are willing to die to protect their employer. These are passionate, committed, brave (and maybe a little crazy) individuals. (Lee Child gives a good insight into the efforts secret service agents make, and the risks they take, in Without Fail.)
Given the caliber of people surrounding the President, and the sacrifices they are willing to make on a daily basis, I cannot come to grips with the insult Obama offered them as part of his foolish decision to wade into the public battle between Henry Louis Gates and the Boston Police Department (emphasis mine):
“I don’t know – not having been there and not seeing all the facts – what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two that he Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,” Obama said in response to a question from the Chicago Sun-Times’s Lynn Sweet.
Gates, Obama allowed, “is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don’t know all the facts.”
However Gates, he continued, “jimmied his way to get into [his own] house.”
“There was a report called in to the police station that there might be a burglary taking place – so far so good,” Obama said, reflecting that he’d hope the police were called if he were seen breaking into his own house, then pausing.
“I guess this is my house now,” he remarked of the White House. “Here I’d get shot.”
Let me rephrase that. What Obama just said is that, if he for some reason was in the wrong place in the White House, or in the right place at the wrong time, White House security would shoot him. Let me dig down into that a little deeper: “I, Barack Obama, think it’s funny and self-deprecatory to state that the security people who surround me, the ones who have taken on the job of protecting the world’s biggest targets, are racists who would willingly shoot me because I am a black man in a fancy house.”
And its no use defending that statement by saying that Obama was likening himself to just any homeowner, as opposed to a black one. Gates made it very clear, and Obama, who was defending Gates, must have understood, that the pressure the police put on Gates was solely because he was black. Indeed, from the minute the officers arrived, Gates used his race as the justification for refusing to cooperate, thereby escalating the situation. With this manifest racial context, Obama could only have been saying that a black man in the White House is a natural target for security forces.
Frankly, if I were in the Secret Service, I would have second thoughts about holding a job that requires me to throw myself in front of a bullet to protect an employer who thinks so little of me that, as a joke, he implies that I would casually pull the trigger and shoot him just because he’s black.
UPDATE: One of my email correspondents thinks that Obama meant that anyone breaking into the White House would get shot, not just a black man. But I think context is king here. This whole thing became an issue, not because it was a Harvard professor who was arrested, but because it was a black Harvard professor who was arrested. Further, this same black Harvard professor cried race from the start, not just at the scene of the incident, but afterward. The whole media circus was because Gates claimed the cops treated him badly as a black man.
Further, Gates was not shot, nor is there any intimation that he was ever at risk of being shot. Indeed, I have to wrack my brain and I still can’t think of a situation in which cops got a report of a homeowner trying to get into the house, knocked on the door, talked to the homeowner and then shot him by mistake.
And the last thing is that Obama is defined, in his own eyes, and in the eyes of the public, as a black man in the White House. He campaigned as a post-racial candidate, but that’s not how he ran the race. It was all about his being the first black president. Everything was framed in that light. That’s why guilt-ridden liberals voted for him, that’s why blacks voted for him, that’s why Europeans liked him, that’s why the press adored him, and that’s how he defined himself (and this last is not unreasonable given that he is, in fact, black).
When he talks about getting shot breaking into his house, Obama, the narcissist, is not talking about the risks to just anyone of breaking into the White House. He’s talking about himself, Obama, breaking into a house. It is he who would get shot — and he is black.
UPDATE II: Just to emphasize my point that, regardless of the subject, in Obama’s mind, it’s always all about himself.