Presidents -- and presidential candidates -- can't even seem like regular folks anymore
If I were president of the United States, and especially if I were the first black man to hold that office, I'd be paranoid as hell about my personal security and the safety of my family, so this isn't a criticism of Barack Obama or the agents in the Secret Service, who seem to do a thorough and professional job protecting him. But the video above, showing Obama's bus motorcade rolling through Zumbrota, Minn., is a powerful visual example of how segregated from normal life our presidents have become and the impossibility of their actually touring the country and having even semi-normal interactions with average members of the public. The woman whose voice we hear is exactly right: Our elected leaders may try to act like "normal Joes," but even a brief glimpse of the way they travel explodes that silly notion.
What I find fascinating is that it wasn't always so -- that bygone presidents weren't in nearly so much of a security bubble, even though there have always been people who would do them physical harm, and even though there have been successful assassinations. Consider the scene after Andrew Jackson's 1829 inauguration, when the masses flocked to the White House to shake his hand and congratulate him:
Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe, - those who got in could not get out by the door again, but had to scramble out of windows. At one time, the President who had retreated and retreated until he was pressed against the wall, could only be secured by a number of gentleman forming around him and making a kind of barrier of their own bodies, and the pressure was so great that Col. Bomford who was one said that at one time he was afraid they should have been pushed down, or on the President. It was then the windows were thrown open, and the torrent found an outlet, which otherwise might have proved fatal.
There was eventually an attempt on Jackson's life -- the would-be assassin's gun misfired. Yet even with the country embroiled in Civil War and regular threats against his life, Abraham Lincoln often walked alone at night in Washington, D.C. and had only one cop assigned to protect him the night he was killed.