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Top Priority: Keep Obama safe

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There is no greater priority now that Barack Obama has won the Presidency than his personal safety.

Much ink will be spilled in the media as to who he should appoint to what cabinet or other positions, where and when. More ink will be devoted to determining and arguing which policies he will or should implement first.

But the most immediate priority is his protection. This President-elect Obama faces unprecedented threats and much depends upon his safety -- such as market, economic and social stability. This is why presidential security must rank as the top priority in Washington. It is a matter of critical national, even international, interest.

Tough measures
Fortunately it appears that this reality has hit home. This week's Chicago rally in Grant Park involved a cast of thousands of police, army and secret service personnel and cost an estimated $2 million.

Obama was surrounded by three-inch thick bulletproof glass around the podium where he delivered his acceptance speech. Multiple arrests occurred, just days before, by the FBI who collared two white supremacists plotting to murder dozens plus Obama. This is on the heels of other arrests during the past few months as Obama's success became more possible.

Chicago also cordoned off streets, restricted access to the park during the hours before people began gathering and deployed its entire 13,500-strong police force. All its firefighters were put on constant alert and police efforts were coordinated to contain traffic and logistics problems. In addition, the city was a no-fly zone for 24 hours. People with tickets to the Obama celebratory party passed through metal detectors. Ticket holders were checked out after they registered.

Any alternative to top security unthinkable
The United States cannot afford to take any risks. President Obama, and his family, must live in a bubble all their days in office. Handshaking, baby-kissing and plunging into crowds must be forbidden. The First Family can return to a "normal" existence after his term, or terms, are over.
Like the Pope in his Popemobile, America's CEO and Commander in Chief faces unprecedented dangers. Terrorists lurk everywhere, eager to pick off high-profile targets. And the other danger is America's failure to limit gun ownership, to address social problems or to provide decent healthcare for the marginal or violently disturbed. This convergence of policy shortcomings has led to murder rates that would embarrass any other civilized nation and could, if the inconceivable happened, lead to problems around the world.

Diane Francis writes a daily blog in Financial Post.