It was disturbing enough that 730 respondents would put finger to keypad to answer the Facebook poll question: "Should Obama be killed?" Even more disturbing is the fact that if the poll (apparently put up, according to Facebook, by an independent person using an add-on application) hadn't been quickly yanked, hundreds -- maybe thousands -- more might have dignified the bizarre and murderous question with an answer.
One can only shudder to think what the answers of more than a few respondents may have been. The Secret Service says it's investigating. But here's the problem. In fact, there are several problems. The agency may be understaffed and under-resourced -- at least, that was what it said in its 2010 budget request report back in May (the Service promptly denied its own report) -- but, at the very least, Obama's virtual non-stop appearance schedule would tax the resources of any protective and enforcement agency.
The agency has said almost nothing about its investigations when questions, and there have been lots of them, arise about the avalanche of threats against Obama. The Service gave me this response in answer to repeated queries made last month about the prayer for Obama's death uttered very publicly and more than once by Phoenix pastor Steven Anderson: "We take these threats very seriously and rest assured that it and other threats are under investigation." The good reverend was unmoved by it all and repeated his Obama death wish again.
Then there's the angry, hyper-paranoid climate that drives the threats to mountainous heights. The same day that the Facebook poll surfaced, in quick succession were also reports that some parents at a New Jersey school raged against school kids singing a pro Obama ditty. And a poll claimed that Americans are angrier than ever. Since it's a Republican poll and claim, we don't need much imagination to guess whom the presumed target of the anger and frustration is.
The scandal-plagued, clownish, but still wildly popular Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi mocked the Obamas at the G-20 dinner with a tasteless joke about Obama's skin color and then tossed in a gross sexual innuendo about the First Lady. There's yet another viral campaign with a picture of Obama on a stamp with the dig that it should be licked, and finally there's the vintage Obama Joker caricature with another macabre touch-up making the email and website rounds. Keep in mind these are just the reported anti-Obama digs and insults.
This danger flags about Obama have flown high from the moment that he announced he would seek the presidency in February 2007. He had the dubious distinction of being the earliest presidential contender to be assigned Secret Service protection on the campaign trail. This didn't ease the jitters over his safety. Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson fired off a letter to Secret Service officials practically demanding that the Secret Service provide all the resources and personnel it could to ensure Obama's and the other presidential candidates' security. Thompson heard the whispers and nervous questions from his constituents about Obama's safety.
As the showdown with John McCain heated up in the general election in 2008, the flood of crank, crackpot, and screwball threats that promised murder and mayhem toward Obama continued to pour in. This prompted the Secret Service to tighten security and take even more elaborate measures to ensure his safety. This was especially important given the deep doubt and even paranoid suspicion that some blacks have that shadowy government agencies were complicit in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, and the fervent belief of millions of other Americans that the CIA or other government agencies were deeply complicit in the killing, if not outright murder of JFK.
At any other time and with any other president, the Facebook poll might be shrugged off as a sick joke. But this is not another time or another president. Obama has been the butt of every dig, insult, and knock sick minds could conjure up. This prompted Bill Clinton to publicly charge that Obama is the target of the same vast right wing conspiracy that Hillary railed at as targeting him during his inauguration day. This is what makes the Facebook poll more than a sick joke.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.
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