Safety measures are necessary

Published 12:00 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

By T.J. Ray

My memory of the time is stark. It was near noon, and I was teaching an American literature class in Montgomery Hall at Mississippi State. Suddenly there was a burst of yelling in the hall. Someone opened the door and shouted that Kennedy had been killed. Class ended abruptly, and many people clustered around the television set in the Y Building to watch the coverage.

It’s easy to surmise that the general alarm was as great after the assassination of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. And the devastating impact of a president’s murder increased the need for greater security for the occupant of that office. Thus, we now have a veritable army of agents committed to that duty. Such things do not come without a price.

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Consider the president’s trip to England not long ago for the G-20 Summit. Not counting the Secret Service people who went well in advance to secure things, the Man took with him 500 staff, including 200 Secret Service, six doctors, the White House chef and kitchen staff, 35 drivers with vehicles, four speech writers with 12 teleprompters, his helicopter, Marine One, and a decoy chopper with crews.

British food may be fine, but security precludes him eating it. The chef and crew took all his food and water. And though many physicians in England have studied in American medical schools, it was wise to take doctors who knew the man’s needs.

One or more of them are in every cavalcade in a car near Cadillac One, known as the Beast. It is reinforced with ceramic and titanium armor, carries tear gas cannon, night-vision devices, its own oxygen and is resistant to chemical and radiation attack.

While some may find these numbers unsettling, I find them comforting. The thought of something catastrophic befalling Mr. Obama is terrible to consider.

Why, there might even be folks so unenlightened as to celebrate the event. They simply don’t appreciate a president willing to put up with a traveling army and eat lunches brought from the States instead of the local cuisine. And  Cadillac One must be dull riding, far worse than seeing London from a convertible Bentley.

Though the London papers that reported everything above didn’t mention it, might the Coast Guard not have prepositioned ships every hundred miles or so in the Atlantic, just in case Air Force One had a problem?

Remember the G-20 confab mentioned above? As usual, it resulted in profound announcements: Chinese President Xi Jinping said China and France should work with all parties to effectively carry out the historic climate accord reached in Paris. Though no date for achieving that goal, it is generally believed to follow the sighting of pigs flying.

T.J. Ray, a retired professor of English at the University of Mississippi, can be reached at