Clin­ton, Obama at cen­ter in rare as­sas­si­na­tion plots of ex-pres­i­dents

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JEFF MORDOCK

More than 30 as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts have been made on U.S. pres­i­dents while in of­fice since the 1800s, but last week marks the first time in more than 100 years a re­tired pres­i­dent has been tar­geted, his­to­ri­ans said.

Bombs in­ter­cepted last week were aimed at for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and for­mer first lady and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton. They were among nine known tar­gets, all of them prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent Trump.

Ques­tions swirl about the mo­tives of those re­spon­si­ble. But the at­tacks place Mr. Obama and, pos­si­bly for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, in one of the rarest pres­i­den­tial fra­ter­ni­ties — ex-pres­i­dents who were the fo­cus of an as­sas­si­na­tion plot.

“What is strik­ing about this is that, nor­mally, even pres­i­dents that are ex­tremely con­tro­ver­sial like Nixon stirred up strong emo­tions while in of­fice, but once they left that sort of dis­ap­peared in a way,” said Pa­trick J. Maney, a pres­i­den­tial his­to­rian at Bos­ton Col­lege. “It is very un­usual to have an as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt on an ex-pres­i­dent.”

The only known at­tempt on the life of a for­mer pres­i­dent was when Teddy Roo­sevelt was shot by bar­keep John Flam­mang Schrank in Oc­to­ber 1912, his­to­ri­ans re­called. But Roo­sevelt was still ac­tive in pol­i­tics, run­ning a third-party bid for the White House.

He was shot in the chest, but the bul­let’s force was re­duced af­ter pass­ing through a thick, 50-page speech the for­mer pres­i­dent was car­ry­ing in his jacket. Af­ter as­sur­ing the crowd that he was fine, Roo­sevelt gave a 90-minute speech while blood seeped into his shirt. Af­ter the speech he was driven to the hos­pi­tal and lived for roughly six more years.

In 1993, 14 men be­lieved to be work­ing for Saddam Hus­sein planned to kill Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush with a car bomb dur­ing his post-pres­i­dency trip to Kuwait. But that at­tempt is viewed more as state-spon­sored ter­ror­ism rather than a tra­di­tional as­sas­si­na­tion plot, his­to­ri­ans said.

Even Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford, who was twice the tar­get of as­sas­si­na­tion while in of­fice, did not have a pub­lic at­tempt made on his life dur­ing the 31 years af­ter his pres­i­dency.

“The paucity of this tells you some­thing,” said G. Terry Madonna, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege. “It shows that if some­one wants to make a state­ment, what are you go­ing to ac­com­plish go­ing af­ter a past pres­i­dent? It has no mean­ing be­cause they no longer set the agenda or have the abil­ity to change the na­ture of Amer­i­can life.”

Ex-pres­i­dents have U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion for life un­der the For­mer Pres­i­dents Act of 1958. In 1997, that pro­tec­tion was re­duced to 10 years for pres­i­dents tak­ing of­fice af­ter that year. But Mr. Obama re­in­stated life­time Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion for all for­mer pres­i­dents in 2012. That means no for­mer U.S. leader has been with­out the watch­ful eye of the Se­cret Ser­vice since 1958.

In 1985, Mr. Nixon be­came the only for­mer pres­i­dent to re­lin­quish Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion.

Mr. Madonna said one rea­son why for­mer pres­i­dents have re­mained rel­a­tively safe is be­cause they his­tor­i­cally have avoided en­gag­ing in pol­i­tics.

“For­mer pres­i­dents go and write their au­to­bi­ogra­phies and talk about the past,” he said. “That down­grades their rel­e­vance in the po­lit­i­cal process. As­sas­sins seem to be at­tracted to the apex of power, and the most im­por­tant apex of power is the pres­i­dency.”

Mr. Obama, by con­trast, has been ac­tively cam­paign­ing for Democrats and crit­i­ciz­ing his suc­ces­sor, Mr. Trump. So is Mrs. Clin­ton as well as the other tar­gets re­vealed so far: for­mer CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan, for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr., Rep Max­ine Waters, bil­lion­aire lib­eral backer Ge­orge Soros, for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den and ac­tor Robert DeNiro.

Ron­ald L. Fein­man, who wrote a book on pres­i­den­tial as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts, said for­mer lead­ers likely re­ceive lots of threats, but they are rarely acted upon. He be­lieves more ac­tive pol­i­tick­ing by the last two Democrats may have sparked the plot.

“Since the 1990s ev­ery pres­i­dent has be­come more con­tro­ver­sial and we’ve had more splits and di­vi­sions,” he said. “There re­ally is no such thing as across the aisle any­more and it is a trend that could re­sult in a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date or for­mer pres­i­dent be­ing a vic­tim. It’s ter­ri­fy­ing.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.