Am I the only one who thought the U.S. Secret Service did a pretty good job of handling the guy who jumped the fence and ran for the front door?
I’m especially appalled at the suggestion that snipers should have shot him after he jumped the fence. It’s reported that the only weapon on him was a small folding knife, so if the White House door had been locked, he would have just been a guy with a tiny knife running around outside a building. I think the secret service did a great job of stopping him without hurting him.
Look, keeping the President safe is easy. Just lock him in a bunker for four years, or maybe move him in secret between several different bunkers. Never let him make an appearance, never tell anyone where he is. If safety is the only thing that’s important, that would do the trick.
But that’s not the kind of government we have. Our leaders can’t treat U.S. citizens as an enemy to be contained and subjugated, and so our leaders go out in public and the White House looks like a comfortable southern mansion with a nice fence around it.
I mean, look at that fence. When you build a fence like that, you expect people to climb over it. They could have gone with something more secure — like a prison yard wall — but they didn’t, because that wouldn’t look much like a democracy, and so from time to time, people will jump the fence. That kind of vulnerability is part of the tradeoff we make to have an elected President instead of a President-for-life.
As it happens, Gonzalez turns out to be an Iraq war veteran with 15 years in the military. He apparently had some mental problems which might or might not be service-related. Neighbors report that he was paranoid about people breaking into his house. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out Gonzalez jumped the fence because he wanted to warn the President about some imagined peril.
But whatever his thinking, it would have been a sad thing to shoot him dead on the President’s front lawn.
Update: It turns out that Gonzalez made it much further into the White House than had been previously reported, according to Washington Post journalist Carol D. Leonnig:
An alarm box near the front entrance of the White House designed to alert guards to an intruder had been muted at what officers believed was a request of the usher’s office, said a Secret Service official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The female officer posted inside the front door appeared to be delayed in learning that the intruder, Omar Gonzalez, was about to burst through. Officers are trained that, upon learning of an intruder on the grounds, often through the alarm boxes posted around the property, they must immediately lock the front door.
After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.
Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.
So, maybe only one cheer for the Secret Service. But I’m still glad they didn’t shoot him.