This is the stuff disaster movies are made of. Widespread gridlock clogging every one of New York's arterial streets. Crowds of restless citizens, held back by barricades and anxious cops. Sirens and car horns drowning out the constant city hum, and red and blue strobes lined up like signal fires across the width of Manhattan.
But it wasn't aliens or genetically engineered monsters or even supercyclones powered by global warming that ground the city to a halt tonight.
It was President Obama's motorcade.
My girlfriend and I were walking back to my apartment from dinner, noting how strangely empty third avenue was for the time of night-- and how strangely busy the side streets seemed to be. When we reached 42nd street, we came upon a crowd of people gathered at the street corner, waiting to cross, delayed by heavy police presence.
"What's going on?" we asked.
"Obama's in town for a fundraiser," we were told. His motorcade would be coming by is about 15 minutes. Until it passed and the all clear was given, no one was allowed to cross 42nd street, by car, by bicycle, or on foot.
"How much of 42nd street is closed?"
"All of it. Across the whole island."
Obama eventually came through, in one of two limos, in a parade of town cars, police cruisers, heavy duty trucks, unmarked white vans, ambulances, and a partridge in a pear tree. After the nearly 30 vehicles finally passed, we waited about five more minutes and were finally set free. The Manhattan traffic and assorted food delivery men on bikes were released shortly afterward, but the build up of stopped vehicles for the past hour resulted in a near citywide traffic jam. On the walk home, we witnessed at least two near-accidents.
The hubbub this week has surrounded Obama's birth certificate-- but that's not really an issue that affects anyone. What does affect us is the government budget... A portion of which is devoted to security for government personnel.
Given the events of tonight, which are typical of presidential excursions since the Kennedy assassination, I got to thinking... Isn't this one of the worst, most expensive, most disruptive ways to keep our President safe?
My girlfriend and I had no idea, before running into the madness on 42nd street, that Obama was in town. I'm guessing that your typical terrorist wouldn't either. But by closing off 42nd street to vehicular traffic and lining it with parade barricades-- even informing pedestrians when they could expect the motorcade to come by-- the NYPD and Secret Service basically laid out a well-defined route where the President would be. They basically surrounded the President with flashing lights and flags and held up a sign: "Here He Is!!!"
If I were president, I'd cancel the security theater (Presidents haven't had good luck in theaters.. Or motorcades.)
The best way to keep a President safe is to put him in a '95 Honda Accord.
I know, I know. Buy American. But that's exactly what the terrorists would suspect!
In all seriousness, put the President in an old, nondescript, uninteresting car that no one would look twice at. You still want security, so put the guards in a Mercury Sable station wagon and support personnel in a Plymouth Caravan. Without all the lights and fanfare attracting attention, you wouldn't need nearly as many vehicles or police presence. No one would know that the President was the guy in the Accord. Especially if he's driving and wearing a Mets cap.
Frankly, it would cost less money, cause less disruption, and make it less likely a crazy assassin could figure out where the President is. Is he in the Accord? Or the '99 Chrysler Sebring?
|That's a good deal!|
(not the convertible version. Presidents don't have the best of luck in convertibles.)
Consider it, Obama. With this budget thing, every cent counts. And as cool as a motorcade makes you look, it just causes headaches for everyone else.