Reasonable security for presidential debate requires moving the debate, not shutting down I-25
By Seth Richardson
The Secret Service is well-known for their paranoid tendencies over security for the POTUS and its other protectees, but the shut-down of Interstate 25 through Denver to accommodate the presidential debates at DU are a ridiculous and offensive excess. The Secret Service will not say why exactly it deems it necessary to disrupt traffic flow and inconvenience hundreds of thousands of people, but we can presume that the debate venue is too close to the interstate and they fear that a truck-bomb or shoulder-fired missile or some other long-range weapon might be used from the freeway.
Fine, they are the experts at threat assessment and far be it from me to criticize their judgment. But what the heck persuaded the candidates to hold the debates at such a vulnerable facility in the first place? Evidently the Commission on Presidential Debates decided that DU presented the best package. Peter Eyre, a senior adviser to the Commission is quoted by reporter Kristen Leigh Painter from the Denver Post as saying “One of the things that was really unique was the proximity of the debate hall to the media filing center.” In her article, Painter says “Eyre said at the end of the day, DU’s proposal displayed a willingness to do whatever it took, and had the infrastructure to support it.”
Yeah, everything it takes except some basic respect for motorists who need to get from point A to point B on a public highway that they paid a lot of money for and who don’t have the time or patience to put up with political pandering as they try to eke a living out of this floundering economy.
It seems more than coincidental that the debates landed in Colorado, which is a swing state in this election, although Eyre says that “Geography is not factored in.” Too right it’s not. One of the most essential elements of planning such an event is security for the candidates, and ignoring the obvious security threat of I-25 in making the selection smacks of political pandering over good event management or presidential security.
Why couldn’t they have booked the Pepsi Center? That’s where the Democrats had their convention four years ago, and security there was easy. I was there. They managed to keep the hordes of people hundreds of yards away from the venue, and made the pathway to the government-approved “free speech zone” (here’s a constitutional aside for politicians: the whole of the public lands in the United States is a “free speech zone” and you’d best not forget it) was such a byzantine maze of fences guiding protesters literally nearly a mile to an obscure corner near the press tent that the protesters, with about three individual exceptions, refused to be herded out of sight and sound of the delegates.
It’s no more acceptable for the Commission to shut down a major traffic artery through Denver for the debate than it was to shut it down so that Barack Obama could grin and gloat on his Olympian dais at the Bronco’s football stadium at the end of the Democrat convention. It was a bad decision to hold the debate at DU, and just because the politically greedy administration at DU wants to score a public relations “coup” doesn’t mean it’s wise or fair to “do whatever it took” without due respect and regard for the citizens of Colorado whose ability to travel efficiently is going to be massively disrupted by this self-serving arrogance.
We cannot blame the Secret Service though. They don’t make the political decisions about where the POTUS goes. They just have the unenviable job of doing what they can to secure him wherever he chooses to go. Just a few weeks ago he appeared at CU in Boulder and on a whim he went to one of my favorite restaurants in Boulder, The Buff, to press the flesh with the college students who eat there in hordes because of the outstanding food and service. According to co-owner Jackie Sproul, the Secret Service haunted the place undercover for a day or two before the visit, but didn’t notify anyone at the restaurant of Obama’s plans till about 45 minutes before the visit. This sort of public contact is the Secret Service’s worst nightmare because they can’t vet everyone who comes within contact range of the President, especially in a state where concealed carry with a permit is legal.
What numb-nut forced what’s going to be a highly unpopular and aggravating closure of six miles of I-25 on the Secret Service? Whoever it was, they should be ashamed of themselves for disrespecting the traveling public in such an arrogant and disdainful manner.
© 2012 Altnews