Opinion: Obama makes joke about heavily-armed men nearby

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You know those muscular guys in the dark suits and crew cuts who are always around the presidential and vice presidential candidates but never looking at them? The ones in dark sunglasses who have a squiggly flesh-colored wire running from their ear down under their short collar?

Those are the obvious Secret Service guards protecting our country’s would-be and really-are leaders. There are always others around, of course. You might notice they never have anything in their hands.

Former first lady Hillary Clinton aside, Barack Obama was the first major candidate to get such protection last year. And Sen. John McCain was the last to accept, reluctantly. Such protection does create a distance between candidate and crowds (in the interests of safety) and an unreal bubble around the entire traveling circus.

It’s really good for parking though and for zipping through red lights and stop signs, since these heavily-armed folks do pretty much whatever they want.


Anyway, since it potentially involves life and death and agents using their own bodies as human shields against bullets and bombs, the Secret Service protection is rarely a joking matter.

But at a Wisconsin barbecue today, the freshman Illinois senator jokingly offered to do a supporter a favor by getting the Secret Service to vet the young man who plans to marry the supporter’s daughter.

“People ask me, ‘why did you decide to run for president?’” Obama told a few hundred supporters gathered on a park lawn in Eau Claire. “I’ve decided that the real reason is Secret Service protection for my two girls as they enter into their teenage years.”

The shorts-and-t-shirt crowd burst into laughter as Obama gestured toward a cluster of men in dark suits.

“So whenever a young man comes by…for a date, we’re going to have one of these guys –- see these mean-looking guys with the glasses who don’t crack a smile?”

Obama chuckled with the crowd as the stone-faced agents, who are meticulously trained to avoid diversions even from their own assignments, gazed straight ahead without a twitch.

“They’re armed,” said Obama, whose daughters are 7 and 10 years old. “They’re dangerous.”

-- Michael Finnegan

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