PLEA TO OBAMA: CANCEL RISKY, RECKLESS 'SITTING DUCK' TRAIN STUNT
• What happened to Homeland Security warnings of "heightened risk" during Presidential transition?
• How about the late November FBI warning about possible Northeast train station attacks?
• "Amtrak Joe" Biden's longstanding warnings about security flaws along the Amtrak Northeast corridor -- why isn't he waving this whistle stop tour to a halt?
GET POLITICAL w/ VIC LIVINGSTON
(UPDATE: The train journey came off without a hitch. Kudos to the many men and women of law enforcement and the various security agencies, all of whom ensured the safety of the incoming president and vice president in the face of dire warnings.
But was there a contradiction between those admonitions and the degree to which the excursion exposed "high-value targets" to potential danger? We believe that question is still valid, as are the points made in the commentary below:)
It is both mystifying and frightening to contemplate the unnecessary risk to which President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are subjecting themselves by going through with Saturday's planned pre-inauguration "whistle stop" train ride from Philadelphia to Washington.
In his farewell press conference on Monday, President Bush seemed to go out of his way to twice repeat that the greatest threat the nation faces is another terrorist attack. At one point in his presser, he said that by giving official voice to the threat, he was not "trying to set something up." Here are President Bush's exact words:
"There is an enemy that still is out there.
"You know, people can maybe try to write that off as, you know, 'he's trying to set something up.'
"I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America -- Americans -- again. There just is. That's the reality of the world."
George W. Bush could not have been more plain-spoken, candid and direct. The incoming White House team ignores his words -- which he most likely thought about before uttering them -- at their peril.
If the threat is so grave that the warning was twice repeated during Bush's final press conference, how can his administration's security officers allow the Obama-Biden inauguration planners to go through with such reckless folly...
...a widely publicized, multiple-stop train excursion down a set, pre-scheduled route that is replete with potential hazards -- bridges, tunnels, chemical factories and depots, tall buildings, easy access to lightly guarded right-of-way and unscreened track-side crowds?
How can law enforcement and the U.S. Secret Service possibly secure the route? And how can they square signing off on the train trip with their repeated warnings about the possibility of a terrorist attack?
Terrorists come in a variety of forms, both foreign and domestic, as the Oklahoma City federal building bombing so pointedly demonstrated.
Terrorists foreign and domestic may have access to the latest high-tech armaments, such as so-called "directed energy weapons" which fire invisible pulsed beams of potentially deadly radiation instead of bullets or shotgun pellets. Such weaponry has been and continues to be widely deployed among military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel.
The Secret Service has acknowledged that officials have investigated a number of threats against the life of Barack Obama. The predictability of the timing, route and geography of the train trip provides potential evildoers with many opportunities to wreak havoc. Unlike a motorcade, which ensconces the "high-value targets" in a bomb- and bullet-resistant vehicle that could take evasive action in the event of an attack, the train ride exposes the incoming President and Vice-President to wide-open, immutable hazards -- from narrow bridges over expanses of river water to viaducts and tunnels that pass over and under easily accessible streets and highways.
Despite assertions to the contrary, it would appear to us that there is no possible way this entire route could be adequately secured.
The fact that the President-elect and the Vice President-elect are scheduled to travel on the same train at the same time should be reason enough for security officials to strongly recommend against this stunt...
...a purely optional railroad journey that may be inspiring, and a harkening back to past historical glories, but in the end amounts to little more than political theater.
No practical need or justification for this stunt can be rationally demonstrated. It constitutes an unacceptable risk and should be canceled forthwith.
If Mssrs. Obama and Biden do not come to this conclusion themselves in the next couple of days, this would be one case in which the outgoing administration would be totally justified in saying: "No, we cannot allow this to go forward" -- especially in light of the stark political fact that the Bush administration surely would be blamed if something untoward were to happen.
This ill-advised junket conjures up memories of President John F. Kennedy's star-crossed trip to Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. The very morning of his assassination, an invective-laden newspaper ad appeared in the Dallas Morning News, featuring JFK's portrait bordered in black (as in "crepe"). And yet, the President was allowed to parade through Dealey Plaza in the open air, exposed, his armored limo's "bubble top" removed.
Surely the security forces charged with protecting the incoming President and Vice President cannot invite a repeat of a comparable procedural misjudgment.
If Obama and Biden are not exercising good judgment in going through with what could prove to be a harrowing journey, then Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan have the sworn duty to protect the incoming administration from itself.
Mssrs. Chertoff and Sullivan:
Hear me well. Do your sworn duty. Stop this errant Obama locomotive immediately to obviate the chance of an inaugural train wreck that would further traumatize and roil the nation in these troubled times.
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