- Barack Obama has been placed under round-the-clock protection at his own request, raising fears of a white supremacist plot to halt his bid to become America's first black head of state.
It is the earliest that the US secret service, which safeguards the president, vice-president and other dignitaries, has provided protection to a presidential candidate.
Usually guards are only allocated after the parties have selected their contenders, which will be early next year for the Nov 2008 election.
While Spilius couldn't confirm that such a threat existed, it's clear that something has been afoot:
- It is not clear if a direct threat has been made to the charismatic 45-year-old Illinois senator, who has electrified the race for the Democrat party's nomination and is closing in on the favourite Hillary Clinton.
According to a senior law enforcement official, the extra security was prompted by general concerns about the safety of a prominent black candidate. Several factors raised concerns, including some racist talk on white supremacist web sites.
The New York Daily News quoted a contributor to a white power website: "Our world will become unbearable with him as President. Maybe there will be someone who would take [a] chance and do a Lincoln on him? Is that our only hope?"
Abraham Lincoln was shot in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate spy outraged at the president's plan to give blacks the vote.
Race remains an extremely divisive issue in America, and the Right-wing Insight magazine criticised the senator last week for his lack of security, accusing him of "almost courting this tragic and historically predictable result".
Yes, especially when that "result" is almost being invited by magazine articles emphasizing the lack of security around Obama.
I wouldn't be too fast to assume that a "conspiracy" exists against Obama, though if any sector of American society is likely to engage in one it would be the extremist right. What is far more likely is that some "lone wolf" will attempt to act out the murderous fantasies imbued in him by others.
In either event, Americans do need to be vigilant about the existence of this kind of lurking rage, especially given the levels of rhetorical bile that have been at flood stage in recent years. And not merely Obama may be affected, but probably every candidate, particularly those on the left side of the ledger.