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Threats against Obama: Michael Stephen Bowden is just the latest

Nearly 1 in 10 US presidents have been assassinated or wounded in office. The Secret Service has made more than a dozen arrests in the past two years for threats against Obama. Retiree Michael Stephen Bowden is the latest.

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"Read literally, the threats-against-the-president statute could apply to someone overheard mouthing off in a bar ..., though authorities aim to prosecute only those individuals deemed to pose credible threats," writes Andy Bromage for Seven Days, a Vermont-based news website. "In King’s case ... his repeated threats online, his mental condition and the fact that he owned guns ... persuaded authorities he posed a risk."

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While the vast majority of threats are not serious, authorities ignore threats at the president's peril. In 1994, few people took Francisco Martin Duran seriously when he said he planned to assassinate President Bill Clinton. On Oct. 29, 1994, Mr. Duran unloaded 29 rifle rounds into the White House, injuring no one. In 2001, Secret Service agents shot and then arrested Robert Pickett, an Indiana man, after gunshots were heard outside the White House fence while Mr. Bush was in residence..

Despite such dangers, Secret Service protection insulates presidents from everyday life, which can affect their job performance. "You cannot shake the bubble," writes former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal, about Obama's political problems. "And the worst part is that the army of staff, security and aides that exists to be a barrier between a president and danger ... winds up being a barrier between a president and reality."

Mr. Bowden, an ex-N.Y.C. policeman and firefighter who had retired to South Carolina, didn't write down his threats, but Secret Service were alerted by a Veterans Administration counselor after Bowden said he "was thinking of traveling to Washington, D.C., to shoot the president because he was not doing enough to help African-Americans."

Bowden, who is white, didn't deny the threat when talking to Secret Service officers, and even went on to tell them, "If I had the opportunity, I would shoot [Obama] myself. If I had the opportunity to get Obama against the wall and shoot him, I would." A small arsenal of loaded weaponry was found in Bowden's South Carolina home.

After making a court appearance, Bowden is undergoing mental evaluation through the federal prison system. His son told news outlets that Bowden, in his seventies and in deteriorating health, isn't physically capable of carrying out the threat.

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