Joe Scarborough giveth, and Joe Scarborough taketh away. On Monday, the Morning Joe host added his voice to a growing chorus of pants-wetting over Friday's admittedly shocking breach of the White House grounds, repeatedly wondering aloud why the Secret Service didn't just shoot the guy. Most comically, though was this teaser, in which Neocon Chickenhawk-in-Chief William Kristol threw his hat into the ring for this week's Least Self-Aware Quote of the Week Award:
"I'm kind of a shoot first kind of a guy."
The mind reels.
The man Scarborough and Kristol think should have been shot on sight is Omar Gonzalez, a highly decorated, disabled Iraq War veteran who reportedly suffers from PTSD. He should never have been allowed to reach the White House, but the overreactions to this are dangerous and unnecessary. There is an easily-fixable flaw in the White House's perimeter fence that will take care of all of this.
The fence around the North Lawn of the White House is currently undergoing repairs, and a very sturdy-looking temporary fence is now in use. Here's the section of the original fence that's under repair:
And here's the temporary fence that's currently in use:
The temporary fence is actually higher, and the spikes at the top are sharper than the permanent fence, but as you can see, the base is also considerably higher. That creates a vulnerability in the spots where the temporary fence joins the old one, making it considerably easier to vault the fence. All they've got to do is extend the top of the permanent fence in those two sections where it joins the temporary fence.
Fence vulnerabilities notwithstanding, there are several reasons why the Secret Service didn't shoot the man on sight. First of all, the President was not on the grounds, which typically means a somewhat less aggressive posture on the part of the Secret Service. Gonzalez was not carrying any visible packages or firearms (he did have a 3 1/2 inch knife). As Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) has pointed out while calling for a thorough investigation of this incident, the man might have had on an explosive vest or some such device.
He's right, that is a possible risk, but one which is mitigated, somewhat, by the fact that the area in front of the White House, where tourists gather to take snapshots and sing to President Obama, is patrolled by several police agencies and bomb-sniffing dogs, any of whom could have detected such a threat before it began. There is no need to begin shooting disturbed veterans, or frisking scores of tourists, when all we really need is to patch that fence. There could have been a Secret Service agent within ten feet of Gonzalez, and he couldn't have been stopped from vaulting that fence. The Secret Service showed the type of restraint that more law enforcement agencies ought to.