The story of the White House intruder reminds me that things could have been far worse. Consider what took place at 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, the official residence of Canada’s Prime Minister nearly 20 years ago.
It was November 1995 and, at the time, the Liberal government of Jean Chretien was in office and had just survived the second Quebec Referendum. That night, a man named Andre Dallaire, managed to break into 24 Sussex Drive and found himself outside of Chretien’s bedroom. The noise awakened Chretien’s wife Aline who went to investigate. Upon exiting the bedroom, she saw Dallaire brandishing an open jackknife with a 4 3/4-inch blade. Mrs. Chretien retreated back into the bedroom, locked the doors, called the RCMP and grabbed an Inuit sculpture for protection.
The RCMP would get their man, but not before the responding officer forgot his key. It would take seven minutes for the RCMP to respond to Mrs. Chretien’s cry for help. Several RCMP officers were suspended and supervisors reassigned for not monitoring the security video at 24 Sussex. Prior to approaching the Chretien’s bedroom, Dallaire waved to the security cameras. Although Dallaire was convicted of attempted murder the following year, he was not held criminally responsible because he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Indeed, during the trial, Dallaire resided at a group home.
Security measures were ramped up for Chretien following the incident. However, he did not hesitate to walk through crowds and actually physically confronted a protester in Hull, Quebec a few months after the incident. I remember the headline in The Ottawa Sun read “HULL HOGAN!!!” It was probably the most popular thing Chretien ever did in his three terms in office.
But I also recall that a couple of weeks before the attack I attended a rally for the No forces near Parliament Hill. Before the rally began, I was standing around with a woman who accompanied me to the rally and out of the corner of my eye we saw Chretien walk right past us. He was walking with a couple of advisers, but was easily accessible. There was nothing anybody could have done to have prevented either of us from having contact with him benign or otherwise.
Come to think of it I remember passing former Prime Minister Joe Clark as I entered the Rideau Center on night and shared an elevator with Kim Campbell at Parliament Hill the night she became Prime Minister. While Stephen Harper has a far more stringent security detail, Canadian Prime Ministers are accessible in a way that American Presidents will never be. It is almost inconceivable anyone could get that near President Obama in public unless they were a fundraiser for the Democratic Party.
Nevertheless, given the litany of incompetencies eminating from the Obama Administration and the fact Americans are being beheaded both at home and abroad, this breach of security at the White House certainly does nothing to inspire confidence.
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