After spending a pleasant Thanksgiving week in Rehoboth, Del., as is customary for our family, I began to mourn about the future of its continued quiet during the fall, winter and spring. It now will become the refuge of President-elect Biden, Secret Service and gawkers.
The Bidens own a second home about a mile from our favorite rental property. That proximity may become a terrible annoyance.
I have mixed feelings about the celebrity culture. Though I suspect that real estate brokers may feel differently, particularly in Talbot County, I believe that high-ranking federal public figures bring a covey of security personnel, hangers-on and the media, not merely higher property values. Quiet streets and cozy restaurants become just the opposite.
I recall not too fondly the hubbub caused when Vice President Dick Cheney, sometimes accompanied by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, both with homes in St. Michael’s, would descend upon Easton during the years 2000-2008. Streets were cleared, and an accessible restaurant suddenly became a private enclave.
Maybe it was four years ago when both Vice President Biden and candidate Donald Trump attended a graduation at the University of Pennsylvania for a granddaughter and daughter, respectively. Parents and participants had to arrive 2-1/2 hours prior to the ceremony to endure security checkpoints. I was dismayed by the disorder created by legitimate security concerns.
My irritation is non-partisan. My sense of inconvenience has no political boundaries. Momentarily, I am perturbed.
Perhaps what I bemoan the most is the unfortunate need for a phalanx of Secret Service and local police officers. It’s a sad fact of American life. Several assassination attempts—four of which were profoundly tragic—justify and explain the normally impenetrable and expensive cloak of protection for our President and Vice President and their families.
I am aware that the actual incidents are few relative to the number of threats.
Loss of Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, to bullets fired while sitting on April 14, 1865 in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. was a horrible blow to a country still reeling from the Civil War. His death stymied progress toward racial equality.
President James Garfield was killed in 1881 and William McKinley in 1901.
The murder of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963 remains a traumatic event for our nation, an act of violence that scars the memories of so many Americans. Was it really possible that someone so vibrant and charismatic as JFK could be shot dead on a Dallas, Texas roadway? Like many in my generation, I can remember exactly where I was when I learned the stunning news.
Kennedy’s death still haunts memories of my freshman year in college. Politics took on a deadly component.
The assault on President Ronald Reagan in March 1981 outside a Washington, D.C. hotel was another horrific reminder of risks to a president’s life by a crazed human. That Reagan survived the shooting, which seriously threatened his life, is a tribute to rapid and skilled medical treatment and possibly to his indomitable optimism.
Again, how could this happen to a person whose sunny disposition seemingly muffled political opposition?
In view of our national proclivity toward violence aimed at public figures, it makes sense, regretfully so, that those of us living in, or visiting spots enjoyed by American presidents—such as Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Palm Beach, Florida, Crawford, Texas and Kennebunkport, Maine, among others—must suck it up and withstand the commotion caused by the presence of a political celebrity.
We will continue visiting Rehoboth Beach, Del. and try to ignore the presidential couple living amidst us. We will grumble respectfully.
And we will commend the Bidens for having the same taste as we do for a normally delightful beach resort—and some delicious pizza and incomparable French fries.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.