Someone, somewhere, always wants to kill the sitting American President. Sadly, some have succeeded (despite being failures at all other aspects of life). But, to paraphrase my Great Aunt Nora, a terrible drunk, “Nobody knows how many would-be assassins haven’t failed…” (She actually used to say, in defending her love of cooking sherry, “Nobody knows how much I haven’t drunk,” but you get the idea.)
To wit, Mr. Daniel James Murray, a Utah man originally from New York, was arrested on Friday after it was alleged he uttered a specific threat to kill the President. While there are countless crackpots across America (and apparently in the streets of Jerusalem) who gas on about killing Obama, the Murray case was a little more worrisome, insofar as he had eight registered guns, and had recently withdrawn nearly 80,000 dollars from the bank (where, incidentally, he made his threat). So, for a brief, exhilarating moment (at least for the man neighbors dubbed "Cape Man") we had an unhinged, well-armed, financially secure nutjob out there with a declared mission to assassinate the President of the United States. Never a good situation.
So, let us hope that Mr. Murray never, ever has the chance to become a failed assassin, and that his name will be lost among those great mediocre millions who stew in anger and disappointment every second of every day, across this great nation of ours. Let us hope that he never gets the chance to join the ranks of the following:
In May of 2005, in lovely downtown Tbilisi, Georgia, Aryutyunian threw a grenade in the direction of President Bush, who was making a speech about democracy or oil or baseball or some shit. The grenade (which was, despite some reports, live) bounced off a woman wearing a cushy sweater, and failed to detonate. The FBI guy in Tbilisi considered the attack a direct threat to the President’s life. Arutyunian was later hunted down in the Georgian woods, and is now serving a lifetime prison sentence.
Some of you may be familiar with the story of Byck, who was played by Sean Penn in the 2004 film, The Assassination of Richard Nixon by the Homosexual Harvey Milk. In 1974, the unstable Byck (his wife had left him, his business had failed) was convinced the government was oppressing the poor. Uh yeah, no shit Sammy. To right this wrong, Byck attempted to highjack a plane and fly it into the White House. He was shot on the runway and then shot himself in the head. Weirdly, like his intended target, Byck made a bunch of tape recordings of his plans, so people would understand why he was such a hero.
This one has a weird, sort of happy ending. Collazo was a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and despite President Truman’s encouragement of Puerto Rican self-determination, Collazo saw him as a symbol of a corrupt system. And as we all know, killing the symbol of a vast, complex corrupt system will surely fix that system. SO, Collazo went to D.C. with a buddy to shoot Harry S. (who was staying at alternate digs while the White House was being renovated). They failed, and Collazo was sentenced to death… but… BUT… Truman commuted the sentence! And Collazo lived to be over 80! And, AND… The attempted-murder weapons are in the Truman Museum! YAY!
Francisco Martin Duran
In a sort of half-hearted attempt at President Clinton in 1994, Duran fired a few rounds from a semi-automatic rifle through the White House fence. No one was hurt. Duran tried to plead insanity (something about an alien mist attacking America), and also cited right-wing talk show host Chuck Baker as an influence — so no, conservative pundits obviously have no impact on the sane and rational actions of their listeners.
Yes, the cutest of the Manson crazies kind of tried to shoot bumbling football President Gerald Ford because he was being mean to trees. I say “kind of” because she emptied her gun at home before she wagged it in Chevy’s face. She also failed to contact Led Zeppelin guitar hero Jimmy Page, who she was convinced was going to be shot. Squeaky’s expected to be released in August of this year, and will likely try to assassinate Dick Cheney, not realizing that he is, in fact, already dead. [Incidentally, another woman, Sarah Jane Moore, actually got a shot off at Ford, only 17 days after the Fromme attempt. Moore missed, Ford lived, and Chevy Chase kept doing those dumb impersonations.]
John Hinckley Jr.
Like a cat laying a dead bird at your feet, Hinckley sought to offer the body of Ronald Reagan to his imaginary beloved, Jodie Foster. Instead, he injured the Cowboy in Chief and left press secretary James Brady paralyzed for life. Hinckley, a failed singer-songwriter, was found not guilty for reasons of insanity, which seems reasonable given the fact he was still obsessed with Foster in 2000, after she’d starred in Somersby (and Nell!).
Lawrence may well have been crazier than Hinckley. Convinced that we was King Henry III, Lawrence felt that he was owed a large sum of money from the American government, and that President Andrew Jackson was keeping it from him. Apparently, leading up to the assassination attempt in 1835, Lawrence began to dress flamboyantly and grew a large mustache, and maybe also started riding a fixed-gear bike (like in Williamsburg!). Lawrence laid in wait for Jackson after a funeral and, given the absence of a good, modern Secret Service, was given the opportunity to fire two quick shots into Jackson’s back; but given the absence of good, modern guns, both pistols misfired. And that’s why Andrew Jackson is on the $20 bill.
Richard Paul Pavlick
Another Dick who tried to kill a president, Pavlick failed where Lee Harvey Oswald would succeed three years later. Pavlick, an irritable New Hampshireman getting on in years, was concerned that the flag was being displayed properly and that Catholics were in thrall to Rome, itself a direct portal to Hell. So he began to stalk President Kennedy, taking photos of the prez and his family at Hyannisport and eventually following him down to Palm Beach. Poised to drive his dynamite-laden car into the motorcade (hey, did America invent suicide bombing? Yes! U!S!A!) Pavlick paused as he noticed Jackie O. and the cute little kids. The Secret Service rounded him up four days later. Dick.
It is a well known scientific fact that short men have very bad tempers, which often leads them to try to assassinate popular presidents and anyone they deem to be a “capitalist.” So it was with little five-foot Gisueppe Zangara, who stood on a chair as FDR gave an impromptu speech in Miami, in February of 1933. Zangara fired five wild shots while wrestling with the crowd, and ended up hitting Chicago mayor Anton Cermak, who later died of his wounds. Zangara was quoted as saying: “I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists." BUT INSTEAD HE KILLED A MAYOR. Fail.
Right after 9/11 Dick Cheney came oh-so-close to restoring assassination capabilities to the CIA. But it's not like they were all that good at it in the first place.
Jul 31, 2009