A Brief History of Failed Attempts on the President’s Life

06/08/2009 4:00 AM |

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killing Obama, the Murray case was a little more worrisome, insofar as he had eight registered guns, and had recently withdrawn nearly 80,000 dollars from the bank (where, incidentally, he made his threat).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:

Vladimir Arutyunian
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.

Samuel Byck
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.

Oscar Collazo
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!

2 Comment

  • I assume the 13 duels Andrew Jackson fought in prior to his becoming Preznit do not count for our purposes. However, there was the failed attempt made on the life of Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 after he had been president (and was running for a third term).

    John Flammang Schrank, a former Manhattan saloonkeeper turned itinerant poet and Bible scholar, was apparently visited by visions convincing him that a third term would have been unjust. So he tried to shoot Teddy. The bullet traveled through a 50-page speech in Roosevelt’s breast pocket before lodging in his chest, where it remained while Roosevelt delivered the speech in its entirety, and then while he lived the last seven years of his life.

    Schrank was ruled insane, because duh, and lived for 29 more years, in mental institutions.

  • fun AND educational!