Thoughts on Tuesday's Presidential Visit

I've been letting some thoughts percolate for a while regarding President Obama's visit to Fort Myers.

First of all, when the President comes to your town, it's a big deal, whether you voted for him or not. Roads will be closed, security will be tight, and the President won't see a whole lot of your town other than what he can see through the tinted windows of the Presidential Limousine. I doubt if President Obama spent more than ten minutes outside in Fort Myers in the entire time he was here, which was too bad. It was a beautiful day, but he was whisked from Air Force One to the limo, with a few minutes of meet-and-greet for local bigwigs, then he was off to the venue, where the limo went into an underground parking garage and inside the building. Afterwards, it was reversed.

One nice touch was that the motorcade went right down Martin Luther King Boulevard, which was Anderson Avenue up until several years ago when the main street running through the historically black neighborhood of Dunbar was renamed. When it became evident that the law enforcement presence was concentrated along that route, many people correctly divined that the President would be coming their way. There were probably a couple of thousand people along the road, cheering as the limo whizzed past them. It wasn't much, but it was deeply symbolic for many Dunbar residents. I'm sure that President Obama is the first president to ever go down that street, and those who saw him were thrilled about it.

For the President, of course, it becomes routine. He doesn't see any moving vehicles other than his own motorcade, because all nearby traffic is blocked off for security reasons. He doesn't see a red light, and won't for the entire four year term of his presidency. He is not just a VIP, he is the Most Important Person, as far as the Secret Service and local law enforcement are concerned.

It all comes with a downside, of course: The President's day is tightly scripted, and his time is not his own. He has some input into his schedule, of course, but many things are obligatory. Every word he speaks and every action he takes will be under the microscope. And wherever he goes, it is an EVENT, with prior coordination with the locals and scheduling down to the minute. He can't just say, "Hey, what's down that road? Let's go take a look." Security concerns won't allow it.

And no matter where he goes, he will have a Secret Service escort with him. That doesn't end when he leaves office, either; former presidents also have Secret Service details. For the rest of his life, the President will never be able to live a "normal" life; the loss of spontaneity is one of the costs of winning the highest office in the land.