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However well he conceals it, every leading American politician is acutely aware that some day he may be the target of the wild frustrations of a psychopath−"the kind of sullen person who broods in rooming houses," in the striking phrase of Democratic Presidential Candidate Morris Udall. The news of Ford's near escape from death made the current presidential candidates, avowed or coy, even more apprehensive, but they were saying little about their concerns in public.
One of the few to speak out was Udall. Said he: "I do really regret that of all the advanced industrial societies, we seem to be the one that is most inclined toward this sort of thing, but this will not change my plans in the slightest." Nor, friends were saying, would the incident alter the activities of the two men who have the most reason to fear the Squeaky Frommes of the world. When, as expected, Alabama's George Wallace announces for the presidency, he will still campaign as vigorously as possible, fighting the paralysis caused by the bullets fired by Arthur Bremer. Would the Governor keep out of crowds? a newsman asked one of Wallace's aides. "Of course not," he replied. "You can't campaign away from crowds."
Senator Edward Kennedy, who is still resolutely declaring that he will not seek the Democratic nomination, will continue to travel the country as before. Kennedy has put the problem this way: "If someone in my position doesn't realize the danger, he'd be a fool. But anybody who lets that danger paralyze him is useless." On the day that Ford was in Sacramento, Kennedy was in Seattle to dedicate a cancer center.
Death Threats. One result of last week's scare was a prompt move to give Secret Service protection to all major presidential candidates, declared or otherwise, a service that is now provided only to Ford and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. "The protection will begin as soon as possible−right now," said Senator Mike Mansfield, a member of the special congressional committee that is empowered to work out who is eligible to be guarded.
The grim reality, however, is that even the skill and dedication of agents like Larry Buendorf cannot guarantee the safety of a political leader against the cunning of a psychopath who is determined to kill−and who knows, far better than Squeaky Fromme, how to operate a gun. There are 47,000 potentially dangerous persons in the Secret Service files, and no one knows how many tens of thousands of others have still not surfaced. With a staff of only 1,300 agents, the Secret Service is hard pressed to fulfill its present duties and to check out every one of the 100 death threats Ford receives on the average every month.
The Secret Service was informed that Fromme was in the Sacramento area, but decided that there was no need to put a special watch on her. From what it knew of Fromme's statements, the agency did not feel that she posed a dangerous threat to the President. Ideally, the Secret Service should be able to keep tab on every suspect. But Douglas V. Duncan, head of the Secret Service unit in Sacramento, points out, "We don't have enough agents for that kind of thing."