Racism and the nation's white hot political environment that has sparked bitter division in Washington and a political assassination attempt in Arizona have raised concerns about President Obama's safety on the campaign trail, according to a former top U.S. marshal and retired Secret Service agent.
"I think there is going to be a violent incident in 2012. I cannot put my finger on when or where. I am more inclined to worry about the president, but the volatility is there," said Donald Tucker. "I don't think there is ever enough security when you go from city to city, place to place, shaking hands and kissing babies. Secret Service can only do so much," he added in an interview.
Tucker spent 25 years in the Secret Service. After retiring in 1990, then President George H. W. Bush named him a U.S. Marshal in Arizona. Last year he published Two-Edged Sword, his biography about being one of the first black federal agents.
His experiences with racism during the Civil Rights movement and knowledge of political violence, like the 1995 Oklahoma city bombing, have him concerned that a wave of anger and frustration with Washington and Obama could result in campaign violence.
Tucker says that in 2008 threats against Obama were greater than in any election. Obama became the first candidate ever to have Secret Service protection before winning the nomination. [Check out photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
"I am concerned for the candidates and I am concerned for the president of the United States. I think we are in a situation where this president is damned if he does or damned if he don't whether he is going on vacation or meeting with certain individuals everything is taken out on him at a level I've never seen," he said.
The Secret Service would not comment. Others said that Obama's security is tight and effective and that there are no unusual threats to him.
Tucker says political violence elsewhere is the backdrop to the 2012 election. For example, he cites the January assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a recent assault on the president of France, and the killings of politics students in Norway.
"I am looking around at the politics and events that have been in the news media. And I am very concerned with the division in this country and how the division is being exploited. When you have the have and the have nots you push people into a place where they have nowhere to go and that's when they strike out," he says.
Racism is also at play, he said. "This country has never witnessed such prejudiced hostility and animosity being generated in the name of political ideology in the last two years. Congressmen being spit on, a Californian Republican politician sending out pictures of the president depicting his mother and dad as older chimpanzees holding a baby with the president's face, as a baby chimp. This only feeds into the weaknesses of people who will believe anything if it strengthens their hatred towards a person who is different them," he says.