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Warren Commission Report: Page 426« Previous | Next »

(CHAPTER VIII - The Protection of the President)

the Commission which pertains to the protective function as it was carried out in Dallas has been published as part of this report.


The protection of the President of the United States is an immensely difficult and complex task. It is unlikely that measures can be devised to eliminate entirely the multitude of diverse dangers that may arise, particularly when the President is traveling in this country or abroad. The protective task is further complicated by the reluctance of Presidents to take security precautions which might interfere with the performance of their duties, or their desire to have frequent and easy access to the people. The adequacy of existing procedures can fairly be assessed only after full consideration of the difficulty of the protective assignment, with particular attention to the diverse roles which the President is expected to fill. After reviewing this aspect of the matter this chapter will set. forth the Commission's conclusions regarding certain protective measures in force at the time of the Dallas trip and propose recommendations for improvements.

THE NATURE OF THE PROTECTIVE ASSIGNMENT

The President is Head of State, Chief Executive, Commander in Chief, and leader of a political party. As the ceremonial head of the Government the President must discharge a wide range of public duties, not only in Washington but throughout the land. In this role he appears to the American people, in the words of William Howard Taft, as "the personal embodiment and representative of their dignity and majesty."2 As Chief Executive, the President controls the exercise of the vast., almost incalculable powers of the executive branch of the Federal Government. As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he must maintain ultimate authority over the development and disposition of our military power. Finally, in accordance with George Washington's maxim that. Americans have a government "of accommodation as well as a government of laws," 3 it is the President's right and duty to be the active leader of his party, as when he seeks to be reelected or to maintain his party in power.


In all of these roles the President must go to the people. Exposure of the President to public view through travel among the people of this country is a great and historic tradition of American life. Desired by both the President and the public, it is an indispensable means of communication between the two. More often than not, Presidential journeys have served more than one purpose at' the same time: ceremonial, administrative, political.


From George Washington to John F. Kennedy, such journeys have been a normal part of the President's activities. To promote nation-wide acceptance of his administration Washington made grand tours that, served also to excite interest in the Presidency.4 In recent years, Presidential journeys have been frequent and extensive, partly be-

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