Leading article: Tasteless predictions

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama has not even got to the Democratic convention but already some so-called political allies are predicting his death at the hands of enraged white supremacists.

Champion boxer Bernard Hopkins, CBS anchor Harry Smith and our own Doris Lessing are some of the Cassandras grimly predicting a President Obama is bound to go the same way as John F Kennedy. Hopkins said: "They won't let him become President, but if they do, it will be for a short time, maybe less than a month." Lessing was even more doleful: "[He] would certainly not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would murder him."

But there will always be doubt whether America is ready for a black head of state until we actually see one. It is well known Colin Powell's wife urged her husband not to run in 1996, in part because she feared a gunman's bullet. But it is tasteless for such professed liberals as Lessing to be going about predicting Obama's death.

It feeds a paranoid fear that there is a mysterious "they" out there somewhere who are always going to block any change in America, a doctrine that might be seen as perniciously self-fulfilling in that it feeds a spirit of defeatism. Those who profess to support change in the United States should get on with supporting change and keep quiet about potential assassinations of politicians.

In any case, the security surrounding American presidents is vastly improved from the 1960s. As one witty blogger put in recently, the only person likely to assassinate Obama is Hillary Clinton, if she was made his running mate. Joking, of course.