Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Few Good Men, Revisited: Bush as Jack Nicholson

Remember the movie A Few Good Men? In the climactic scene, Tom Cruise's defense attorney goads a confession out of Jack Nicholson's tough guy Marine commander. In a line that has become a staple of pop culture, Nicholson warns Cruise he "can't handle the truth" about what he, Nicholson, as commander of the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, has to do to protect Americans. When Cruise demands the truth, Nicholson admits that he authorized a "Code Red" hazing that resulted in murder.

President Bush recently had his own A Few Good Men moment when he admitted authorizing illegal warrantless surveillance of Americans, in violation of federal law and the Constitution. Like Nicholson's Marine commander, Bush claims that he had to break the law in order to protect us. Unlike Nicholson, there have been no tangible consequences for Bush.

The Bush administration consistently keeps Americans in the dark. Like Nicholson's character, they claim to know best how to protect us and would prefer we simply keep our mouths shut, opening them only to thank our protectors for the blanket of security they provide. This is not democracy. Democracy demands an informed citizenry, engaged in and aware of important decisions. The Bush administration's approach treats us like cosseted children.

In the movie, Nicholson is portrayed as a power mad authority figure, someone who goes too far and has to be reined in by the legal system. It is no excuse for him to explain that he was only acting to protect Americans and that we live in a dangerous world that requires armed men to guard its borders. Immediately after Nicholson makes his confession, he is advised of his Miranda rights and taken into custody.

In real life, at least so far, Bush has successfully used the same excuses to justify his decision to set aside the law. Like Nicholson, he tells us we live in a dangerous world and that he is only acting to protect us. Bush reminds us that there are people who wish to do the United States harm and suggests that unless he has unlimited power to act against terrorists, or those he thinks are terrorists, Americans will die.

This is no way to govern a democracy. Scaring Americans into surrendering their freedom is shameful, to say the least. It didn't work for Nicholson in A Few Good Men and it shouldn't work for Bush now. Unfortunately, we don't have a Tom Cruise to expose Bush to the nation. Bush's Nicholson moment happened without any dashing protagonist to egg him on or stoke an audience's outrage. Now that Bush has made his stunning admission, we all need a few good men, and women, to, as Cruise did on screen, call a spade a spade. In this country, no one is above the law. Violations of law are not excused by the fact that we live in a dangerous world. Those who provide our security do not earn the right to demand grateful silence from the nation. It's time for someone to read Bush his Miranda rights, at least symbolically.


Blogger EAPrez said...

GREAT Analogy!

10:37 PM  
Blogger Chris Edelson said...

thank you!

11:37 PM  

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