Crimson Tide is the Best Analogy

I found this on one of the Talking Point Memo sites. I hope that you find it as thoughtful as I did.


From TPM Cafe:

In paying very close attention to the Senate hearings yesterday a life-imitating-art moment occured to me. It was brought home in the difference between the questions posed to Crocker and Petraeus by John McCain and the questions posed by Barack Obama. The recent identification of the Clinton campaign to Rocky Balboa had me thinking of pop-culture characters where our candidates were concerned, but after yesterday I realized we were thinking about the wrong characters and the wrong movie.

While it was swell for Hillary to think of herself as the fighter who never gives up, and we were all busy reminding each other that HIllary/Syllvester loses in the end, the real problem is that Hillary not only missed the more applicable story line – she isn’t even in the movie. The screenplay we will have playing out before us is not “Rocky”, it is “Crimson Tide”.

The characters are so clear. John McCain is the grizzly, staunch, experienced commander (Gene Hackman) who in light of his cold-war mentality takes having his finger on the button very seriously. Unfortunately he is more inclined to take that serious mission to its logical conclusion – at some point you have to push the button. Barack Obama, however, is the Harvard educated, bright, clear thinking, philosophical younger officer of conscience (Denzel Washington) who refuses to react out of fear. His education informs the kind of decisions he makes, and the seriousness with which he dispatches his responsibilities is always tempered with a global perspective. It is the idea that unintended consequences are not situations that you fall victim to, if you are willing to think it through. If you are willing to apply what you have learned.

I have always liked this movie, and I think I would still find it pertinent even if Obama didn’t have the obvious attributes and star qualities of an actor like Denzel. The story itself is the real parrallel. Iran is the myriad of Russian targets that we know (as observers) should not be hit. McCain has his finger on the button, and due to his vast experience, training, and hyper-vigilance is going to stop at nothing to let those bombs fly. Obama is the last hope we have of the sane, methodical, cool-under-pressure commander who can see the ramifications of his actions, even though he has never faced a situation of this magnitude. Being able to see clearly in the middle of many agendas is what his education was about in the first place.

The more I think about it, the closer the story resonates. It is almost frightening how close. As McCain makes his case for his vast war experience being the deciding factor for the presidency, he leaves us vulnerable to the horrific results that are likely to unfold. Now that Iran is flirting with nuclear power the similarity only tightens. As Obama presents his arguments in a measured and cautious manner he is both praised and villified. People mistake thoughtfullness for calculation, they mistake coolness for uncaring. But this thoughfullness, coolness and measured caution is how he is going to approach some of the most dynamic and potentially disasterous crisis we have seen since we acquired the ability to blow each other up.

I, for one, want the movie’s ending. The old guy retires with commendation, and the young guy gets command. The battle between young and old is not seen as the end, but as the beginning of what is more informed, more palpable, and quite frankly, more conscious.

2 Responses

  1. Hillary is intentionally tubing Obama to get a 2012 redo. The best analogy is Low Tide.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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