I caught the end of Clear and Present Danger (1994) yesterday. That’s the Clancy-inspired movie where Jack Ryan goes back to the CIA and ends up taking on a Colombian drug lord and his KGB-trained intelligence chief. It’s probably the weakest Jack Ryan movie, but I found myself almost cheering at the end. (Couple of spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen it, you may want to skip to the end.)
The movie opens when a friend of the president is assassinated by drug kingpin Ernesto Escobedo for embezzling $650 million. The president is angry and suggests that the US take the game to Colombia. The Colombian operations began under questionable pretenses, with Ryan assuring a Senate committee that they’re not military operations. The CIA hires John Clark (whom Clancy fans know in a different light) to put together a black-ops team to carry out Reciprocity, which is just what it sounds like: revenge in a Sunday coat. When funding dries up, Ryan’s dirty colleague cuts off the satellite support and leaves the soldiers high and dry.
What comes next made me wish Ryan was in the ’08 race. Ryan boards a plane for Colombia, tracks down Clark, and the two head into the jungle to find the unit. The trail leads to Escobedo’s coffee factory, and Ryan makes a daring play for the soldiers’ lives. Gunplay ensues (hey, it’s Hollywood), and in the end, they make it out.
I loved two scenes more than any others. In one, Ryan and Clark find the site where the black-ops unit was ambushed, and the unit’s sniper comes out of hiding. He’s angry and starts blaming Clark. Ryan steps in and says, “It’s not his fault.” When the sniper asks whose fault it is, Ryan replies, “It’s my fault.”
The other is at the end. Ryan confronts the president, who suggests that Ryan keep all this to himself since the “Potomac two-step” will ensure that the president isn’t implicated. Ryan’s reply: “I don’t dance.” Then he appears before the Senate committee to rectify his earlier wrong.
That kind of moral and political courage is sorely lacking in Washington today. The one candidate who has demonstrated it on a consistent basis is Ron Paul. His commitment to the Constitution has earned him the disdain of the establishment (political and media alike) who don’t want to give him the time of day.
But it takes no guts to do what’s popular and right. Doing popular and wrong is politically expedient these days, as almost 50 years of the Great Society has shown us. And doing the unpopular and wrong is quite a bit worse. Only Paul has shown the moral courage to support the unpopular and right, on both sides. For instance, he alone of the Republican candidates has been against the war from the start–on constitutional grounds, not poll results.
Thankfully, the American people are more weary than ever of the establishment (and the Potomac two-step). So-called mavericks or outsiders like Giuliani and Romney simply toe the party line, or let polls drive their decision-making. In ’08, I hope a majority of Americans make both parties’ frontrunners into wallflowers.