Monday, January 18, 2016

‘13 Hours’ captures how Americans really feel about our global standing


January 17, 2016
John Krasinski in '13 Hours'
One of the final, devastating, images in the Benghazi film “13 Hours” is of an American flag lying in a pool of filthy water and debris after the jihadi raid on two American outposts in Libya.
As the movie was shown to New York critics Tuesday night, President Obama was giving his “Everything Is Awesome” State of the Union speech, droning the words, “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction . . . The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth, period. Period. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. It’s not even close.”
So we’ve reached the point where a president has to insist that we’re still No. 1, at least in military strength, then say “It’s not even close” three times. Someone is trying too hard.
To tens of million of Americans, that American flag in the muck is a little closer to the truth. For a large and restless segment of the public, a line that rings far truer than anything in the State of the Union is the one delivered by another political orator of our time: “They’re laughing at us.”
If America has a bigger military budget than the next eight countries combined, what good is that doing us if a ragtag militia can overrun our consulate and murder our ambassador in Libya? If we are giving Iran billions of dollars and an OK to build nukes in a decade? If we’re going to import Middle East turmoil by welcoming large numbers of military-age male refugees, many of whom may hate us?
We thought “13 Hours” was going to be a movie about Hillary Clinton. Instead, it’s about Donald Trump. Because “13 Hours” dramatizes in the most searing way imaginable what’s going on in the country: bureaucratic indifference on the one side, things going up in flames on the other.
The movie is a study in the difference between thinkers and doers, between the theoretical and the practical, between Harvard graduates and guys who drew hot rods in their notebooks during algebra class.
In “13 Hours,” the officious CIA station chief in Benghazi who stands in for every technocrat you’ve ever met tells the brawny security contractors who will soon save him from death, “You’re hired help. There is no real threat here. We won the revolution for these people.” He thinks he can’t be wrong because “We have the brightest minds from the Farm — educated at Harvard and Yale.”
A lady spy with a French accent who works in Benghazi tells one of the security contractors (ex-military men), “I know what I’m doing” because it’s her second tour in a war zone. A contractor replies laconically, “It’s my 12th.”
Another security guy says, referring to the probable assassin who was following her, “I might not have gone to Harvard, but I’m pretty sure that was a tail.”
It’s the old story of nerds vs. jocks. Donald Trump has left little doubt which one he is. He has spent this presidential campaign giving lockerroom wedgies to Jeb Bush and President Obama.
Nerds may be adequate leaders when everything is going smoothly. But when there are jihadis gathering with rocket launchers outside the gate, send for a jock.
Six weeks ago we suffered the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11. And the president didn’t even mention it in the State of the Union. He doesn’t even think about it, because he thinks terrorism is a gun-control issue. Yet Paris has the kind of gun control that Obama can only dream about.
It’s scarcely an exaggeration to say Americans are terrified. Sixty-seven percent of us think the country is on the wrong track, according to Rasmussen polling. One month ago, Americans said terrorism was their No. 1 concern.
If America’s economy is so strong, why are we having the slowest recovery from a recession since World War II? Why is the labor-force participation back down to where it was in the Carter years? Why is the bank RBS forecasting a stock-market crash? Why do only 20% of Americans tell Gallup that they’re satisfied with the way things are going? Why do only 13% say their children will be better off than they are, according to an August YouGov poll?
Donald Trump gets all this. Whoever is elected president will have to learn it.
I have no respect for Trump, but we must respect the people who respect him. They want to be heard, and Trump is speaking for them.
Trump fans and Trump haters “talk past each other,” noted Yuval Levin in National Review this week, “because the former group mostly emphasizes his diagnoses and the latter his prescriptions.”
To Scared America, you’re not worth listening to if you can’t even identify what’s wrong. “If you press a Trump supporter on the merits or plausibility or decency of a specific Trump proposal, the response is usually that at least Trump is willing to talk about the issue while others are afraid to,” notes Levin.
Obama’s solution to our ills, as captured in a Politico headline, is laughably obtuse: “Obama: I’ll travel the country to push campaign finance, redistricting reform.”
They’re talking jihad. He’s talking gerrymandering.
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