Col. Nathan R. Jessep: You want answers?
Lt. Daniel Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.
Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Lt. Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!
That famous exchange from the 1992 film “A Few Good Men,” between Lt. J.G Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Marine Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson), was the signature moment of the movie. No one who has seen the movie will forget that great line: “You can’t handle the truth!”
This coming election will focus on these very questions: Does the American electorate just want to hear answers from the candidates? Or do voters want the truth, and can they handle it?
For nearly two decades now, Americans have wanted slogans and answers - “compassionate conservatism,” “the audacity of hope” and other such drivel. Rome has indeed been burning while Nero has fiddled with the figures. We’re now living on the “pay-as-you-went” plan, because there is no more “go” in it. We’re broke, we’re in a mess, and we can’t spend our way out of the problem.
So, conservatives, paraphrasing what Bette Davis (in her role as Margo Channing, the aging Broadway star in 1950’s “All About Eve”) said: “Fasten your seatbelts, conservatives, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” The truth about where we are as a nation today is going to be a tough pill for America to swallow.
This is because America is naturally filled with optimists. In fact, it was Ronald Reagan’s optimism as much as his conservatism that got him elected in 1980. He exuded confidence in America’s future, in its people and in its exceptional place in the world. His truth was rooted in his belief that the best was yet to come.
We are, therefore, clashing with what Americans want to believe about the state of the nation, which we know in our hearts is not so.
We do not want to believe we are broke.
We do not want to believe that the Middle East and Afghanistan are a mess we cannot solve.
We do not want to believe that most of the world does not want what America believes they should want.