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©2018 by Think Outside Politics.

Dark Knights and Shadow Governments

September 7, 2018

In the movie "The Dark Knight,” District Attorney Harvey Dent explains a moral struggle faced by all of the world's greatest political figures. After inevitably breaking some norms and rules to restore law and order, the leader must step aside, or else become a threat to the political system he fought to restore. 

 

HARVEY: “We [appointed the Batman], all of us who stood by and let scum take control of our city…. When their enemies were at the gates, the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint one man to protect the city. And it wasn’t considered an honor, it was considered a public service.

 

RACHEL: “The last man they appointed to protect the republic was named Caesar, and he never gave up his power.”

 

HARVEY: “Fine. Then you either die a hero, or see yourself live long enough to become the villain.”

 

Harvey Dent’s words referred simultaneously to himself and to the Batman. Harvey would fail the test of giving up power and die. Batman would pass the test, proving his goodness by destroying the very spy-equipment he used to eliminate the Joker’s terrorist threat. Director Christopher Nolan was referring, of course, to the Bush administration and its two options for the future.

 

In Nolan's telling, President Bush’s 90% job-approval rating after the Twin Towers collapsed was his appointment to lead the people against a foreign, terrorist threat. To oppose that threat, Bush's neoconservative administration wielded an immense power—the PATRIOT Act—which gave American spy agencies an ability (much like Batman's) to peer directly into the private lives of ordinary citizens. This power, while necessary to deal with the foreign threat, would soon outlive its usefulness and become a threat to the republic itself.

 

The American People apparently saw the situation in much the same way that Nolan did. During the Reagan era, neoconservatism reached the height of its popularity when it triumphed over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. In the Bush era, neoconservatives were appointed to execute the War on Terror, but this time got America bogged down in a nation-building project in Iraq. After 8 years, Americans were ready to scale back war powers and bring American troops home—and if Republicans wouldn't do it, Americans would elect someone who would.

 

The recent release of an anonymous NYTimes Op-Ed has demonstrated that at least one neoconservative is not yet ready to relinquish power. And, if what he writes can be believed, there is a cabal of neoconservatives like him forming a shadow government within the current administration, attempting to protect the American People from their own electoral decisions. This self-styled Brutus envisions himself saving the American republic from Caesar’s grasp. But this narrative is backward. This "senior official" is the one who has crossed the Rubicon, and is now marching against the peoples' representatives.

 

Mr. Anonymous, if you truly revere John McCain and his legacy, as you claim, then call off your "resistance." McCain had many disagreements with the current administration, to be sure, and he would probably conduct foreign policy very differently from the way Trump handles it. But a great man like McCain would have no kind words for the petty faux-coup you are claiming to carry out in his name. You do McCain's legacy a grave disservice by using him as cover for your third-world political machinations.

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