March 24th, 2009
02:38 PM ET

Jack Nicholson: Political Prophet in 2009

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Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

In the dramatic courtroom showdown between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in the film 'A Few Good Men,' Nicholson, in the role of Col. Nathan Jessep, famously declared to Lt. Daniel Kaffe, played by Cruise, "You can't handle the truth." As I sat in the movie theater in 1992 (yes, there were no DVD's at the time but it was a talkie and in color) awed by that powerful performance, I would never have imagined Jack Nicholson to emerge as a political prophet in 2009. Yet that dramatic line – a challenge to confront the truth - has special insight and wisdom now.

As the Obama administration faces an economic crisis of historic proportions, we hear a self-important refrain from too many political pundits, members of the mainstream media and the political establishment. The public will not be able to "understand," "get their arms around," "grasp" or "appreciate" the "financial stabilization plan," the "mortgage plan," the "economic stimulus program," the "small business loan program" or the "public-private investment program to buy toxic assets." You get the point. Take your favorite pretentious sound bites and place them into a sentence of your choice.

I will be the first to acknowledge that I do not get all the details of these plans. I am also willing to bet that not too many financial experts on Wall Street understood a lot more than the rest of us. And, of course, we know all too well that many members of Congress did not even bother to read the economic stimulus legislation. However, I do not doubt for a moment that the American people get it.

Our frustrations with the role of the Obama administration and Congress over the AIG theft of our tax dollars in the form of bonuses, the culture of misconduct and entitlement on Wall Street and the failure of Congress to draft legislation that protected our tax dollars from bailout abuses can consume us. However, the solution will not be found touring the homes of AIG executives who looted us. It will be found by demanding greater accountability on the part of our government.

The Obama administration has taken important initiatives to do just that. President Obama, to his credit, acknowledged responsibility for the disgraceful AIG bonuses. That may not sound like a lot, but let's not forget President Bush telling the American public he could not think of a mistake he made as President. The administration has offered bold proposals and has taken ownership for resolving this economic crisis. Some will argue that the Obama agenda creates an uncontrollable deficit and that it is social engineering. Others will argue that more tax dollars have to be spent and the banks need to be nationalized. These issues will be debated and ultimately resolved.

The truth that our government and political parties have to "handle" is that we cannot begin to resolve the economic crisis unless we have more than a few good men and women who are prepared to bring Congress, Wall Street and Main Street together. Our country requires that we rise to the challenge, and our history has proven that we can do it.

Filed under: AIG • Economy • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Robert Zimmerman
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. G. Martinez

    The same thing that has devastated great societies in the past seems to be happening to this great nation. Too many lawyers, too much money for little or no work, the traditional family under attack, and too many people with social experiments in mind are in charge.

    The next generation can not believe in their nation when two oil men go to war and kill hundreds of thousands for oil. Kids can not believe in their church because it is politicized and corrupt. Children can not trust their parents to even be around for them. The young in America can not believe anything coming out of the mouths of political leaders. All they see is lies and the influence of special interest groups from the Left and from the Right.

    I hope someone is listening to the people of this nation and their pleas for civil and moral responsibility. The World is more competitive then ever before and we are fast losing ground.

    March 25, 2009 at 10:56 am |
  2. G. Martinez

    The public understands enough to know that this mess was made in Washington DC, by the very people at the forefront of trying to fix it and who also now claim that they did not know this mess was going on. The Republicans are certainly more to blame. The buck has to stop at who was in charge of Congress and the White House, but the Democrats also bare much of the blame. They also stood around and did nothing, or participated in moving this huge mess forward.

    March 25, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  3. Joe G. (Illinois)

    Many retire from public service proud of themselves… An enigma I’ll guess.. But now that you mentioned “You can’t handle the truth” it all makes more sense.. It explains a lot.. Like why we see no factual evidence of the Stimulus package after apparently spending trillions of dollars.

    March 24, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  4. Kim

    Blame me I am the President isn't working anymore for me. I also think he needs refocus on what we elected him to do!! No its not going to change over night but our President on his continued campaign trail isn't the solution all he has to do is pick any number of publications to see what folks are feeling. I want action ,I want honesty, and want people in high places that aren't in it for themselves and their friends. I am sick of it!! And I am disgusted beyond belief by these traitors of our economy. If you can't provide a solution with a reasonable risks factor then don't expect my support. Considering the risks of a hope and dream is a sure sign of failure!!

    March 24, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  5. Kim

    Right on Brothers and Sisters!! I get it and the truth is the "experts" are just different people saying the same thing on a different level. I have collected alot of different news and statements to form an opinion that we need people that aren't job related to the financial crisis to give us a different view and more ideas!! Trust these guys in office now or anyway connected are you crazy!! I truly think that most of us were dumb as information just wasn't out there like it is now. But we the public have been bombarded with information and the suffering is so relavent that it forced all of us to wake up!! One people, united will bring change – But only when the voices are heard!! I think there are alot of nervous people in power!! Our voices have never been so loud as to be heard around the world.

    March 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
  6. Timothy Gibson

    What the American public will not be able to wrap themselves around behind the truth, is the President is nothing more than a puppet to the Federal Reserve, a private banking system, who sets the standards and dictates to the outcome of the crisis in a fashion that they benefit from a crisis of their making, holding the American people hostage and working to create a controlled collapse out of their disaster, greed and criminal behavior.

    March 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  7. Don Edmond

    Barely 64 days into the Obama Presidency and the stifling odor of political hubris that never left the Bush/Cheney White House reappears? All we want on Main Street USA is the truth. Straight, no chaser.

    Yet Neocon arrogance and Rovian disdain for the blue state middle class is being replaced by Axelrod's paternalist paradigm which has the same caustic effect.

    Same ignorant power play...just a different political party doing it.

    March 24, 2009 at 6:41 pm |
  8. Jerry

    I appreciate that the current administration has chosen to be candid about the problems and willing to admit when there have been mistakes. However, we need to see results. Openess and Trasparency are needed. In and of themselves they will not solve the problems. We need to have the leaders provide clear and relevant goals for the programs we are funding. Foggy descriptions of the benefits expected allow too much wiggle room.

    March 24, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  9. samuel

    i would like to ask mr.obama a question,mr. cooper why can't we just abolish money from america? then if someone works for the society we can just give them what they want free? then why not give all that money to the country's wre in debt to? my name is samuel and i'm ten years old,thank you

    March 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  10. Lisa in CA

    Here's what I understand -

    Corporate greed is good and expected - profits at any cost. Individual greed is bad.

    Corporate greed and shady dealings that result in economic collapse gets bailed out by the government. Individual greed and shady dealings results in "the individual needs to take responsibility for their actions and does not deserve to be bailed out".

    I understand that corporate donors get the assistance at the cost to those of us who are not affluent enough to command our representatives' ears.

    March 24, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  11. Neo

    You're right AC 360. We're taxpayers not Stepford Citizens.

    The quickest distance b/t 2 points is a STRAIGHT LINE. The gov't can use all the buzz words they want but this latest PLAN is similiar to the one b/4 it, now with the accountability put more on the investor as opposed to 100% liability on the gov't. Thing is will the taxpayer benefit from this? Probably not.

    March 24, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Melissa

    Obama isn't the problem. He's just trying to clean up the mess than the Republicans started. Obama has been nothing but honest with us and isn't treating us though we're children. He's actually defering to us and asking for our approval. Thats why people are saying he's in perpetual campaign mode.

    I see the problems coming from the Party of No who seem to desperately try to block absolutely anything Obama does, no matter how good or bad the idea might be. THEY are the ones who can't come to an agreement on everything because they want things to continue the exact same way as when Bush was in power.

    THEY are the ones that can't handle the truth. And the truth is that their usefulness is in the past. They can't seem to understand that the whole problem has been the message. Not the format of the message, not the messanger, the message.

    March 24, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  13. Chris

    I am nervous about the state of the economy. But Mr. Zimmerman is completely right (as usual) that Obama's candor and his willingness to quickly concede mistakes when they are made is refreshing. And while I'm frustrated that taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for businessmen who have so egregiously mishandled their professional responsibilities I don't believe that economic vengeance will solve our problems. There is enough blame to go around and we need to decide that we can only overcome our problems – economic, political, and social – together, and act accordingly.

    March 24, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  14. Vivian

    The public can “get their arms around” a “mortgage plan” or a “small business loan program,” no problem, but it would help to have a “financial stabilization plan” and “economic stimulus program” that we can “understand” first, before we attempt to “grasp” or “appreciate” the “public-private investment program to buy toxic assets.”

    March 24, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  15. knoxdupree


    Couldn't have put it better myself. Thanks so much for writing this.


    Eugene, OR

    March 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  16. sherman

    Finally a President who steps up and is facing all our problems head on. President Obama appears to have selected a high caliber of personnel to address all these issues that were swept under the rug for 8 long years. I think the media is in "shell shock" now that they have a person who stands up, speaks his mind and tells each and every Anerican and those around the world what is happening on a frequent basis. Under Bush one always had to wonder what was going on. I look forward to hearing our President this evening where we get to hear direclty from the man in charge!

    March 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  17. Wardell katrina survivor

    It's good to see something, I blogged a while back get posted. The president came out trying to be truthfull with people, he said things were bad, and he was right, real bad, but there are those who want him to be like George, a cheer leader, which from what I understand ,George was very good at, in highschool, maybe because he could get a peek, and feel, the truth is as bad as this thing really is, america if given ALL the facts and numbers could not handle the truth, already their in the streets over bonuses, just imagine, the WHOLE TRUTH!!!!!!

    March 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  18. Lila

    Robert gets it right every time!

    March 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  19. Sharon S

    We the people are rising to the occassion it is Congress and all the back biting and mudd slinging politicians who can't seem to rise to the occassion of TRUTH and taking Responsibilty for their actions!

    I have to say this is the WORST house and Congress I believe this country has ever seen! They are all Liars and cheats and back stabbers! I have NO faith in anyone in Congress at this time!
    I wish we could get rid of all of them!!!

    I know this kind of lying and cheating has gone on before but this time eveyrone is caught and they ALL need to confess up not just Obama ALL OF CONGRESS!!!
    They are acting like stupid spoiled children and I personally find it very disgusting and immature considering these are the people running our country!!

    I truly think most average working Americans could do a Much better job than these overpaid Idiots we have in office!

    March 24, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  20. richmond pam

    How many times do we have to go around in a circle to nowhere. Whether or not people can handle it, understand it or want to believe it now is the t;ime to be proud of the leadership of our new president who is working relentlessly to fix the vast array of problems we are facing. In many cases he's just the messenger of the problems created during the Bush/Cheney years. During the Bush/Cheney regime everything sounded great. Remember we won the war in Iraq, before it really began! The truth is tough...but I am glad President Obama is the man in charge.

    March 24, 2009 at 3:08 pm |
  21. John B.

    They always try to dumb it down or sell us it on the news with the sound bites , yet they try to tell us what they want us to believe its these political and financial news hacks who knew about most of this all the while ...are not some of you aquiantancesor freinds with some of these big wiggs? but I dont see any of them panicing .after all its us "everyday people" that are giving the AIG's in the world our next dollar ,...huh? go ahead print more !!!

    March 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  22. fran frank

    I have been having similar thoughts as Robert Zimmerman. Instead of people -the media and pundits- applauding the "stand up man" President Obama is...they talk about whether he laughs too much, is on TV too much. How fast people forget 8 years with a guy who hid most of the time and vacationed alot of the time...these ostrich behaviors helped create the mess that President Obama is working hard to correct. Let's applaud a man big enough to take blame when it isn't even he who creatted the problem.

    March 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  23. Isabel

    All the people need to be convinced that decisions were taken, with the Congress, will put the nation on track. More than convince, it is must solve the problems with urgency.

    But Let us wait … this night will be good…

    March 24, 2009 at 3:00 pm |
  24. Linda

    Correction to my previous post – make that $1.8 TRILLION!

    March 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm |
  25. Linda

    Here's what I can't handle:
    Females make up 51% of the population and women control 85% of all purchasing decisions. Millions of them are heads of households and certainly pay taxes. Millions of them are now unemployed. And yet in the stimulus package 99% of the jobs being created are for "shovel ready" projects. While I commend any woman who can drive a bulldozer, install a highway sign, repair a road, build a sewage system etc. , they sure are in the minority. They're also in the minority as senior employees on Wall St. and at AIG, and most likely few, if any, were not included in the bogus bonuses. And yet as the majority we're getting the big shaft! Pay those taxes if you're employed, and your daughters too, but God help you if you're unemployed because you sure won't see any assistance in getting any benefits from the $1.8MM you'll assist in paying off. Unless, of course, you end up on food stamps and state health care and then you can listen to all the men calling you evry derogatory name in the book!

    March 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  26. writerre

    wall Street adn Main Street-
    Go get 'em, AC

    March 24, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  27. Michael "C" Lorton, VA

    It is not that Americans can't handle the truth; It has come to the point where "the lie and the truth" are the same.

    March 24, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  28. Laurie from GN

    Good point! I look forward to your insights and to your commentary on CNN. Look forward to your future articles and television appearances. By the way, where do you buy your ties – they are quite eye popping!

    March 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  29. Cindy

    The Obama crew and the media think that us oh so normal people just can't understand any little ole problem that we are having. They always try to dumb it down or worse yet they try to tell us what they want us to believe when it's not really the whole truth of the deal. But in reality a lot of us know exactly what is going on and are sick of the coddling and lying by some.

    It irks me that even CNN gets in on the act. The truth of the toxic buyout is not being fully told here yet many won't know it because they don't take the time to really look into things but just take what 360 and CNN say as the gospel when it is not a lot of the times. So I am just keepin' YOU all honest about this mess! Somebody has too!


    March 24, 2009 at 2:03 pm |