(Fred Weinberg) – Way back in 1999, Aaron Sorkin wrote an episode of West Wing dealing with a Syrian attack on a United States Air Force transport plane carrying doctors (including the President’s own physician) to a teaching hospital in Amman, Jordan.
The next episode, titled A Proportional Response could have been a training manual for what President Trump undoubtedly just went through last week.
While Sorkin is an undeniable liberal, as is Martin Sheen who played a relatively new President Josiah Bartlett, the episode could have been a teaching manual in the difference between politics and actual governance.
The mythical President Bartlett’s initial reaction to the death of his personal physician was “I’m gonna blow them off the face of the earth with the fury of God’s own thunder.”
In the next episode, Bartlett asked the National Security Council, “What is the virtue of a proportional response?”
And then, he suggests what just about every new President has probably thought about:
FITZWALLACE (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs)
Pardon me Mr. President, just what else is there?
A disproportional response. Let the word ring forth from this time and this place, you kill an American, any American, we don’t come back with a proportional response, we come back [bangs fist on table] with total disaster!
Are you suggesting we carpet-bomb Damascus?
General, I am suggesting that you and Admiral Fitzwallace and Secretary Hutchinson and the rest of the national security team take the next sixty minutes and put together a U.S. response scenario that doesn’t make me think we are just docking somebody’s damn allowance!
In the end, Bartlett authorizes an operation very similar to the one which President Trump actually authorized last week.
The mythical President which was created by Sorkin and Sheen with real world help from Democratic operative Pat Caddell, did what most Americans expected—a proportional response which served as a message to the Syrian and Russian governments—even back in 1999 on a fictional TV program.
The truth is, nobody wants to go to war with a pissant like Bashar Al Assad, who actually didn’t ascend to the Syrian Presidency until a year after this episode aired.
And there is no actual response short of World War III which would serve to actually avenge the visuals of children dying of Sarin gas dropped on them by their own government.
But the fact is that when the United States took out Saddam Hussein, all of a sudden Muammar Qaddafi started behaving himself in Libya—at least until Barack Obama was elected and the message being sent around the world was do what you want.
Messages send by “proportional responses” have a value. Maybe not directly to thugs like al-Assad but certainly to the Russians who fully understand that their economy does not function in a vacuum. And the optics of sending that message while dining with the Chinese President and talking about North Korea simply cannot be overlooked.
It’s possible that the scenario envisioned by the 1999 television program came fairly close to what actually happened in the White House situation room last week because such situations cross political philosophies domestically. It also appears that the President and his team handled it professionally in the midst of a lot of other domestic and foreign distractions.
The real message which may have been sent is that despite the screamers on the left, President Trump is competent and in charge which is a major change from the past eight years.
Mr. Weinberg is publisher of the Penny Press. Get to know more about him by visiting www.PennyPressNV.com.