The fictional character Jack Ryan is crying now as his creator, Tom Clancy, is no longer with us. He passed away on October 1 at the age of 66 after writing some of the best American post Cold War espionage novels of all time starting with The Hunt for Red October in 1984 in which he introduced Jack Ryan as a CIA analyst (Alec Baldwin starred as Ryan in the 1990 movie and Sean Connery played his nemesis) and ending with Threat Vector in 2012. His last novel Command Authority will be posthumous and is set to come out at the end of this year.
In Clear and Present Danger, Clancy’s 5th novel (Harrison Ford stars as Jack Ryan this time), he pits his character against the President of the US and his aids who are leading a covert war against a drug cartel based in Colombia. The title ‘Clear and Present Danger’ is a term coined by Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. in the case Schenck v. United States.It was used to describe how the government should have the right to regulate speech if it jeopardizes the safety of the country especially during wartime (the First Amendment was abridged during WWI to ward against subversive advocacy).
Now with the government shutdown (see my previous post) over raising the debt ceiling of federal budget so that the government can pays its bills on time without defaulting (the deadline is probably somewhere between October 22 and November 1 according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and the Bipartisan Policy Center)., Clancy’s novel takes on even more meaning. Is there a clear and present danger occurring with the kind of speech that is coming out of the American Congress? Are they jeopardizing not only the economy of the US, but the world economy and perhaps even world peace? Are the American people the unwitting bystanders just like Jack Ryan was?
Each side is saying: It’s my way or the highway…take it or leave it. And the arm wrestling goes on….
I think Steve Sacks from the Star Tribune says it all in his 2009 cartoon: Good Morning Sunshine