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Flashback Five – Obama’s Foreign Policies Have Some Ballsy Cinematic Predecessors

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This week, President Obama boldly called for sweeping change in the Middle East, proclaiming to the Muslim world that, “The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.” Obama’s realignment of American foreign policy is a bold statement that’s certain to overjoy certain factions, and raise the ire of others. How have big-screen presidents tackled the foreign-policy problems of their days? Read on!

1. Love Actually (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton‘s verrry shallow metaphor for George Bush is shown taking a trip to visit the British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), and using the United States’ muscle to bully England and fondle their secretaries. Which is not a metaphor. This particular approach leads to a degrading in Anglo-American relations, with Grant’s PM memorably stating, “I fear this has become a bad relationship; a relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants.” Guess whether that’s a metaphor or not.

2. Thirteen Days (2000)
The real life drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis showed John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) squaring off against the Soviet Union over their placement of nuclear weapons in Cuba. In the movie, as in real life, Kennedy tried to deal with the potentially global crisis with diplomacy and reason, eventually winning the day.

3. Air Force One (1997)
When
you elect Harrison Ford President of the United States, you better damn
well know what you’re getting into. After giving a speech in Moscow
outlining his zero tolerance policy on terrorism, and shocking the
world (and his staff) by going off script, Ford’s Pres has to put his
money where his mouth is when terrorists take over his plane. Though
the movie ends with Ford kicking the lead terrorist out of his plane,
and crash landing Air Force One in a foreign country, we like to think
it really ended with him ham-fistedly alienating the rest of the world
with his cowboy tactics. Sound familiar?

4. Independence Day (1996)
If
you’re President Bill Pullman, and presented with the sudden appearance
of city sized flying saucers, you: A) try to communicate with the
aliens, or B) blow ’em up. Turns out it’s one, then the other, then get
blown up yourself. The good news is, aliens make a great external force
to help bring the world together, and under Pullman’s direction, the
entire world repels the alien invaders.

5. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
You
would think in a movie about possible nuclear annihilation caused by
American nuclear weapons triggering a Soviet Doomsday device, the two
countries would be at logger heads. But in fact, President Merkin
Muffley, nebbishly played by Peter Sellers, is actually good friends
with the Russian Premier. And in fact, Sellers and the never seen
Premier try desperately to avert the disaster together… Though, of
course, they ultimately fail.

Honorable Mentions:

1. Watchmen (2009):
In this alternate reality, Richard Nixon (Robert Wisden) has brought us
to the brink of nuclear war with Russia… Before he’s given another
option.

2. Vantage Point (2008):
On a trip to Spain, President William Hurt is assassinated… Or is
he??? Clearly, not our most beloved movie Commander in Chief.

3. Idiocracy (2006):
In the future world of Idiocracy, former wrestler turned President
Camacho (Terry Crews) isn’t smart enough to know what foreign means,
let alone policy.

4. Wag The Dog (1997):
In order to get re-elected, the President (Michael Belson) concocts a
fake war with Albania. What’s the best foreign policy again? Oh that’s
right: Dishonesty.

5. Mars Attacks! (1996): President James Dale’s (Jack Nicholson) response to an alien threat? Save yourself first.

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