06.09.11

Sorkin v. Pawlenty: My Writing Won't Help You

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty unveiled his economic plan earlier this week with an address in Chicago. The presentation was part of the Minnesota governor’s Tour of Hard Truths, where he promises be straight with the American people.

Pawlenty is fond of this kind of straight talk. Take his campaign bio, Courage to Stand. “Truth” gets 16 mentions. That’s more than “Reagan” (12). It’s more than “freedom” and “liberty” combined (13). So Pawlenty went to the pop culture well on Monday and returned with one of the more famous moments of truth-telling in recent American history: Jack Nicholson’s performance as the unrelenting Colonel Jessep in Aaron Sorkin’s 1992 “A Few Good Men.”

"It's going to be the Jack Nicholson election," Pawlenty told students at the University of Chicago. "Some of you are probably too young to remember the movie 'A Few Good Men,' but there's that famous line when he's on the witness stand and says, 'You can't handle the truth.' The American people, I think, can handle the truth."

For his part, Sorkin hopes that the campaign rises above his early-90s scribbling.

“We're going to need a full-throated, high-minded debate among people considerably smarter than Colonel Jessep and me,” he wrote The Daily Beast in an e-mail.

Here’s the full reaction from the “Social Network” writer:

“I appreciate the shout out from Governor Pawlently but I'm concerned because Isabel V. Sawhilll, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said that economic growth under the plan the Governor just proposed was ‘highly unlikely’ and Michael Linden, the director of tax and budget policy for the Center for American Progress called Mr. Pawlenty's plan "sheer fantasy". I don't know who's right but we're going to need the truth whether we can handle it or not, and to arrive at the truth we're going to need a full-throated, high-minded debate among people considerably smarter than Colonel Jessep and me.”