Movie-Plot-Threat Presidential Debate Questions


Gentlemen, here’s the scenario: As you are flying home from Moscow—having told the world you will never deal with terrorists—hijackers, posing as reporters, seize Air Force One. They vow to kill a hostage every half-hour, including your wife and daughter, until you release a murderous Russian general. I’ll start with Senator Obama. Do you negotiate with the hijackers in the hope of saving lives, or do you flee into the bowels of the craft, then pick them off, one by one, with makeshift shanks and your bare hands?

Candidates, pay attention: An international financier has smuggled an atom bomb into Fort Knox. He loves only gold. Only gold. After an amazing sequence of events, including car chases, sexual conquests, and your defeat of the assassin known as Oddjob, you find yourself staring at the interior of a nuclear device. The final seconds are ticking down. This goes to you, Senator Clinton: Do you cut the blue wire, or do you cut the red wire?

A tornado has transported you to a magical land, where a jubilant throng of midgets greets you as liberator. They direct you toward a road paved with yellow bricks. We’ll start with you, Mayor Giuliani. Would you consider capturing one of these exotic creatures and subjecting him or her to enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and electric shock, if it means extracting vital information that will determine whether the yellow route leads home—or into a trap?

More questions in the article.

Posted on July 30, 2007 at 2:51 PM21 Comments


Andrew July 30, 2007 3:35 PM

Presidents do have to make hard decisions. However, lives are expendable in such scenarios. Brave men and women would line up by the dozens to die to prevent another terrorist attack like that on 11 September. Only cowards would line up to torture and maim.

I suggest a simple rule. Any public officer or employee who uses torture on behalf of the United States, presumably to save many lives as in the scenario above, is thereafter removed from all government employment and eligibility for public office on the basis of total medical (moral) disability. They gave their honor for their country, where most ethical people would prefer to give something less painful like their legs or their eyesight.

Alternately, the torturer can face the criminal charges arising from their conduct and defend themselves in open court — taking the jail time if they are found guilty by a jury of their fellow citizens, against the possibility of a one time exoneration.

Torture should NEVER be legal in the United States of America. It should always be such an extreme, unusual situation that either it goes to court for a full review, or brings a final end to the careers of the parties involved.

If brave men and women can die for their country to prevent atrocity, what is a mere career in public service worth?

CruelAndUnusual July 30, 2007 3:50 PM

Define torturous punishment?

Some would say that a failed suicide bomber’s torture is being allowed to live while being forced to watch American Idol with commercials.

Skippern July 30, 2007 3:59 PM

As homeland security uses movie plots to advice future security measures on airports and other places of public importance, why not use the same movie plots in the electoral debates? I would really like to know how the next president of the nation posing the largest threat to global stability would handle situations extracted from movies such as “Rambo: First Blood”, “Die Hard 3: With a Vengeance”, “Speed”, “Money Train”, “The Negotiator”, “The Translator”, or any other Hollywood flick with some sort of terrorism as part of the plot. Will the person replacing cowboy Bush handle such situations better than Sylvester Stalone, Arnold Swatchneger, Wesly Snipes, Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis?

Goatrider July 30, 2007 4:17 PM


“Would you agree to run with this bizarre, Republican hybrid, if it requires you to soften your stances on gay rights and climate change?”

Jess July 30, 2007 4:22 PM


Maybe that’s an argument for “Arnold’s Amendment”, which would allow foreign-born citizens to run for president. In that case, I guess we would know how he would react.

Jamie July 30, 2007 4:23 PM

CruelAndUnusual said: “Some would say that a failed suicide bomber’s torture is being allowed to live while being forced to watch American Idol with commercials.”

I would have thought that the inclusion of commercials would be a welcome interruption.

Perhaps a more fitting torture would be forced viewing of all of the American Idol audition footage, without interruptions.

Jojo July 30, 2007 5:42 PM

I’d cut the blue wire. Because we know from TV that the red wire is always fake.

Beta July 30, 2007 6:19 PM

Senator, what is your position on the admission of gays into the military, in light of the fact that heterosexual male sentries can be lured away from their posts indefinitely by the sight of an attractive young woman in a short skirt?

Governor, do you believe that we as a nation have taken adequate precautions against the appearance of a deadly virus that kills more quickly than ebola but paradoxically spreads farther than influenza, and if so can we rely on our top virologists to locate and/or capture the one person or animal whose blood carries the cure?

General, do you consider it a wise policy to give a captured enemy combatant a guided tour of your command center and an exposition of your secret plans? Also, if there’s time sir, could you tell us briefly your views on self-destruct switches and how they should be labelled.

Adam July 30, 2007 6:23 PM

What would be interesting would be whole bunch of these, about 20 or so, with 1 or 2 actual TSA overreactions thrown in.

“Someone tries to blow up a plane with a bomb hidden as an integral part of an article of clothing. Do you make all passengers going on all planes for the next 5 years remove similar articles of clothing for examination?”

Get them in the frame of mind for using simple logic to pointing out outrageous absurdities, then hit them with a real situation that is outrageously absurd. If you’ve used some examples from more obscure movies to start with, occasionally pointing out “this one is from some 1970s Hong Kong movie you’ve never heard of” then the fact that they can’t pin down one of the real ones to a movie they remember will help to throw them off. Especially if you disguise the absurdity a little bit (e.g. by not using the word “shoe” in the clothing bomb description, above).

Wyle_E July 30, 2007 8:50 PM

Just once, I’d like to see a movie bomb designed to fire instantly if any visible wire was cut. The design is trivial for anyone familiar with burglar alarms.

IMHO, the trouble with speculating about movie-plot threats isn’t that they are improbable, but that you’re very unlikely to imagine the improbable threat that actually happens. After the Three Mile Island accident, it was pointed out that any major accident at a nuclear power plant is going to be the result of a wildly improbable chain of events, because all of the likely accidents and most of the unlikely ones have been anticipated.

iceblue July 31, 2007 3:07 AM

Well, if it would explode instantly if any wire was cut, the movie would end with the hero dying in a big fireball. You can’t let a movie end in such a way, where’s the moral? Someone who has survived gunfire from machine-guns, several minor explosions, 2-4 car chases, can’t die at the end. That wouldn’t be fair. Especially if the heroine (who is also brave, strong, good-looking, …) is still alive. The people will want their money back and if people want their money back then there wouldn’t be any money at the MPAA and if there’s no money at the MPAA it isn’t a happy end unless you can sue someone for it 🙂

xLittleP July 31, 2007 5:27 AM

The movie scenario directed at Sen. McCain also asks if he would use “enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.” I thought this was a dumb thing to do, since we already know he is totally against all forms of torture, including waterboarding (mostly because you don’t gain any valuable information from it). As a man who was tortured in a Vietnamese POW camp, I think we should all share his view on the matter.

I think a better question to ask would involve illegal immigration, although I can’t recall any movie plots which featured them as plot devices.

MikeA July 31, 2007 10:54 AM

I think a better question to ask would involve illegal immigration, although I can’t recall any movie plots which featured them as plot devices.

Men In Black

(also included some unorthodox interogation techniques)

Misc July 31, 2007 11:05 AM

Rather than cutting the red or blue wire, it would probably be a good idea to first look for the hidden “off” switch.

Cheese July 31, 2007 2:34 PM


In Bowfinger, the main characters “hire” a couple crew members in an amusing fashion.

wm August 1, 2007 9:06 AM

@MateFrio: “Anyone ever try and cut both wires at the same time?”

Probably best not to do this with a single pair of (metal) wire cutters, in case the wires are the ones going into, and coming out of, the trigger switch…

Jonadab the Unsightly One August 1, 2007 10:12 AM

Perhaps a more fitting torture would be forced viewing of all of the
American Idol audition footage, without interruptions.

Car dealership commercials. Back-to-back car dealership commercials. Nothing else.

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