The Caine Mutiny Presidency

Stream: The Caine Mutiny Presidency

We’re past the Flight 93 Election. This is now The Caine Mutiny presidency.

The United States is the USS Caine, sailing into stormy seas. President Trump is Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg, the erratic, touchy leader who might be insane. Ross Douthat is Fred MacMurray’s Communications Officer and sea lawyer Thomas Keefer, a man determined to prove Queeg is paranoid.

The only question is whether Mike Pence will step into Van Johnson’s role of Executive Officer Stephen Maryk and remove Trump from his office. Douthat (as Keefer) is calling for Pence and Congress to do just that, on the grounds that President Trump is mentally unfit for office.

If you haven’t seen the movie, there are spoilers galore coming, so if you want to have full enjoyment, stop reading now, or switch to the New York Times for a real-time reenactment.

In Caine, new skipper Queeg arrives and begins to instill some much-needed discipline on a ship grown soft. The crew, and notably Keefer, chafe at the by-the-book orders. The exceptions are XO Maryk and newly arrived Ensign Willie Keith (played by Robert Francis), men who know the best ship only has one captain.

But here is Douthat—or rather Keefer—who interprets everything Queeg does through the lens of abnormal psychology. Keith and Maryk blow off Keefer’s insistent insinuations at first, but Keefer is relentless. He argues Queeg is paranoid, mentally unfit for duty. Under Keefer’s barrage of evidence, even young Keith becomes convinced Queeg has lost his mind. Queeg even has more scoops of strawberries and ice cream than the officers! Notified of Navy regulation “Article 184” by Keefer, XO Maryk relieves a seemingly incapacitated Queeg of duty during the height of a typhoon.

Maryk is then court martialed under the (automatic) charge of mutiny. This is the most dramatic part of the movie.

Many recall the brilliant scene in which defense lawyer Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) “torpedoes” Queeg, who is left in shambles, an incoherent mess rolling marbles in his hands. Maryk is acquitted.

The movie would seem to be over. The trial proved beyond doubt Keefer’s fears were justified. Maryk is a hero for saving the ship! Yet the camera lingers.

There are the officers celebrating the acquittal when in walks a drunk Greenwald and we come to the real denouement.

Greenwald reveals he had to destroy Queeg, a flawed and now broken man who had done his best to serve the country, because “the wrong man was on trial.” He brings us back through Keefer’s evidence of Queeg’s “paranoia.” This shows Keefer to be the real villain, the true “author of the mutiny.” Keefer’s bumbling psychological diagnosis and his incessant badgering caused the men to turn on Queeg. If Keefer and the other officers had showed the loyalty due to their captain, the tragedy never would have occurred.


Steam on over to the USS Stream and read the rest. Then send to a friend!


  1. Michael Dowd

    Yes, The New York Times (Douthat) and the rest of the MSM should be on trial.

  2. DAV

    Fortunately the real nut job lost due to some spectacularly bad campaigning.

    The current situation though does have many of the same characteristics as the movie. Can’t really blame he Democrats for trying but places like CNN and MSNBC are relentless in a way that’s hard to understand.

    Trump lies, but no specific examples.
    Trump colludes with Putin, again no evidence.
    Trump is incompetent but somehow cleverly manages to prevent evidence of his “collusion” from surfacing.


  3. Sheri

    While this is an apt comparison perhaps, I think Moby Dick is a more correct comparison. Trump is the Great White Whale (emphasis on white) and the entire progressive movement, following insane, obsessed leaders, are determined to take him out. The blind obsession with a goal, the willingness to ignore the sinking of the ship and the inevitable doom if no one gets a lucky break and manages by sheer chance (note I did not say “random”) to take out the whale, seem a more appropriate comparison.

  4. Michael Dowd

    Sheri. Very good. And there’s got to be a Shakespeare parallel there, too. Maybe someone can identify one. The question is: Is this a comedy or a tragedy?

  5. Joy

    That would be king Lear, the greatest play of all.

    Sheri, I think the Moby Dick parallel is strikingly accurate. Ahh poor Moby.

    Narnia’s Aslan might be A Bridge Too Far. Aslan was representative of The man who’s name some dare not speak.

  6. Anne O Neemus

    Ok try this…Measure for Measure.
    For years Vienna (USA) has been badly run and allowed to turn into a cesspit of moral depravity. The Duke (Liberal and Neo-Con establishment) knows the only way to protect their racket is to have it attacked by a reactionary who will go way too far in instituting draconian reforms, lose the sympathy of enough of the people and voila back to business as usual but with no viable opposition. Enter the advisor Angelo (Trump admin) the seemingly virtuous, albeit harsh leader who is prone to all too human weakness and is set up to fail. Duke goes incognito to watch as the reactionary digs himself into a hole by falling for the nun Isabella ( hmmm Russia? Lanto Watt would like that ) Angelo lusts after her but her inflexible conviction (Putin) will not give in. Luckily Angelo has her brother, who’s name I cannot remember, in prison on a charge of fornicating …you know what someone else will have to take over from here though I think Douthat would make a great Lucio who creeps about making cynical comments and is forced to marry a punk ( prostitute) take that New York Times haha

  7. Michael Dowd

    Anne O Neemus. Good one!

  8. Anne O Neemus

    Good ol Shakers you can’t beat him. Of course almost no one in that play comes out looking good. The Duke returns and deals out what he thinks is appropriate comeuppance. He takes Isabella as a wife and Angelo must wed the woman he wronged years before (Marianna) who is really the only sympathetic character on the stage poor woman.

  9. Ken

    A good allegory needs to be, first, align with the point of comparison; the Trump/Queeg allegory fails in principle.

    Queeg was not only erratic, but a coward who endangered others depending on him/his ship (yellow stain incident) and would scapegoat & lie about others to cover his own failings.

    Even the post-mutiny/courts-martial trail “defense” (given by a drunk!) hinges in large part on Queeg being portrayed as willing to go into the military when the rest of his subordinate officers (what today we might call “yuppies”) were more concerned with much more profitable commercial pursuits. Queeg volunteered for military service, the others were drafted. That, and the rest of that speech, was a double entendre — in the 50s, when the movie came out, it was nothing at all unusual for judges to give delinquents a choice between prison or the military. The military, in other words, was where people who couldn’t succeed in the business world retreated to. The military, in other words, was for losers — and that view in many areas of the country (U.S.) persisted well into the 80s.

    In other words, Queeg was a loser with the redeeming grace that, in his highly defective way, at least tried to do the right things … and for it was a bit worse off than he deserved.

    For similar people, in the real world vs a movie, the following statement is usually false:

    “If Keefer and the other officers had showed the loyalty due to their captain, the tragedy never would have occurred.”

    Even if such loyalty had been proffered, something or other would invariably have arisen that, had not some other mutiny occurred would have led to some other disaster.

    But that quoted viewpoint overlooks a deeper issue — in the military, as elsewhere, loyalty is NOT first & foremost to go to one’s superior officer, rather, to the core principles per the oath of office taken. Queeg’s insecurities manifesting in incompetence & lies & bungled mission accomplishments made Queeg a ‘domestic enemy’ … and the sailor’s oath to protect against “all enemies, foreign and domestic” mandated they apply their loyalty to the higher principle, not Queeg.

    The kind of thinking that says, in effect loyalty was owed, that “Queeg was the Captain and the officers should have fully obeyed him,” is basically the same excuse the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg tried to use as their defense (‘just following orders’). The sailor’s loyalty in such a situation is NOT due to the captain, but to their larger cause; the so-called “disloyalty” was proper as this was loyalty to the higher principle per their oaths. Obviously the matters involved, Nazi broad civil abuses vs Queeg’s, are orders of magnitude separated in significance, but the core principle is the same.

    The famous movie, A Few Good Men, addresses this same principle. In that movie, the guys that were loyal [mindlessly following orders] did get a minor punishment, and, the accountable Colonel and his supporting Capt were similarly going to be getting their just desserts [implied to be more severe, and justifiably so] — and like Queeg, a sizable portion of their culpability was based on their lies [perjury] to conceal what might be considered a lesser evil made with honest good intentions.

    Thus, as an allegorical reference for Trump, Queeg the unethical loser is an invalid, nonsensical, point of comparison.

    Trump, as we all know by now, has demonstrated his particular personality type since childhood (being sent to military school in youth, which only somewhat tempered that personality). Meanwhile, because of, or despite, he’s been phenomenally successful in his chosen fields by any measures one might care to apply relative to the goals he set for himself.

    So far, as POTUS, he’s more or less on track with all his objectives (as these didn’t have any firm deadlines, even setbacks like his immigration Exec. Orders may yet be vindicated … contrast with Obama, for example, who signed a Guantanamo Bay prison closing Exec Order before the paint fumes became unnoticeable and eight years later that prison remains). Presumably, if one likes Trump’s goals one is fairly confident he’s going to achieve them to some significant degree and is supportive.

    The seemingly serious allegations such as Russia collusion are, still, unsubstantiated. Recent disclosures of discussions involving classified info are entirely within his authority, and, well within established precedent. And on & on it can go. His exaggerations (e.g. Obama bugged his office vs revelations that he/his staff identities were “unmasked” in intelligence reporting) have, time & again, been shown to have some basis in fact … contrast with Obama whoppers like ‘if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor’

    The Liberal Left find him terrifying because he is certainly not “politically correct” (perhaps even unlikable to many), and, he is openly attacking sacred shrines to Liberalism (e.g., undermining climate initiatives and numerous other environmental initiatives, rolling back or repealing “Obamacare,” etc.).

    The fact that the best attacks the Left has are so ham-handed and transparently flimsy reflects on their justified fears, not Trump’s competence. They see Trump, for good reason, as competent — and that threatens their core values, which they cannot defend on the merits, so they’re left to attacking Trump via ad hominem and hubris.

  10. Douthat claims that the following attributes are necessary in a President: “a reasonable level of intellectual curiosity, a certain seriousness of purpose, a basic level of managerial competence, a decent attention span, a functional moral compass, a measure of restraint and self-control.” Do you disagree that a President should have these?

    He states that “And if a president is deficient in one or more of them, you can be sure it will be exposed.” Would you claim that these deficiencies have not been exposed in Trump? This is not to say that NYT, WP, etc. have not been vindictive in their coverage of Trump, nevertheless, these deficiencies of character and depth, along with extreme self-aggrandizement and a celebration of his own venality have been hallmarks of Trump for the entirety of his public life.

    I get that the prevailing sentiment here is conservative, I would represent that I’m of a conservative philosophy as well. But I can’t let my political philosophy blind me to the fact that our President is morally bankrupt (it’s only many of his business enterprises that are financially bankrupt), intellectually stunted, ethically corrupt, and obviously a megalomaniac. It amazes me that someone such as Dr. Briggs, who I would assume from his professed Catholicism is a moral individual, can turn a blind eye to the human cesspool that is Donald Trump because “he’s not Hillary Clinton.”

  11. Sylvain Allard

    Wrong movie analogy, it’s closer to the Austin Powers:

    Trump- drEvil
    Spicer- Mini-me
    Jared- #2
    Conway -Frau
    Priebus- Scott
    Bannon Fat Bastard

  12. j ferguson

    Bob Ryan, I agree with what you have written above. I’m perplexed that other clearly intelligent people who comment here seem unable to see it.

  13. Milton Hathaway

    My analogy runs more along Old Testament lines. God has chosen a somewhat flawed but essentially moral man for a task. Those of us who have prayed for God to help the country get back on the right path will just have to have faith.

    I thank God that the Demonrats are contorting themselves into knots attacking Trump on perhaps the most inane of all possible attacks, “The Russians did it! The Russians did it!”. The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.

  14. @Milton Hathaway “…essentially moral man for a task…” and “…somewhat flawed…” Delusional. He’s not only morally bankrupt, he celebrates his moral bankruptcy. Surely the ends don’t justify the means to the extent of accepting such a one.

  15. HR

    Rob I agree with you entirely. A President should be sane,stable,able to keep his simple word from day to day if not longer(this is called consistency or , in Christian terms, faithfulness), competant, and knowledgeable if not wise. Observe and reflect on Trump’s background, history, sleep patterns, etc. We are dealing with a self worshipping, money mad person followed by many with a cult like devotion.

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