I’m actually kind of impressed by the chutzpah it takes to roll out the trailer for White House Down, Roland Emmerich’s latest bit of disaster porn, with this particular quotation attributed—though not actually accurately—to Abraham Lincoln, a United States president who was actually repeatedly in danger, and whose assassins were tried in a military tribunal stacked to require fewer votes: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
What’s grimly hilarious about this, of course, is given what happened when the Pentagon and two commercial buildings were attacked, America would probably go under martial law if the White House and the Capitol were both successfully destroyed. And Emmerich’s movies valorize extraordinary measures in the face of disaster and expansive use of executive power in the same way that would be used to justify major crackdowns after a more significant terrorist act than September 11.
Of course, there’s the whole separate issue that Channing Tatum’s character is an off-duty cop on a White House tour with his daughter when everything starts going down and he mysteriously becomes the only person available to protect the President of the United States, a scenario that probably gives White House Down the distinction of being the only movie to have its plot invalidated by the sequester. But I’m a lot more willing to forgive Channing Tatum-related ludicrousness than civil liberties chutzpah these days. If you’re going to quote Abraham Lincoln, you need to have more to offer up than a lot of helicopters and CGI flames to justify it.