Spooks and American Exceptionalism



Great article, there seems to be a reality distortion field in effect, it’s been there for a long time.

Those sound bites, “good guys kill bad guys”, they always piss me off, it grates. Usually the reality is that it’s the bad guys who kill the good guys.

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More to the point, everyone is a “good guy” in their own head.

I wish some of these folks would maybe consider Oliver Cromwell’s words: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.


Well “because we’re the Good Guys” was a motto of the Patron Saint of Spies - Maxwell Smart. It was, for one example, the coda to the movie “Get Smart Again”.

Damn, this Giraldi guy is great. I’m thankful that an ex-spook has adopted this perspective, and that he is able to and chooses to share it with us. Really glad you posted this, Cory.

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When my son was very young, I took pains to point out that Batman doesn’t kill the bad guys - he captures them. Who is it that kills the bad guys? Always, it’s other bad guys.

Also, you do realize Get Smart was satire… I hope?

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“It’s ok, we’re the good guys.” - Adolf Hitler


After beating then nearly to a pulp, though. I remember the 1970s/80s Batman, too, but those times are long gone.

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I kinda just always figured the president could always do this, but wasn’t officially allowed to.

Leave Batman out of this!

Exactly. The whole ‘bad guys’ trope is a hideous, stupefying narrative, that should be eradicated from public discourse and serious matters, and left in Saturday morning cartoons, where it belongs.

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Arguably, The Lord Protector could have taken some of his own advice. Dude was pretty much a raging asshole. (On the other hand, at risk of being totally off topic, even the pious Irish Catholics of my aquaintance, who would have no reason to sympathize with the fellow, have universally agreed that “Cromwell” about the most suitable name for a pygmy hedgehog. Neither they nor I can say why; but the mere concept, much less its execution, bears the mark of adorable perfection.)


Hey, if Batman is going to save the cops the trouble of catching the bad guys, it’s merely public-spirited of him to save the cops the trouble of subjecting them to kinetic pain compliance procedures.


GODWINED!!! That didn’t take long… it was funny, though.

The scope of what you can get away with has exceeded the scope of what you are allowed more or less throughout American history; but keep in mind one crucial difference:

In a (perverse, and not wholly useful) sense, the criminal disobeys the law; but he gives the law its due in the course of setting himself at a state of war with it, and dealing with the mixture of force and concealment that that state requires.

Far more corrosive than the man who breaks the law is the man who puts himself above it, or has his crack team of legalists (lookin’ at Yoo, Yoo…) chop logic and precedent into a meaningless slurry where the word of the law is sacred and ossified and its spirit wholly violated.


He banned football though, so there’s that.

Oh, as bad-boys of history, I must confess a certain enthusiasm for ‘ultraprotestant assholes of post-reformation europe’ as a group; but they include some genuinely dreadful people, and a notable lack of doubt about the rightness of their cause.


I think it depends on the president, and how they view the office/ the role of that branch of government. I think historically, it’s been a real back and forth between the amount of power the president holds vs. the congress. Think of FDR with the court packing scandal or Nixon who came right out and said as much in his Frost interview. I’d argue that the past two presidents likewise tend towards of view of a stronger office of the president power as the head of the executive branch (unitary theory) as a good and wholly legal thing…

Cromwell banned football? For reals?

Yup. His one saving grace.