I’ve been wondering lately if Stephen King’s been feeling like Johnny Smith, the character from King’s 1979 novel The Dead Zone who wakes from a coma with the ability to see critical events in the future of those he touches.
For those of you who might have missed the book or the movie starring Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen (they are more than twenty years old), in the second part of the novel, Smith’s path crosses that of an up-and-coming New England politician named Greg Stillson, who Johnny forsees launching a pre-emptive nuclear war in later years after he becomes president. Smith — having learned that he can affect the future he sees — has to make a decision about what he can do to stop the holocaust from happening. Smith attempts to assassinate Stillson, but ends up getting shot himself. Stillson’s character is exposed, though, when he grabs a baby to shield himself from the gunman, and is caught on film.
Of course, that was just an interesting story in a book. The real story isn’t so neat, and the real-life psychopath made it to the White House unhindered. President Bush can destroy a CIA program meant to guard the nation from loose nuclear material in an attempt to silence his political critics. He can invade a country, kill tens of thousands of its citizens, throw it into civil war, deplete the resources of the US military, and spiral the country into debt, all for political gain. It’s the virtual baby shield.
And as he reads of Sy Hersh’s report on plans to use nukes in Iran, I wonder if Stephen King is waiting for America to get the picture.