By In Stuff

You Lt. Weinberg?


In my continuing obsession with the movie “A Few Good Men, I have another odd thought to add. We watched the movie as a family the other day, first time for the girls, and other than having to stop the movie about 394 times to explain the various plot twists to my daughters (“So, wait, which one is Kendrick?”) it was quite the success. They liked it. They instinctively understood that the Demi Moore character is a disastrous lawyer. They appreciated the lawyering skills of Kevin Bacon. It was great.

But there was another thing that bothered me in this viewing, and it’s subtle enough that I suspect it will be of no interest to you whatsoever. But what is the point of having this blog if I can’t post stuff that only I care about?

So in the scene where Jack Nicholson talks about the responsibility he has in protecting the U.S. from Cuba at Guantanamo Bay … well, here’s the beginning of the “You can’t handle the truth” speech:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.”

So my question: Why did he take that little cheap shot at Lt. Weinberg? What did Kevin Pollak ever do to him? As far as I know, the Weinberg character did not say a single word to Jack Nicholson the entire movie. He was sort of a minor character (“I have no responsibilities whatsoever”) and there mainly for comic relief and to take down Demi Moore after she “strenuously objected.” I have no earthly idea how the Jack Nicholson character even remembered his name, much less was able to retrieve it instantly in the middle of a furious speech about his important role in the world.

This has puzzled and bothered me more and more since I saw the movie. You Lt. Weinberg? What’s that? Was he getting Kevin Pollak back for doing all those Nicholson impressions when he was doing stand-up? What?

The other day, we were having a family conversation about something completely unrelated when one of my daughters suddenly — for no apparent reason and with no opening in the conversation for doing it — took a cheap shot at me for being old and bald. I told her she cannot do that, there are rules to this sort of thing. You can’t just take a shot without it relating to what is actually happening. I am now calling those “Lt. Weinberg” moments. The witness has rights.



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52 Responses to You Lt. Weinberg?

  1. Brian Simon says:

    I always wondered about that, too. Being Jewish, I wondered if it had something to do with taking a shot at the little Jewish lawyer. I do think your daughter can take shots at you at any time. Dads are always relevant.

    • John says:

      Of COURSE it was meant as a real men/soldiers v. lawyers thing…Jewish or not. Check out Kiefer Sutherland’s character…same attitude.

      • Dave says:

        No. It’s both. There’s a reason he says “You, Lt. Weinberg” and not just “You”

        Which is to say that Jessup is playing up “real men vs. Lawyers” but he is also signaling about the lawyer being a Jew.

        • nightfly says:

          Oh, piffle.

          For all we know, that line was still in the script while the reason for it was edited away. There could be something sitting on the cutting room floor. Lt. Weinberg may have had lines during this exchange that never saw the light of day, and they simply overlooked this reply – for the simple reason that it is unremarkable. It’s Jessup’s way of letting the other lawyer know he’s talking to him too, and not just Pretty Boy Cruise.

          • Richard says:

            Or perhaps Nicholson got the name wrong, and they decided to let it go as the rest of the scene was too good to make reshooting it worthwhile?

    • Ian says:

      I always thought it was because he was Jewish. Aaron Sorkin would certainly put something like that into a script.

  2. Scott says:

    My daughter takes those same occasional Lt. Weinberg pot shots at my old baldness as well. But she’s so darn adorable, I let her slide.

  3. Steve says:

    I had a friend who pointed that out to me in college, and I’ve always wondered.

    I thought there might be some sort of deleted scene or something that would better explain it. Weinberg was the one in the movie who had the biggest problem with the ‘code red’ culture, so maybe that was supposed to be known in some way by Jessup.

    • MarkW says:

      I would wager that a high percentage of “Huh?” moments in movies across the board could be explained by deleted scenes.

  4. Ben says:

    I’m so glad you brought this up. I have a bit of a thing about this movie and this speech (others may claim a similar passion but others haven’t had a video of their 4-year-old son performing the speech go viral

    My family and I have long considered this. The point Jessup is making is that he and his men were doing real Marine work and these Washington lawyer’s were weak by comparison. This isn’t a secret; he comes back to this over and over again. (Deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you use them as a punchline, etc.) So he presents this – to him – ridiculous image of someone like Kaffey at Gitmo standing a post: “who’s gonna do it, you?” For further dramatic effect he inserts Weinberg, who is smaller and more nebbish. The notion of Weinberg at Gitmo is even more ridiculous (which was actually confirmed earlier in the movie when Weinberg actually visits Cuba.) Who’s gonna do it, you? (That would be silly.) You, Lieutenant Weinberg? (Even more silly.)

    One last thing we considered is whether Nicholson’s inflection of “Weinberg” added a hint of “you aren’t fit to do real Marine work because you’re Jewish.” I’m inconclusive on this but wouldn’t put it past Sorkin to add a subtle note to Jessup.

    • Demi says:

      That was your kid? Wasn’t he on Kimmel? What an adorable, smart boy! I always took the Weinberg dig as being mildly anti Semitic.

  5. Jon says:

    I think he was trying to imply Weinberg is a wimp. He is kind of nerdy looking, has a stereotypical Jewish attorney surname, and doesn’t really do much. Jessup hates that he, a Marine, has to answer to these Navy lawyers who have never been close to any sort of combat. He has clearly become rattled at that point, so perhaps it’s a crack in his normally calculated self.

  6. C. Kirby says:

    I always have interpreted that remark as a revelation of Jessie’s anti-semitism.

    • C. Kirby says:


    • DeanInSF says:

      I agree with you. It would be one thing if there had been some previous interaction between Jessup and Weinberg. There wasn’t, so it’s safe to assume that Jessup was anti-Semitic and that Weinberg was targeted purely because of his last name.

      I’d hazard a guess that Sorkin was on the receiving end of a similar remark somewhere in his past.

  7. Dan Mellor says:

    I noticed this in college. I was translating the scene into Arabic for a class project, and the line stuck out as odd and unnecessary. But I came to the same conclusion as the other commenters; Sorkin decided to level up the bad-guy factor by having Jessup be anti-Semitic, too.

    For the project, I translated it as “Inta, Mulazim Yahud!”

  8. Jon says:

    This precise line was a recurring joke among my government lawyer co-workers for many years, and we actually spent a lot of time dissecting it. It’s precisely the sort of thinly-veiled dog-whistle that encapsulates a guy like Jessup’s worldview. I don’t believe Jessup to be an anti-Semite in the strict sense of the word (I doubt he cares about a person’s religion at all). However, he is all too happy to wield like a shiv the stereotype of Jews being soft, intellectual, physically weak, and more concerned with rules and fairness than keeping America safe. There doesn’t need to be a backstory, a lawyer with the last name of Weinberg is all Jessup needs to know to despise him. Pretty brilliant line given all it alludes to with so few words.

    • Patrick says:

      I think the movie explains why Jessup sees himself differently than Weinberg

      Weinberg: Then what’s the secret? Huh, what are the magic words? I give orders every day nobody follows them.
      Kaffee: Sam, we have softball games and marching bands. They work at a place where you have to wear camouflage or they might get shot!

  9. Harry S says:

    Joe –

    I and a lot of other veterans aren’t particular fans of this movie despite the performances. Sorkin wrote the play after getting the original idea for it from his JAG sister, but after that, it went through Broadway and Hollywoodization without much reflection of what military culture or the court martial process actually entail.

    What’s ironic about the Weinberg line is that it’s actually one of the few parts of the movie that does sort of show things somewhat correctly even if it gets it wrong. JAG officers are, by law, limited duty officers – unlike line officers, they are restricted in the billets in which they can serve, and among those, walking post with a piece is something they simply cannot do unless they were to resign their commissions and go back to OCS to start all over again and become a line officer. Going through that and infantry school and all the other courses that make you a ‘real’ officer are a heavy burden compared to getting a commission after a few weeks of courses, which is to me what Nicholson’s character is implying.

    There’s certainly a existing disdain to a degree in the line officer corps towards JAG and other limited duty officers when it comes to the ‘real military’, and that part is true. But if Nicholson’s character did it right, he would have needled the JAGs for taking the easy way out with their fancy degrees and having been exempt from ever standing post or doing anything remotely dangerous, and I think that’s where the crack at both officers falls short.

  10. Mark Daniel says:

    Jessup is about to be made Director of Operations for the National Security Council. You don’t get to that position without knowing how to sidestep a few land mines.

  11. Charles says:

    It’s anti-semitism. Weinberg is the ‘wrong’ kind of military guy.

    I always thought that was a great little character moment precisely because there’s no actual reason for him to say anything to Weinberg.

    • Patrick says:

      That’s not why he’s the wrong kind of military guy, though.

      Lt. Weinberg: “Then what’s the secret? Huh, what are the magic words? I give orders every day nobody follows them.”
      Kaffee: “Sam, we have softball games and marching bands. They work at a place where you have to wear camouflage or they might get shot!”

  12. Daniel Stave says:

    I have a counter take. I’ve seen the movie several times, though not recently to try to verify this. I thought Weinburg was the experienced lawyer they put on the case to oversee kaffey and lend it an appearance of respectability, even though he mentions he has no responsibility. I assumed Weinburg and Jessup have crossed paths in the past and Jessup has some respect for Weinburg

  13. Joe says:

    Since Jessup mentions Kaffee and Weinberg, I always thought it was a bit of a dig at Galloway (Demi Moore’s character) since she wasn’t mentioned. As though women weren’t capable of standing a post.

  14. Bryan says:

    A Few Good Men came out in 1992. At the baseball field Galloway reveals Kaffee is born in 1964 (Cruise 1962). Kevin Pollak is born in 1957 and that could also be Weinberg’s year of birth. Jessup knows Kaffee went to Harvard (ask nicely scene) and immediately before “You can’t handle the truth” confirms Kaffee’s lack of active service. Kaffee won’t man the wall. Weinberg can’t man the wall. It’s a natural progression with Galloway being the 3rd person Jessup would name.

  15. MikeN says:

    Because he’s Jewish, people immediately think that naming him means Jessup hates Jews?
    It is entirely because he is a lawyer, as a colonel like Jessup, who’s about to be made Director of Operations at NSC would undoubtedly know about Israel’s defense forces.

    • Tom see says:

      I see it as a dig at weakness. Weinberg was the one who looked at the code red as picking on the weaker kid. Kaffee plays sports, same as Ross, but Weinberg doesn’t so Jessup thinks they are all wimps but Weinberg is the wimpiest one.

      What about Jessups tie after the courtroom struggle?

  16. RF says:

    Lots of interesting responses re: potential anti-Semitism. I don’t have much to add except for one thought: Sorkin originally wrote A Few Good Men as a play. If Jessup’s main intent is to imply that the idea of two “wimpy lawyers” guarding the walls (instead of soldiers) is ridiculous, it might make sense for him to call out Weinberg by name so that it would be clear for the audience in the theater just who he was referring to (the first “You?” would clearly be directed at Kaffee, since it’s said in the contest of Kaffee’s direct examination). Adding Weinberg’s name might just be a kind of stage direction for the play’s audience that got carried over to the film.

    Of course, if that’s the case, it just begs the question of why Jessup would call out Weinberg in the first place (and not Galloway?, etc.). So basically I have nothing real to add here and have no responsibilities whatsoever. 😉

  17. Cornelius VanDerDecken says:

    Always struck me as an anti-jewish thing, tho’ a missing scene could modify that.

    Want to note a baseball connection, which you may have discussed previously. In the film, Tom Cruise has a game on TV in the background. No reference in the script, but they happen to show a very famous home run, by David Justice, that was a key moment in The Rise of the Braves.

    I’ve always wondered if that was an inside joke: A Great Blow for Justice.

  18. Steve Reinisch says:

    I’ve always wondered why there was not a quick cut to Lt. Weinberg to see his reaction.

    • Lt. Weinberg says:

      I thought that, too. But then I thought the conclusion must have been that Weinberg’s “What the hell did I do?” reaction would diminish the tension between Kaffee and Jessup.

      If you were to ask Sorkin / Reiner, I think the response to most of the above would be, “Yes.”

  19. Cornelius VanDerDecken says:

    Always struck me as an anti-jewish thing, tho’ a missing scene could modify that. Jessup would of course have known all about Israel’s military performance but even today, and more so when this was written, the stereotype at issue hasn’t/hadn’t died.

    Want to note a baseball connection, which you may have discussed previously. In the film, Tom Cruise has a game on TV in the background. No reference in the script, but they happen to show a very famous home run, by David Justice, that was a key moment in The Rise of the Braves.

    I’ve always wondered if that was an inside joke: A Great Blow for Justice.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      My guess is that someone like Jessup would be anti-Semitic as a group but not necessarily anti-Semitic to individuals. This is what I always thought about Nixon; he had a lot of Jews working for him but he obviously had a lot of anti-Semitic stereotypes, which would come out when, especially a liberal Jew, was doing something he didn’t like. That’s what I suspect it was with Jessup; as someone else said, he probably doesn’t dislike Jews as individuals, but he looks at Jews as a group, especially lawyers, as being liberal and effete. Weinberg encapsulates they type of Jew a Jessup wouldn’t like.

      But, let’s face it, Sorkin most likely doesn’t have much respect for the military either. Having Jessup make an arguably anti-Semitic comment pretty much fits into what a lot of liberals think about the military. (I say that despite being fairly liberal myself.) Sorkin could have made Jessup a somewhat sympathetic character despite his obvious problems, but he chose to make him a caricature of a Marine officer, while his heroes were the non-military JAG officers. I’m not saying there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but I think you have to recognize that Sorkin is, IMO, trying to take particular digs at a culture that he doesn’t respect.

      • Gerry says:

        The entire diatribe is a powerhouse written by a terrific wordsmith and delivered brilliantly by a great actor. Thin it speak a lot to Sorkin’s attitude towards the military complex as well as Jessup’s character.

        Don’t believe this comment should be looked at in isolation. Jessup has previously tried to humiliate Kaffee as being an shallow, silver spoon elitist who lived in the shadow of his father. When in Cuba he also mentioned his relationship with a female officer who was his superior. This was clearly done to humiliate Galloway. The comment to Weinberg simply completed the trifecta.

        So agree with the stereotype comment above as explaining Jessup’s attitude. But the most puzzling part of the entire scene is how he could be so easily baited and completely lose his poise while testifying.

        • MikeN says:

          They explained it beforehand. Jessup wants to say he did it. This is how a unit should be run. He’s already snapped at the judge for not handling the courtroom right.

  20. mark G says:

    Wow. This never seemed weird to me at all. Jessup says “You” twice. One is for Kaffee (Cruise), and then he calls out Weinberg (Pollak). There’s no mystery here. There were 3 attorneys on the defense table. Three attorneys essentially, though not officially, adverse to Jessup: Kaffee, Weinberg, and Galloway (Moore). Three attorneys questioning Jessup’s decisions when in his mind none of them had any right or authority to do so. In this context Jessup would not have considered the female Galloway as even worth mentioning as a potential combatant. So he spits out “You [Kaffee]? You, Weinberg?” and insults all of them, including Galloway by omission.

  21. hamish42 says:

    Actually, I grew up on bases in a military family. Our considered opinion as a serving family was that the whole thing was a load of hooey that could only have come from Hollywood.

  22. shagster says:

    Think movie’s overrated, so never paid attention.

  23. regis says:

    I just read this morning that NBC is planning to produce the Sorkin play with Alec Baldwin in the Nicholson role.

  24. John G says:

    Yeah, the “You, Lieutenant Weinberg?” line has always seemed like a gratuitous potshot to me as well (though as others have pointed out, it could just be collateral damage from a deleted scene). It’s interesting that so many people seem to think that it was Jessup expressing antisemitism. I don’t think there’s enough evidence to really support that claim. I’m not saying he’s not antisemitic. He may well be. But I would need some more corroborating evidence before I’m willing to draw that conclusion. I think it has more to do with Jessup’s disdain for lawyers in general (while Weinberg may have never said anything on screen to Jessup, he did go on the trip to Cuba and was the one who suggested wearing the dress whites). After all, he also didn’t seem to have much regard for Kaffee, Galloway or even the judge (who delightfully put Jessup in his place when he whined about Kaffee not addressing him properly).

  25. Rob Smith says:

    So my question about the movie was always about why Demi Moore was even in it. Not her, per se, but her character. She was a lousy lawyer, she never served any kind of love interest, and could have easily been cut entirely from the movie without any negative impact. It felt like she was the token woman without anything relevant to do in the movie. Mind you, I’m not blaming Demi Moore for this. She was given nothing to work with. It felt like she was a token character with a marquee name, and that’s pretty much it. They could have otherwise easily put some no name minor character in that role, or omitted the character entirely.

    Interesting comments re: the Weinberg comment. I never thought about it, but I like the comment above about the triple insult & that Demi Moore’s character was omitted from the comment to insult her by omission. I think that Nicholson omitted her because she was in no way relevant to the movie and would have been a waste of a direct reference from him.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      The idea is that Galloway was the passionate lawyer defending the two marines. Without her, Kaffey would have been looking to end the case on a plea, and if Lance Cpl Dawson refused a plea agreement, he would have been looking to end the case as quickly as possible. Weinberg was apathetic at best toward the marines, so he wouldn’t have pushed for their strenuous defense. Galloway was the one who thought there was more to the case and that the marines were truly innocent, and she pushed Kaffey to where he ultimately went.

  26. Richard says:

    I didn’t realize there were this many people overthinking movies. Nicholson was out of control taking shots at the lawyer types. Antisemitic? That’s a 21st century liberal way of looking at everything. It’s always about race or gender or some group being hated or dissed. It’s a pretty good movie made memorable by Jack Nicholson’s crazed speech at the end. It’s fantasy entertainment. Don’t over-analyze it.

  27. Paul Schroeder says:

    You may not know this, Joe, but it’s a movie. There was a script. Nicholson has memorized the script. The writer had written that line for Nicholson’s character, so Nicholson said it. Seems pretty easy to understand.

  28. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    I’m late to the party since I’ve been overseas, but I think the real problem with AFGM is that it came out in 1992. The Cold War was over, the Cubans were reeling from the loss of their Soviet patron, and Jessup came off sounding like some 1960s relic.

    It’s unlikely that the Cubans at that point had any real interest in killing the colonel while he was munching on his corn flakes. Because the risks were relatively low, Jessup just comes over as a monster whose grotesque and incomprehensible existence really isn’t saving any lives by ordering the Code Red against Santiago.

    It would, unfortunately, have been a much more persuasive movie ten years earlier or ten years later. Jessup would still have been a bit of a monster, but at least there would have been some context to his actions.

  29. moviegoer74 says:

    I’m suprised nobody has mentioned this yet, but Bill Simmons has mentioned the seemingly random Lt. Weinberg namecheck many times in columns and podcasts.

    I don’t think it was intended to convey any anti-semitism. I think it was more down to Weinberg, out of all of them, having the least amount of respect for the “Code.” The film doesn’t convey that Jessup would be aware of that, which I think is due to one of two things: either there was dialogue between Weinberg and Jessup down in Cuba that got left on the cutting room floor (probably would’ve been in the same scene where Jessup tells Kaffee he has to ask nicely for the transfer order), or just a bit of oversight on Sorkin’s part.

    That said, I don’t find it surprising that Jessup would remember/know Weinberg’s name even if they didn’t speak in Cuba. He’d still met them all before and he’d been subpoenaed up from Cuba to testify and he was a high-ranking colonel about top be made Director of Ops for the NSC. He’d certainly have done his homework on all three of the prosecutors.

  30. greg says:

    i dont get an anti semitic vibe out of this dialog. though i am not surprise when jews do. they cant handle any criticism of netenyahu even as a politcal figure. i think its just a jab where jessup is somewhat patronizing weinberg. it fits the narrative that he is annoyed that his mthods are being questioned . he doesnt respect callaway, but at least he views weinberg as worthy of a jab (in his warped world). i see it as more of a rank jab than anything

  31. Martin says:

    Good point! Col. Jessup actually does have a bit of interaction with Lt. Weinberg in Cuba. My guess is that it’s BECAUSE Weinberg there himself says “he has no responsibilities whatsoever” that Jessup despises him and Caffey, and all the people in the marine who, in Jessup’s opinion, have no earthly right to be there–because they’re not fighting, standing a post, be on that wall. All they do is talk, and Weinberg even doesn’t do that, he just sits there and lets Caffey do all the talking, so Jessup feels that Weinberg epitomizes the weak, cowardly attitude he’s ranting about in this famous speech.

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