President Obama, never one to mince words, was quite emphatic in his disappointment over Sony Picture's decision to not release "The Interview," the movie at the heart of North Korea's alleged decision to launch a destructive cyber-attack against an American company.
The President said Sony "made a mistake" in pulling the movie, and that "I wish they had spoken to me first" before making that decision.
His logic here makes some sense: bowing to North Korea's actions is indeed caving to brutish intimidation.
Sony, to no one's surprise reacted strongly to the President's statements, noting that they had no choice but to pull distribution given that few to no theater owners would play it after terrorist acts were promised if the movie was shown. As Sony correctly pointed out, it doesn't own any theaters, and so it cannot sell a product no one is willing to buy and display.
The Motion Picture Association of America also weighed in. Its head, former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, correctly noted that "cyber terrorists" committed the attack, and it constituted little more than a "despicable, criminal act."
There are kernels of truth in all of those statements. Did Sony back down in the face of North Korean intimidation? Sort of, but can you really blame them for doing so? Sony was a bit slow though in noting that they were exploring different options for release. The MPAA was definitely correct in chastising the media for forgetting that this was a criminal act, electing instead to focus on the salacious details of who said what about whom.
The big question that remains though is how we prove that America has not been intimidated. The President has promised a "proportionate" response to be carried out at a time and place of our choosing.
That sounds good, whatever it means. In the interim, I have a modest, but I think effective, response to North Korea:
Mr. President, YOU show the movie.
That's right, have the White House host a screening of "The Interview."
A White House sponsored screening would be an endorsement of the First Amendment, and a demonstration of America's resolve in the face of bluster from a third world dictator.
There can be one screening or several of them. Host it at the White House. Show the film at a D.C.-based movie theater. Heck, show the movie on a Smithsonian IMAX screen.
Invite the directors and executives. Invite injured veterans from Walter Reed. Invite Congress - sit with Speaker Boehner and share a gigantic tub of popcorn or carrot sticks. That will be a real showing of bipartisanship.
Whatever format you chose, do it. Imagine the steam coming out of Kim Jong Un's ears over this one. Isn't that alone worth it?
Oh, and have the NSA and Secret Service watch every single electronic connection coming in and out of that theater so if the North Koreans try to disrupt the showing, we can immediately respond by frying the living circuits out of them.
It's a simple response, and I know I would give it two thumbs up.
Brian E. Finch (Twitter: @BrianEFinch) is a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.