April 21, 2006

Presidential TV Show Round-Up

As my readers well know - I'm a huge fan of two TV shows in particular which are centered around the American Presidency. Even though they're fiction, I'm particularly intrigued by their content and perspective which invariably hit home-runs in my book.

A "Commander-In-Chief" Veto

This week the ABC series "Commander-In-Chief" resumed after a 6-week hiatus. Those of you who've read my blog in the past know that I'm a big fan of this program, not just because the president is a woman, and not just because she's an Independent, but because she governs with her head and her heart instead of using a coalition of political contributors to formulate all of her policies & decisions. In this week's episode she's sponsoring a bill to address the homeless problem in our country.

And then there're the evil Republicans

As we know, President MacKenzie Allen's nemesis is the Speaker of the House - Nathan Templeton (Donald Sutherland) who is jockeying & posturing for a run for the oval office himself. He pressures a political colleague/lackey to attach an amendment to her 'Homeless Initiative Bill' that increases prison space in his home district. It's an obvious pork-barrel political move, but President Allen (Geena Davis) is ultimately forced to veto her own bill in order to block the amendment (which, by the way, cost more than the initial bill for the homeless initiative).

What did we learn from this episode? We learned that a president with a strong heart and a solid footing in common sense can make a difficult decision when s/he knows an injustice was done. We learned that a president doesn't have to succumb to the manipulation of lobbyists or political power-brokers. And we learned that a president can do the right thing, which isn't necessarily the 'right' thing.

Lawmaking & Swift-boating

At the risk of getting a little off track, this episode also shines a light on how lawmaking works in Washington. After a well-intentioned bill is sponsored by a legislator (or several), it undergoes a metamorphesis through a barrage of attachments from self-serving, lobbyist-influenced Congressmen/women & Senators until the bill is nothing like what was originally introduced. We've seen this a zillion times such as when Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina relief was attached to a Defense appropriations bill. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing. Or, how about when a multi-million dollar attachment is added to an energy bill to build a bridge in Alaska? Or, as an example in reverse, when an well-meaning attachment is derailed, like reducing tax-cuts for the wealthy to help pay for war-time Defense spending.

The problem arises when a lawmaker votes against a bill in protest to one or more of those undeserving and/or costly pork-barrel attachments. When it comes down to a final vote, after all the attachments have been afixed, the lawmakers can only vote yea or ney on the bill as a whole. Invariably a lawmaker may vote against a bill even though s/he agrees with parts of it in principle. However, that won't stop political enemies from using a lawmaker's voting record for smearing (or "swift-boating") purposes, making it look like they're for-or-against a particular issue because of a vote on a bill 'package', even though that stand on the issue is far from the truth.

Revisiting John Kerry the "Flip-Flopper"

Think of how many ignorant sheeple actually believed John Kerry, a decorated war veteran, was against supporting our troops after being exposed to the Republican's (i.e. Roveian) misleading message. No - he was against a pork-laden, bloated, Defense supplement that didn't include a moritorium on tax cuts for the wealthy to help pay for it, didn't include healthcare coverage for returning veterans, and did include cutting combat pay for active soldiers. But the neo-cons controlled 'the message', and all the ignorant sheeple heard was that John Kerry was a flip-flopper who voted for the war and against the troops.

By the way, not only did John Kerry NOT vote AGAINST the troops, but John Kerry did NOT vote FOR the war either, although so many Republican pundits and media talking heads purported & reported as such. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, then I invite you to read Kerry's speech on the Senate floor leading up to the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. After Bush's statement a month before - "If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force... It's a chance for Congress to say, 'we support the administration's ability to keep the peace.' That's what this is all about.'' - and Bush's cooked-up/cherry-picked/coerced/fabricated intelligence on Sadaam's WMD's, John Kerry voted for the resolution as a show of support for the President, but only as an absolute last resort, and only with overwhelming international support. He did not endorse the war.

Oh, but I digress. Back to the fiction...

The West Wing's "Requiem"

The euphoria was subdued after Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits, Democratic presidential candidate) won the election on the heels of the election-day death of his Vice-presidential running mate - Leo McGarry. Of course this wasn't the original story-line, but the actual death of actor John Spencer necessitated a re-direction in the plot. There were a number of sub-plots in this episode, not the least of which was a myriad of 'hook-ups' between the various players, but what I wanted to focus on was what President-elect Matt Santos was pushing as his first priority in proposed legislation having just won the presidential election.

Even as he's interviewing potential leaders in the House and negotiating with all the people looking for jobs in his new administration, his highest priority was legislation on lobbying reform. He wanted to eliminate the flow of money between lobbyists and lawmakers. How radical is that! This is something I've been preaching for a long time, and here on The West Wing, the president-elect is hell-bent on pushing it through as his highest priority. And why is it such a high priority? Because lobbying reform is the predecessor for all of the other legislation that will follow. In order for the president to move his agenda forward, he wanted prevent the dirty, scummy, slimey, money-grubbing lobbyists from buying their own legislation (or obstructionism) which would derail his agenda. Instead, he believes that lobbyists should argue for their legislation on the merits of their legislation. Novel idea, don'tcha think?

The other thing I thought was interesting in this episode was that President-elect Santos argued several times in favor of appointing a Republican to one of his cabinet posts (I believe he had a specific individual in mind for Secretary of Defense). Another novel idea? Well, not really. As we recall, President Clinton appointed a Republican - William Cohen - as his Secretary of Defense. Has Dubya crossed party lines to appoint the most competent person possible for any position in his administration? Not that I can recall. In fact, not only has he NOT crossed party lines despite his "I'm a uniter, not a divider" rhetoric, but he has consistently appointed people in his administration based on loyalty and political payback, instead of competence and ability.

In Summary

Again, I know it's fiction, but I can't help but draw the comparisons. Here are two separate leaders (one a President, one a President-elect), making the correct decisions and leading with vision, heart, and common sense. They're acting in the best interests of the country, not in the best interests of the lobbyists and political contributors. But unfortunately, this is fiction and Geena Davis & Jimmy Smits really are only 'acting', while the reality we're stuck with, is the opposite end of the spectrum.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lose the repeated "sheeple" statement. It makes you sound like an arrogant asshole that thinks he is smarter than everyone else.

5:01 PM  

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