"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Commander in Chief Pilot

Last night, we called on TIVO to run the pilot of the new series "Commander in Chief," and we did so with the sense that we would probably bail out quickly. We did not. We watched to the end and high-fived as the credits rolled. Were we ever surprised.

We had expected Hollywood Leftism, like "West Wing," with Martin "Sheehan." The Right had been bellyaching that this program was paving the way by softening up the nation for Hilary Clinton to become the first female American president. In fact, Hilary's name was mentioned about half a dozen times, in a somewhat uncomplimentary manner, in the spirit of what not to do with menus and other "feminine" tasks as First Lady. These were said to the new president's husband who now became "first lady."

The character of the president was untethered to either the Democrat or Republican Parties. She was an independent and former chancellor of a university in Virginia. According to the story line, she had been selected because she was a woman and had been intended to enhance the electability of the president. As the president declined because of brain hemorrhage, he, in a lucid moment, told her that he wanted her to resign, as did his heir apparent, the Speaker of the House, and staff members.

She toyed with the idea of resigning, long enough to decide not to, to the dismay of the Speaker of the House who had expected to step into the presidency.

Drawing on strength of character and apparently clearly held principles, she took the oath and began forming her presidency. She kept as many of the staff and cabinet as would stay loyal to her, and she began a very long and clearly very painful and endless war with the Speaker of the House, who clearly planned to subvert and sabotage her in every way, while looking lily white to her face.

One of the early vignettes involved her dealing with a situation in Muslim Nigeria. A woman proclaimed to be an adultress was to be buried to her shoulders and stoned to death. Previous "negotiations" by the previous administration had gotten nowhere, and the woman's execution drew nigh. The new president mobilized the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military to prepare for a "NEO," a non-combatant evacuation of this woman from Nigeria, with all necessary military assets offshore. The ambassador from Nigeria was brought before the President and a room full of military brass and very high tech equipment to be told that the evacuation would happen shortly. The president told the ambassador that the USA would not stand for the killing of this woman just because she had sex. The Chairman, JCS told the ambassador not to worry because the USA has done this many times, so there should be minimum loss of life, but not minimum loss of Nigerian military assets. The ambassador blanched, gathered himself, and left, indicating that he would talk shortly with the president of Nigeria. Soon the woman and her child were turned over to US military on ground in Nigeria.

This was a fine moment and a good piece of drama. The president was clear eyed, clear headed, and clear principled. She operated decisively and expeditiously. We immediately thought of Margaret Thatcher.

The sleeze came through her principle adversary, the Speaker of the House, played well by Donald Sutherland, whom most people have forgotten was a big comrade of Hanoi Jane. He did not ooze sleeziness of the Right. If anything, it was sleeziness of the Left, but this orientation was not prominent. What was overwhelming was his own addiction to power. He played the quintessential Washington super-power politician who operated in a pure culture of American Pragmatism philosophy, run by pure "id."

Geena Davis played the new female president. Nothing she did reminded us in any way of Hilary Clinton, except that her every demeanor and statement were so totally unlike any aspect of that senator. Geena Davis played a president we should have and do not, nor have had--and if we have the misfortune to "get" Hilary, we will not have.

Will this program hold up, or will it degenerate? This first episode reminds me of the very first James Bond film, with a clear headed, clear principled, and effective James Bond taking on Dr. No and SPECTRE, and not the degenerated Bond films that followed. We will watch next week and a few beside, and hope that we are seeing someone in the most powerful position in the world who is worthy of admiration. The potential is there, and very high potential for some great drama and characterization.

How great it could be to have someone in high office portrayed in such a way that we can admire her.


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