February 21, 2014
On House of Cards
In 1990, the original BBC series, House of Cards, aired starring the Shakespearean actor Ian Richarson in the role of Francis Urquhart. The series was based on books by Michael Dobbs and set during the Thatcher government. Urquhart was chief whip of the majority party who, after Thatcher resigns, is passed over for a cabinet position, plots his revenge for the snub. The rest of the story goes pretty much like the Netflix version. It is from that BBC series that I learned to be pragmatic and suspicious about politics and polls. (Urguhart's pollster asks, "How do you want the poll to come out? I can make it come out exactly as you want.") From the BBC original, only the parties have been changed. In the Netflix version. Francis Underwood (initials FU) is a Democrat.
In the original series, Urquhart's wife is equally ambitious, unfaithful and venal. The marriage is one of mutual purpose. The writers of the current incarnation have done an amazing job of re-setting the drama in DC, 2014. The men and women in power or the press think little of bedding those from whom they want information or favor, or murdering people who may become "problematic." The acquisition of power is all that matters. Whatever must be done to that end is not only rational but moral in their minds. They, unlike their political opponents, are on the "right side," ....the Left.
What is astonishing about the series set in America is how much members of Congress and the DC press love it. They look for themselves, however minimally represented or insulted. (As Lorne Michaels said recently, it is easier to mock Republicans, they have a better sense of humor.) But how on earth does one explain the denizens of DC loving this show that exposes them as the charlatans they are? Since the second season debuted, not a day goes by without some DC personage heralding its brilliance or their bit part in it. Do they not see that they are being eviscerated? Exposed?
If people are not yet convinced that the leadership in our government is off the rails, out of touch and amoral, their affection for this series should disaffect them of that notion. It is a terrific and very educational program on numerous fronts: how government works, how lobbyists shape legislation, how wives manipulate their husbands in powerful positions, and how the press exploits all those beltway egos, those in power and each others, etc. It's sadly true, I fear. Consider the scandals of the last twenty years; Clinton's many episodes of infidelity, perjury, deception, for example. Remember Bob Packwood, Gary Condit, Barney Frank, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, Gen. Petraeus. That is just a short list. Chances are that knowledge, gossip, and/or bribery of those felonious raconteurs affected legislation inflicted upon us all.
And now we have Obama, perhaps the biggest liar/hypocrite ever to hold the office on numerous fronts. He loves House of Cards too. (And Homeland, and Game of Thrones, and True Detective! Who knew he had the time for all that television?) These people do not see themselves as people outside of government see them. They are proud of their own arrogance.They absolutely believe themselves to be superior beings who by rights should be in charge of us inferior beings. They do not think they are subject to the same laws, the laws they pass or those passed by their predecessors, by which the rest of us must abide. Destroying innocent, little lives for a necessary end? Must be done. Murder in the name of the party? Must be done. Media destruction of a political opponent for the cause? A delight to behold. Use a federal agency to suppress opponents? Brilliant!
House of Cards is about the people making the rules we all must live by but they do not. They are dreadful people and do not know it. They are quite proud of themselves and their ability to work the system. We must be thankful for the few who are decent, law-abiding and somehow remain in office. We need to cherish their honesty, integrity and love of country and elect more of them. We all know who they are.
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