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The Parable of Madam Secretary

When The West Wing’s President Bartlet walked off into the fake Hollywood sunset a dozen years ago, many viewers were left with a giant hole in their moral centre.  Sure, many of us had a little trouble following the quick dialogue and political strategies that flew by as they stalked the hallways of the White House.  But we knew we were watching something great.  Even if we didn’t always understand it all.

Madam Secretary has been a nice stand-in with less sharp dialogue, less quick wit, and a little less need for a degree in Political Science.  It stars Tea Leoni as, Elizabeth McCord, a smart Secretary of State who uses strategy, influence and policy to do the right thing.

The show is full of strong female characters including the Vice President, herself.  Unfortunately, they also made the VP an ill-prepared, self-appointed adversary of Elizabeth’s who didn’t understand political negotiations.

Ironically, despite what many would call “obvious political leanings,” the writers have avoided identifying the administration as either Republican or Democrat.  (Why potentially annoy half your viewing audience right out of the gate?)  In fact, last season, the President declared himself an independent.

Still, many have nicknamed this “The Hillary Show” while others have called it “preachy.”  That’s because its writers have often used real political incidents as inspiration for stories about how they believe the government should work.  And thus far, they’ve had a following.

However, now they have something to say about Trump’s fitness for office.  And they’ve decided there’s no time for subtlety.

Critics think they’re preachy?  Well, last week, the writers went positively biblical with what I call “The Parable of the Crazy President.”  Can you find the parallels?

It goes like this:  An incident occurs at an American embassy and despite his own investigators’ findings to the contrary, the fictional Commander-in-Chief publically blames Russia, vaguely threatening “ferocity and might.”  So he orders a missile strike on Russian satellites, a first step toward war.

The President shouts “You’re fired!” to staff who disagree with him.  He paranoidly rants about no longer being pushed around while proclaiming his omnipotent power.  And he gleefully rubs his hands together in anticipation.

That night in a private home, Cabinet members debate the President’s actions and whether to invoke the twenty-fifth amendment to remove him from power.

Ultimately, the President is forced to undergo medical tests (because, he is, deep down, a good man who wants what’s best for the country).  Of course, a tumor is found that was causing his erratic behaviour which can be removed safely and he can return to office.  One week later, he’s feeling better and thanks everyone for their patriotic actions as regular, small-town Americans proudly watch.  The End.

This fable-like episode was heavy-handed with an absurdly pat ending.  And intentionally so.  Because their point was clear:  no matter how you vote, removing an unfit president is the most patriotic and American act.

But is a divided nation ready to hear the “Gospel According to Madam Secretary”?

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