I have a friend I’ll call “Manuel.” He is a scholar and politically engaged writer. However, he refuses to watch the very political, very cleverly scripted CBS television drama, “Madam Secretary” (co-produced by Morgan Freeman).
It features my current heart-throb, Téa Leoni. (I don’t recall if he had an opinion of “West Wing” in its hey-day).
Manuel decided the lead character was no more than a promo for Secretary of State Clinton. (He is a “Bernie-Bro”). It is not and he is missing artful drama and the chance to analyze pedagogically useful puzzles as they unfold. “West Wing” was voted TV Guide’s “Best TV Drama Ever.” Many wished the fictional President (Martin Sheen) had been our real president.
Many wish the same for Téa as Secretary of State. However, current real life Secretary, John Kerry, is not doing badly. He is aware of realities, as is Leoni in the fictional plots (most of them very realistic) zooming from tragedy and danger to glimmers of hope. For younger Bernie-Bros the timely show contains a lot of action, even carnage, reflecting international realities. (There are also lighter moments, romance and inevitable inner family dilemmas).
The Secretary serves at the pleasure of the President. It was the first Cabinet position for the new U.S. government. Thomas Jefferson was the first Secretary. The need to negotiate and compromise is omnipresent with the position. The Secretary of State is fourth in line for the presidency. The Secretary is entrusted, following the President’s philosophy, to craft and to guide our foreign policy endeavors. He or she is, in effect, the “Secretary of Peace,” as far as we have one, just as the Secretary of War became the Secretary of Defense. Their duty is to protect the country as they advance civilization amid incredibly entangled international tensions.
Bess strikes a blow for all these goals when she, in a recent episode (“Desperate Remedies,” April 10), raises the standard for treating diseases endangering world health. At the same time, she “made a deal,” as Presidents and Secretaries must. She negotiated with terrorists (Boko Haram), trading the life of a terrorist leader for hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls. Let us hope, at some time in the future, politics might imitate art.
Some current candidates for the presidency make sensational charges against President Obama, accusing him of flawed policies and lack of leadership, claiming there has been a deliberate down-scaling of U.S. power, denying global warming. They are flat wrong. Their lies are shamelessly endangering American lives and the lives of millions around the globe.
Woe to us, should one of those who think America is NOT great or one who thinks the U.S. should shrink behind walls, fearful of immigrants, actually become President. What kind of Secretary of State would a Trump or a Cruz choose? One with a solid record in negotiating, one open to reasonable compromises? Or one who shares their nativist, isolationist extremism?
A joke when candidate Reagan was seeking the presidency speculated John Wayne might become Secretary of State. The point is, be very careful for whom you vote; elections have serious consequences. Meanwhile, feel free to select intellectually-challenging television shows. They can entertain and enlighten. The dreams conjured up as one is mesmerized and informed by a West Wing or a Madam Secretary help make a viewer more mature, a better citizen, a more careful, hopeful voter.
And what about Manuel? He doesn’t watch much television anyway and I doubt he will start with Madam Secretary. But, in November, if his man, Bernie, isn’t the Democratic nominee, he will vote, or should, for the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to become our next President. Manuel is a Bernie-Bro, not a Bernie-or-Bust type. The polls indicate enough of us will be as wise, as realistic, and vote for sanity. And the others (perhaps an incredible 20 percent)? They go Trump. Go figure. This is still a democracy; it’s their choice.
The choice of a TV celebrity with no governmental experience, awash in misogyny and uncharitable views toward religious and ethnic minorities, one who joins Cruz and most other Republicans in their denial of science and global warming, is no choice at all. Most reasonable people will vote for Hillary Clinton to enter the West Wing.
A President Clinton will appoint sterling Supreme Court justices and, without doubt, a creative Secretary of State. I predict (at least I hope) she may appoint, if he accepts, Senator Bernie Sanders himself to a major position in the Cabinet of the United States. The change Manuel desires will have begun.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this guest column show actress Téa Leoni playing the role of Dr. Elizabeth McCord in the political drama TV series, Madam Secretary.