Political fictions no stranger than reality — but at least they’re less depressing

by John Kass | October 9, 2014 12:02 am

In an early scene on “Madam Secretary” — a kinda Hillary Clinton political soap opera on CBS — our heroine mucks horse manure out of a barn.

As played by Tea Leoni, Madam Secretary is a former CIA-analyst-turned-professor in the Virginia horse country, in jeans and boots. She holds a pitchfork in her hand. And bits of straw and road apples cling to the tines.

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She’s asked: Why clean up horse poop?

“Why?” asks Madam Secretary. “I like it. It relaxes me.”

Just then the president of the United States (Keith “I’m Easy” Carradine) rolls up the dusty road in a 30-car motorcade and insists she become secretary of state.

But that’s the fantasy Hillary on CBS.

The real Hillary was scheduled to stump this week in Illinois for Democratic incumbent Gov. Patrick Quinn and star at another fundraiser.

And this, just as legislative committee hearings reconvene in Chicago on whether the $55.4 million he spent in 2010 was an anti-gang program or, as Republicans alleged, a get-out-the-vote “slush fund”

So I hope she brings her horse mucking tools.

I know what you’re saying. You’re saying that “Madam Secretary” is pure fiction, and that Hillary Clinton and our politicians live in the real world with the rest of us.

But politics is about fantasy, both Washington politics and local politics. And if you don’t know this by now, you might need to see a specialist.

The liberal actor Martin Sheen, for example, campaigns with Democrats like Quinn.

You might be amazed, but the politicians don’t ask Sheen to campaign for them because he once played a bald alien — with a glowing avocado pit in the middle of his forehead — in a bad sci-fi movie about world domination.

No, they ask him because he played liberal Democratic president Josiah “Jed” Bartlet in the Al Gore restoration fantasy that I believe was called “The Left Wing,” or something that sounded like that.

Anthropologists will someday explain that fictional political TV dramas were targeted to specific demographic groups and contained political messages along with pleasing alternate realities.

And that’s why I think we need more shows like “Madam Secretary” and “The Good Wife,” another CBS Sunday night drama about politics.

Our politics are so depressing lately that we need fantasy or we’ll just go crazy.

So I’m trying to develop pilots for more political shows.

One I’m calling “First Lunch Lady,” based on a real first lady.

She’s so determined that school kids will eat healthy food at school that she uses the awesome power of the federal government to dictate the lunch menus.

Then she puts on a disguise and moonlights as a Washington, D.C., school lunch lady so she can find out for herself what the kids really think of her food.

Another show is “Grumpy Old Men Too,” a quasi-reality program staring Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain. They’re grumpy geezers who’ve lost their senses and lick their teeth a lot.

Every couple weeks or so, a special Washington committee allows them to go out and meet the public, with disastrous results. Hilarity ensues.

McCain talks as if he’s on some military contractor’s payroll and is always seen demanding wars. Then he wonders why no one takes him seriously.

And Biden says stupid things about our allies and he always seems to be apologizing to the world leaders.

In the show, Biden insults so many world leaders that his handlers vote that he should be locked in an underground bunker in the desert, with a silver chain around his ankle to prevent escape.

Naturally, a crazed Biden shrieks “Chains? Put y’all back in chains!”

But who’d ever believe the vice president of the United States would say something so weird?

Fiction is perhaps more believable, like “The Good Wife,” which along with “Madam Secretary” airs on Sunday nights.

So most Sunday evenings we’ll curl up on the couch — me with a cup of herbal tea or some internationally flavored coffee — and enjoy some TV, since “The Good Wife” is based somewhat in reality:

The Cook County state’s attorney gets caught with a hooker in a bribe scam, is sent to prison and then is released on some “legal technicality.”

And before you know it, he’s campaigning again, and is elected governor of Illinois.

His aides are constantly worried that the Alpha Gov. might get too friendly with the female office staff, including a redhead who may or may not wear undergarments.

But the star is the good wife, Alicia Florrick, as played by Juliana Margulies. She wears great suits, is a top lawyer, great mom and good, honest friend.

And, she’s considering her own campaign for state’s attorney. She’s being urged to do so by none other than the real-life Valerie Jarrett and the real-life Gloria Steinem.

Since I’ve known every Cook County state’s attorney since 1981, I admit it, I admit it. I’m hooked.

In the last episode, the incumbent state’s attorney, a baldheaded weasel, is using his prosecutor’s power to squeeze Alicia’s friend and keep her out of the race against him.

When she confronts him, he says he has nothing to say.

Alicia: I doubt that. Men always have something to say.

Bald Weasel: When I put your partner away for 15 years, then I’ll have something to say.

Alicia: If you’re still in office.

Many of you think that mixing the fantasy world with the real world is just plain wrong.

But just remember what Hillary once said in the real world:

“What difference, at this point, does it make?”

(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM. His e-mail address is [email protected][2], and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.)

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