You can’t make it up. Or…maybe you can. A TV celebrity with a reputation for infidelity plays at being POTUS, the President of the United States? What could go wrong with casting like this? Could it possibly have a happy ending? Suspend your disbelief for a New York minute.
After a successful state dinner with the French president and his wife, but with his teenage child living in the White House, he pursues a woman, not his wife. They have sex. Headlines in all the papers. He refuses to comment. The press camps out at her apartment hoping to get a statement.
All the while, he’s running for re-election. His numbers are tanking. The vultures are circling. He’s tangling with the press, still refuses to comment, screws up a crime bill, fights with gun control activists and the fossil fuel lobby. His staff scrambles to save his presidency. Sound familiar? How could it possibly end happily? He loses. Right?
Wrong! President Andrew Shepherd and Sydney Ellen Wade live happily ever after.
This is the storyline of The American President, the 1995 Michael Douglas, Annette Bening film. The happy ending is the result of a Shepherd epiphany i.e., a sausage making compromise for the sake of a political win may end up costing you your soul and the things you really value. It’s a love story. Watch it. It may restore your faith in the goodness of humanity—maybe even the American presidency.
I watched it last night, a calming soporific after seeing the spineless Republicans vote not to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the assault on the Capitol Building and ransacking the House and Senate chambers. It made me want to live in Andrew Shepherd’s world not the one inhabited by Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The irony here, is what goes around comes around. It turns out Ted Cruz stole a line from The American President when Trump insulted his wife, Heidi, in 2016. In the film, President Shepherd tells his political rival, played by Richard Dreyfuss, “You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, ’cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league.” That’s almost the exact language Cruz used to defend his wife’s honor when Trump derided her looks. Apparently, Ted’s grievance and Heidi’s ego have been salved. Ted is center stage, where he’s always wanted to be, defending The Donald’s big lie of a stolen election. He’s all in now and prostituting himself in the second impeachment.
It isn’t surprising that The American President and The West Wing (now streaming on Netflix) are having a big resurgence in popularity. We want to see a functional government, but the Trump hangover is lingering. We want to see and hear a real president in charge. I suggest Aaron Sorkin, the author of both The American President and The West Wing be installed in the West Wing and write the script for President Biden. His lines are crisp, witty, and memorable. We know Joe is a capable Commander in Chief, but it would be the cherry on top if we could hear four more seasons of Sorkin dialogue.