I’ve recently become addicted to the CBS TV series “Madam Secretary” with Téa Leoni and Tim Daly.
It’s another insider-White House series, this time with Téa as the unconventional Secretary of State called to duty when the man previously holding that position goes down in a plane accident (well, no accident, but you have to watch for details about that…). She’s a former CIA operative whose then-boss is now, well, President (played by Keith Carradine).
Husband Tim Daly is a world-reknowned religious and ethics scholar, and the two get plenty of play in international intrigue. Some of it’s a bit too intense for my liking — modern audiences seem to crave more of something I find distasteful — but a lot of it is very real human emotion, played with a good dollop of humor. You get the feeling the Secretary of State is just one of us. Until you look at her day.
(If you’re wondering about the title to my piece, I had to get it out front: I keep slipping up and calling the show “Madam[e] Alexander” like the damn dolls. Okay, lovely dolls, but they have nothing to do with this show in any way, shape or form. I’m hoping to break myself of this habit by placing it right out there.)
An ordinary day for Secretary of State….like the first episode of Season Two, which just finished. (The season, that is. The first episode aired months ago.) Somehow, despite the fact that in a bizarre turn of events Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord has become acting President for a brief time, you relate to her. At least I did. In part, because, you see, poor Bess was being called upon to perform modified lyrics to a Billy Joel song at a state dinner. Yes, SING. Like me, she’s tone deaf. Unlike me, her chief of staff is (Broadway legend) Bebe Neuwirth, so she was saved.
The show is generally much heavier than that, so don’t look for anything so lightweight on a weekly basis.
But here, at last, is my point. Secretary of State is a serious position. So is White House Chief of Staff. There are plenty more such jobs, with consequences both glorious and catastrophic. And while there is no one person capable of making the perfect decision every single time for any given role, there are those far more qualified than others, more likely to consistently make strong decisions. Like any job, there is value in having experience, connections and wisdom from previous choices.
Some of those jobs, such as Chief of Staff, are appointed, and others, such as Secretary of State, are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The meaning of the process of “advise and consent” that the Senate takes on in the confirmation process varies from scholar to scholar, but in practical terms it amounts to this: the President has the greater power in choosing who will fill those positions.
And the people he or she chooses shape this country in ways big and small, change lives and bring opportunity — or take it — from others who can make a difference.
In other words, our choice of President is critical.
It’s not a favorite year for many for presidential candidates. Lately I’ve been hearing words that strike greater fear in me than anything else, “I think I’ll just stay home on Election Day.”
Don’t let this election be decided by those who don’t — or won’t — vote. If you stay home, you’re part of a movement guaranteeing the wrong man will win. It’s no longer the same party politics.
Watch Madam Secretary for a taste of the decisions our leaders will have to make. Dramatized? No doubt. Real? In enough ways that matter, yes, it is.
Image Credits: (Scenes from “Madam Secretary”): CBS-TV (fair use); (Building) retroclipart — Bigstock; (Vote Sign) GraphicStock.com