Last night, I saw my third episode of “Commander In Chief” (well, 2 and 1/2, if you count my dozing through the middle of the pilot). Not that it deserves it, however. So far, I’ve noticed two trends in the show that strike me as wrong.
First, the military has played a prominent role in all three episodes. In the pilot, Marines were sent in to rescue a Nigerian woman about to be executed by her government. Last night, the Air Force was sent to strike at coca fields in a fictional Latin American country’s coca crop and drug labs. And in the second episode, President Allen chose as her vice president a retired general.
Now, as has been said by many people many times, the primary function fo the military is to “kill people and break things.” So far, they’ve been used as international police, with a bit of weed-control tossed in. It’s like the show’s creators are so eager to show President Allen is just as tough as a man could be, by waving the big stick of the armed forces as often as possible.
Secondly, there is a whole aspect of the presidency that has, to me, been getting extremely short shrift — and that’s the Cabinet. The heads of the various executive departments are key advisers to the president, as well as their duties in overseeing their departments. Last night we saw the Attorney General discuss the matter of meddling with the head of a sovereign government (a general who had led a coup against a democratically-elected president), but purely to shoot down the President’s idea of arresting him. Later, in her planning of the military strikes, I didn’t notice anyone identified as the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, or National Security Advisor — all of whom should have had input on the decision, or at least been present and aware of the planning.
I can see why the producers have avoided showing the Cabinet, however. President Allen is an Independent, and her antagonist is the Republican Speaker of the House. But the president she succeeded was a Republican, and it is highly likely that the Cabinet she inherited was also almost universally Republican, and loyal to various degrees to her predecessor and his policies. By omitting the Cabinet, it lets the rivalry with the Speaker stand in stark contrast — he’s someone she can’t fire, unlike her Secretaries. Also, dramatically, it cuts a level of management and allows her to be SuperPresident, giving orders directly to the various government agencies without going through the head of each Department.
I think ABC has a winner here, with this show. Not that it deserves it, but it hits all the right buttons in Hollywood: the tough woman standing up to the arrogant, sexist Republican; the use of the military to do anything but actually fight and kill; and the working mother having it all in the ultimate sense: Mommy still has time for the kids (still working on the balance) while still having the ultimate career. I predict that it will last at least two seasons.