Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Anybody watch the premiere of "Commander-in-Chief" last night? I did. If you taped it, then the rest of this entry may contain spoilers, so go watch your tape first.

I'm not sure I'm going to like the show. Of course, anything that has Geena Davis in it will keep my attention for at least a few episodes. And I enjoyed some of the moral, ethical, and political questions the first hour raised - if they keep that up, I'll keep watching.

For instance, if the President asks his Vice-President to resign rather than take over, does the Vice-President have a moral obligation to agree? After all, the President chose her for the job, he should be able to fire her. On reflection, though, I find I agree with the show's answer - the Vice-President has every right to maintain her office and ascend to the Presidency. The situation rather reminded me of one of my military pet peeves - people who join the military (to include the Reserves and National Guard) for the paycheck, or the college money, or whatever, then try to back out when they find out they've been picked to go to war. President Bridges picked Mrs. Allen to be the Vice-President as a stunt, sure. But if he didn't give at least some thought to the possibility of his own death in office, well, then his judgement isn't all that good, anyway!

Another moral question that came up - is it right for the President to use the threat of military force to save the life of a woman who is going to be stoned to death for adultery? Let's ask that another way. Is it proper for the President to threaten a friendly (or at least neutral) nation with an act of war to save the life of a criminal convicted of a capital crime under the due process of her own country? It's amazing how much the wording of the question changes the answer, isn't it? I think she was wrong, there. I don't believe we have the automatic right to use our superpower might to dictate all forms of justice in another country. There is a difference between genocide and execution of an individual. However mild we believe her crime was, the woman did know the penalty for her act before she committed it. Using our military force in such a way makes us little more than a bully.

On the other hand, I don't believe we have any obligation to maintain diplomatic or trade relations with countries that we feel are barbaric. We're a capitalist nation, and business is business. Just like any businessman or customer, we have every right to decide who we choose to do business WITH. Cutting off foreign aid and trade to a given country and to those who continue to support them might well do more damage in the long run than an extended bombing campaign, and certainly more than an invasion consisting of three helicopters. The moral and ethical principles involved, though, make that option the better choice, in my opinion.

A related question. If Nigeria was not only executing the woman, but the man as well, would that change the moral principle? Would President Allen still have wanted to go rescue her? Or should she rescue both of them, or neither? I tend to believe that what's good for the goose is good for the gander...and if the same law applied to both genders, then we'd really have nothing to complain about.

There were some problems with the show, though. Worse than making the wrong decision about the Nigerian woman, I don't think President Allen thought through the consequences of that decision, and the show made no mention of them. As if we could do such a thing and not have a huge backlash against us in the international press, especially in the Muslim countries! That might be covered in later episodes, though, so I'll withhold judgement on that one.

The worst problem was the believability of the basic premise. I just can't conceive of any party politician choosing an Independent as his running mate. Surely there was a female member of his own party that would have sufficed! I understand the dramatic necessity here - they need the conflict between the party warhorse, Speaker Templeton, and the Independent President. But couldn't they have managed much the same with a hardline Conservative President selecting a moderate from his own party? She could even have made public statements that disagreed with the party platform. We could still have had the conflict between the late President's beliefs and those of his VP, and thus between the new President and the Speaker of the House, but it would have been mch more believable within the political structure we know.

My biggest concern, though, is one I got from my dad, that this will turn out to be an extended campaign ad for Hillary Clinton. As long as President Allen stays independent, doing things to outrage each party in turn, or even both at once, I can enjoy it. If it turns into a mouthpiece for either party, though, I'm done.

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