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The Left’s “Shadow Presidents” By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, April 14, 2006

Following last Sunday’s immigration protests, America elected its first Hispanic President. He is a very liberal Democratic Texas Congressman named Matt Santos, and he looks remarkably like actor Jimmy Smits.

And this same week America’s first woman President has reappeared after a months-long disappearance. President MacKenzie Allen, who closely resembles actress Geena Davis, returned amid rumors that her husband is unfaithful and that she might soon be “impeached.”


Out of power, liberals have found solace in self-delusion, in two television series that depict Democrats in control of the White House. These fantasy “Shadow Presidencies” are NBC’s “The West Wing” and ABC’s “Commander in Chief.”


Just as “Star Trek” was writer Gene Roddenberry’s attempt to prepare us earthlings emotionally for friendly encounters with extraterrestrials, “Commander in Chief” is a transparent propaganda exercise to brainwash Americans into embracing New York Senator Hillary Clinton as our first woman President.


The chief writer of “Commander in Chief” is Steve Cohen, a longtime Clinton insider who, as NewsMax.com correspondent Carl Limbacher reported, worked for three and a half years as First Lady Hillary Clinton’s deputy communications director. One of the show’s top consultants is Mrs. Clinton’s former social secretary Capricia Marshall.


The Washington Post reported that its reporters could find nobody on the “Commander in Chief” show’s staff who is a Republican. The creator of “Commander in Chief,” Rod Lurie, in July 2005 boasted to Post reporter Lisa de Moraes: “If Hillary [Clinton] does win the [2008 Democratic presidential] nomination, we’re going to take credit.”


Likewise, the fast-paced “West Wing,” a show so slanted that it’s been nicknamed “The Left Wing,” since 1999 has been a Democratic Camelot wet dream of how the White House could have been had the Clintons continued to rule, or Al Gore had won in 2000, or John Kerry had triumphed in 2004.
“West Wing”consultants and writers have included Clinton Administration Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell, Democrat hatchet man Lawrence O’Donnell and various other Democratic and Clintonista operatives. Its many liberal actors have included, playing a reporter, Timothy Busfield, former co-star of another series that in the 1980s also became a Lefty favorite and led the media in pushing the idea of Political Correctness, the show “Thirty Something.”

But oddly, as the New York Times reported, the scripts on “The West Wing” were originally written to depict a Republican winning last Sunday’s fictional presidential election. 


Or, to be more precise, the fictional winner was originally to be a Republican In Name Only, RINO California Senator Arnold Vinick played by actor Alan Alda, star of the TV series “M.A.S.H.” Alda, yet another liberal activist in real life, in the 1970s became the poster boy for "sensitive guy" Politically Correct Democrats, the wimps that real women rejected in droves.


Alan Alda’s "Republican" character, reported Times correspondent Jacques Steinberg, was "modeled a bit" on "maverick" Arizona Republican Senator John McCain. Alda's Vinick was open-minded, pro-abortion, eager to reject and denounce the "religious Right." He was a liberal's notion of a good or "moderate" Republican.


The “Commander in Chief” fictional unelected President Allen is an “Independent” Vice President who reached the Oval Office via a fatal presidential heart attack and hence is not controlled by either major party. It’s creator Rod Lurie in 2005 described Senator McCain as having the same kind of independence as his show’s heroine.)


In “Commander in Chief,” a dying President asks his Independent Vice President to resign so that a Bible-beating power-mad Republican Speaker of the House (played by Donald Sutherland) can become President. The Geena Davis character refuses, grabs the power she could never have won by herself at the ballot box, and heads Left.


Like Alan Alda, Donald Sutherland in real life is no conservative. As FrontPage Magazine investigative reporter Ben Johnson revealed, Sutherland “with then-lover Jane Fonda…set up the Winter Soldier Investigations in the winter of 1971” to undermine the U.S. side during the Vietnam War. The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts supported and took part in this Leftist anti-American propaganda exercise. His obvious aim in playing an evil, back-biting, power-crazed Republican on “Commander in Chief” is to demonize Republicans.


Prior to this, Donald Sutherland was married to actress Shirley Douglas, the daughter of Saskatchewan’s legendary Premier Tommy Douglas, the first openly-socialist politician elected to major office in the U.S. or Canada and the “father” of Canada’s system of socialized medicine.


In 1966 Sutherland and Douglas had a son who is now the star of the lightning-paced anti-terrorist Fox TV show “24.”  Kiefer Sutherland likely got his unusual name as a compromise between these two strong-willed, far-Left thespians. From its Gaelic root, Kiefer means “gentle.” But as a German-rooted word Kiefer means “pine tree.”  On the hit show “24” Keifer plays a character who fights tough and strong against anti-American Islamist terrorists, which is why his show’s ratings soar far above both “The West Wing” and “Commander in Chief.” 


In earlier years “The West Wing” almost always depicted Republicans not as kind and gentle but as mean and nasty. When the scandal of concealing his Multiple Sclerosis weakened Democratic President Bartlett, his government was virtually taken over by the political coup d’etat of a jingoistic bully Republican Speaker of the House. Overweight actor John Goodman, fresh from his role as Fred Flintstone in a movie about cavemen, played this character. The resulting image of Republicans as paleolithic troglodytes carrying clubs and wearing animal skins was not accidental. 


"The West Wing" is scheduled for cancellation on May 14 after a long decline in ratings. President Santos will rule mostly in a handful of re-runs on cable’s Bravo channel. But this, according to Steinberg, is not the reason why its writers switched their fictional  presidential victor from Republican to Democrat. 


One of the show's executive producers and writers Lawrence O'Donnell reportedly pushed for changing the plot so the Democrat would win after the real-life death last December of actor John Spencer, who long played White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry under President Josiah Bartlett (liberal Martin Sheen).


Spencer's character had also been Santos' running mate. And therefore, O'Donnell argued, for the audience to face both the deaths of Spencer and his character – written into the script – on top of yet another Democratic presidential defeat would be too emotionally wrenching.  Democrats had to win so the show’s viewers would not be too traumatized. Huh?  Do O’Donnell and his fellow puppeteers think the audience is as invested in this fantasy liberal White House as he is?


The more likely reason is that the viciously partisan O’Donnell wants several more free hour-long commercials to promote the Democratic Party and its leftwing agenda and to bash Republicans before the November 2006 elections.


"Political talk on TV has degenerated so much," O'Donnell, a veteran Democratic Washington insider, told the New York Times.


O’Donnell should know. He’s been a large part of that media degeneration. Weeks before the 2004 election O’Donnell was playing reporter on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country.” In this October 22 interview with the chief spokesman for 264 Vietnam Swiftboat veterans critical of Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, O’Donnell literally had a media meltdown. O’Donnell in the brief interview called this decorated military veteran a “liar” 39 times. To see the text of O’Donnell’s bizarre statements, look here.


O’Donnell offered no coherent evidence that the Swiftboat veteran was a liar. O’Donnell merely engaged in a near-screaming rant intended to shout down someone whose documented evidence of Mr. Kerry’s dishonesty was helping defeat the Democratic candidate.


But O’Donnell was not in this interview as the left half of a panel discussion. He was supposedly an NBC journalist expected to do a fair, even-handed interview. O’Donnell’s behavior was a naked display of the leftwing bias the mainstream media always exercises but usually plays deceptive games to mask. NBC, of course, refused to fire O’Donnell for this outrageously unprofessional and unethical behavior. “The West Wing” is an NBC series. Nor was O’Donnell fired by NBC’s affiliated network MSNBC, currently headed by liberal close friend and supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton Rick Kaplan.


A typical example of the partisan leftists who create these propaganda shows “The West Wing” and “Commander in Chief,” Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. was born in 1955 in Boston to an Irish-American family. After graduating from Harvard College in 1976, he headed west to seek fortune as a Hollywood screenwriter. He later admitted he was “unable to make any kind of living” as a screenwriter and sought help from his family back in Boston.


O’Donnell’s cousin Kirk O’Neill, son of his father’s identical twin brother Leonard, was a power in Washington, D.C. Kirk was, along with Chris Matthews and two others, one of the “four horsemen” who controlled the staff of Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill, the Boston Irish-American Democratic boss of Congress. With this powerful connection, O’Donnell was soon on the payroll as Director of Communications for the re-election campaign of then-Irish-American U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D.-NY), whose seat is now held by Hillary Clinton.


“I knew absolutely nothing about politics and thought I have absolutely nothing to contribute to this,” admitted O’Donnell, “but the way I read New York politics, the guy doesn’t need any help. If I were to occupy a chair in that office, I couldn’t do any damage. He ended up winning with 67 percent of the vote in 1988 – one point higher than what Tim Russert [now NBC Washington bureau chief and host of “Meet the Press”] has gotten him in the previous election.”


After Moynihan’s reelection, O’Donnell stayed on the payroll as Special Advisor and was named Democratic Chief of Staff to the two Senate committees Moynihan chaired, the powerful Finance Committee and the Committee on Environment and Public Works.


“I was more than in over my head,” wrote O’Donnell. “I was in an absolutely foreign territory. I had no idea how to advise anyone on anything political. But I knew that I had Kirk’s phone number.” The Senate job O’Donnell saw as temporary lasted seven years. The connections he built with fellow Democratic operatives like Chris Matthews, now host of his own show “Hardball” on MSNBC, O’Donnell parlayed to become MSNBC’s “Senior Political Analyst.”


During the 2000 presidential campaign O’Donnell, turning from government to media work as his patron Senator Moynihan retired, wrote about politics for New York Magazine.


Politics also provided the back door through which Lawrence O’Donnell returned to his first love, Hollywood. As Bill Clinton’s Administration wound down, a group of Democrat Washington insiders gathered in 1999 to create the still-successful NBC prime time drama “The West Wing.”


O’Donnell, along with Jimmy Carter Administration pollster Pat Caddell, wrote or contributed to at least nine “West Wing” episodes during its first two seasons. He also

worked as the series’ executive story editor and producer. He even acted in one 2001 episode. He then departed to create two short-lived TV series, “First Monday” and his own creation “Mr. Sterling,” about a U.S. Senator, both set amid the politics and intrigues

of Washington, D.C. After these failed, O’Donnell returned to helping create “The West Wing.”


“The West Wing” was spun out of leftover parts of creator Aaron Sorkin’s movie “The American President,” which starred Michael Douglas. As originally conceived, it was to focus on the character Sam Seaborn, the President’s deputy communications director, and show the White House through his eyes. When actor Rob Lowe signed on to play Seaborn, he believed he would be the show’s star.


This soon changed as veteran actor and liberal activist Martin Sheen’s portrayal of liberal President Josiah Bartlet overshadowed and outshone Lowe. (Lowe, you will remember, at the 1988 Democratic National Convention was caught up in the scandal of a videotape of him in bed having sex with two equally naked young women, one of them under legal age.) 


The President Bartlet character was painted with a semi-divine aura – all-wise and compassionate, smarter than any conservative, a Nobel-laureate economist and college professor, an intellectual with unlimited and sophisticated knowledge on every topic people are discussing. When in the second season he rebuked a female conservative radio talk host modeled on Dr. Laura Schlessinger for her disapproval of homosexuality, he did so with godlike authority and certitude and left her crushed. It’s easy for your side to win such face-offs when the scripts are always written and rigged to make you the winner, and on “The West Wing” they have been.


Lawrence O’Donnell embodies the current attraction that liberal Hollywood has for Washington, D.C. and vice versa. He has found status and wealth by acting as a bridge between these two worlds.


Like many on the Left, Lawrence O’Donnell now lives in a Cloud Cuckooland where the script can always be written to make Republicans look evil, Democrats look smart and superior, and the Left always emerge triumphant.


Come to think of it, that is precisely what the Left is doing with its relentless distortion of the news Americans now turn to for their information. It shows why O’Donnell smugly assumed that, while playing the role of journalist, he could simply shout down an opponent on a TV news show. Like many liberals who have Gone Hollywood, he has lost touch with reality.


With “The West Wing” disappearing in Hollywood’s rear view mirror, O’Donnell now makes his living as an actor. Aptly enough, he plays a lawyer on the HBO pro-polygamy drama “Big Love.”


But Hollywood does have standards to which its projects must measure up – ratings and money. This is what spells doom for these two dramas and their shrinking audiences. “The West Wing” is now down to about eight million viewers in a nation of 300 million, an embarrassingly small audience for so expensive a show occupying a valuable Sunday night timeslot. All that has kept it alive thus far is that its typical viewer has above-average income – one kind of audience that sponsors prefer.


“The West Wing” has also maintained its reputation for snappy writing, energetic pacing, dramatic long tracking shots as cameras follow walking characters, and a willingness occasionally to let Republican characters score a point or two, all of which have kept the show a bit surprising and interesting to watch.


“Commander in Chief” was launched in September 2005 with enormous promotion and publicity. For two weeks its audience exceeded 16 million, but thereafter viewership plummeted. Before the series was put on hiatus by ABC, its January 24 show attracted only 10.4 million viewers – and, as research showed, most of its audience was over 50, lower middle class and below-average in income, an audience sponsors have little desire to spend big ad money to reach.


With its sluggish, preachy partisan writing, dull characters and unreal depiction of Washington, D.C., “Commander in Chief” is a failure by every standard and is unlikely to survive much longer. It’s no wonder that ABC promoted its return with spots hinting that President Allen’s husband might be having an affair. The show that was supposed to pave Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House has, at least as promoted, metamorphosed into a sinkhole political version of “Desperate Housewives.”


Martin Sheen, the retiring President on “The West Wing,” was approached by Democratic Party representatives from his state of Ohio, reported the New York Times, “to see if he would be interesting in running for the United States Senate after he left the show.”


“I’m just not qualified,” Sheen told the politicos. “You’re mistaking celebrity for credibility.”


Sheen’s honest words should be the epitaph for both “Commander in Chief” and “The West Wing.” Both have always been slanted works of leftwing fiction.


And for the graying left-liberal viewers that invested their hopes and dreams in these two political fantasies, they ought to take to heart the words on “Saturday Night Live” that William Shatner, who played “Star Trek” Captain James Kirk, spoke to a convention of devout Trekkies: “Get a Life!”


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Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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