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Commander in Chief

Television | Political junkies will probably prefer watching the seasoned operatives of West Wing, but ordinary viewers will be able to identify with the likeable woman who has greatness thrust upon her

Issue: "Miers doesn't fit the mold," Oct. 15, 2005

The biggest hit of the new TV season looks to be Commander in Chief (Tuesdays, 9:00-10:00 ET, ABC), a drama about a woman who becomes president of the United States.

Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis) was already the first female vice president, an independent chosen to help a Republican presidential candidate's poll numbers with women. The president has a stroke and dies, but not before he begs her to resign so that the conservative speaker of the House (Donald Sutherland) can take command. The arguments about the Oval Office being no place for a woman, of course, make her take the oath of office.

The producers make gestures toward political balance, but it is soon clear who the bad guys are. She cannot allow the speaker of the House to get the presidency. Otherwise, we would have "book burning and creationism in the classroom." Conservatives can be OK, just not Christian conservatives.

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Political junkies will probably prefer watching the seasoned operatives of West Wing, but ordinary viewers will be able to identify with this likeable woman who has greatness thrust upon her. Human touches abound-spilling a drink on her blouse before a big speech; family crises interfering with matters of state; her husband having to be the "first lady" in charge of planning White House meals.

And she manages to be the perfect president. An Islamic court condemns an adulteress to death, so she invades Nigeria. She is a different kind of politician and she refuses to play the usual political games. She is, in fact, what her nemesis the speaker of the House calls a "philosopher queen," the kind of ruler intellectuals since Plato have fantasized about.

As for whether "our country is ready for a woman president," our philosopher kings in Hollywood are preparing the way.

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