Washington Noir by James Wolcott
Political intrigue has taken a dark swoop ever since Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing waved farewell from the tarmac on May 14, 2006 (how did liberals survive the Bush era without it?), fading into the afterlife of cable reruns, boxed DVD sets, and fond mentions in Maureen Dowd columns. It’s as if this Emmy-bestrewn series, set in the White House, took TV’s last traces of Frank Capra idealism with it, leaving behind a Venus-flytrap jungle of power junkies and craven flunkies doing the bidding of turf warriors and vicious infighters running agencies that barely have names, only cryptic initials. Forget what you’ve seen on C-SPAN, the nonprofit public-affairs network and insomnia remedy whose static cameras portray the cog workings of government as a vast, multi-chambered drone machine, an ongoing civics lesson devoid of color, dash, and lingerie-model sex romps intended to wrest a bill out of committee. Beneath the glacial pace of progress is a churning, libidinous top-dog struggle. The genre of Washington melodrama is a far more malignant game of thrones, blood pooling beneath the presidential seal.
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