Mark Levitt On “Casting The President”


a lot of people might say they enjoy The Americans or Madame Secretary.The guilty pleasure of a lot of TV Viewers is reality programming. The current election is the most watched, hotly debated contest I can remember and the increased interest is largely because of the spicy reality style put-downs, bravado, and posturing.I think in large part people vote the same way casting agents pick actors/contestants to fill their roles

Sure people say they want someone to act presidential.  The assumption here is that voters want their president to be dignified and diplomatic. so casting the president, you would want to cast someone noble.  like a less stamery version of Colin Firth’s character in A King’s Speech. But What we know of politics though, high sounding on paper is largely full of back-room deals and soul crushing compromise. In addition People don’t admire presidents anymore, frankly they gravitate more to people who wield power work between the gray areas of the law like a Tony Soprano or a Walter White. People and the media say they want a high minded figure to stand for them but, in truth, who have they chosen to support them in the Democratic and Republican Parties?:  An ethically challenged businessman known for cutting deals and an opportunistic chameleon who seems to have spent the majority of her life in the pursuit of power.

Hilary Clinton reminds me of Alan Cummings character in Circle Of Friends- A creepy, fawning, opportunistic character who bides his time around for the chance to marry into the family business. To me Hilary Clinton has spent much of her political life waiting. Putting up with a husband who cheated on her multiple times, then serving a political rival she bitterly opposed all the while subverting her impulses till the time was ripe to seize political  power.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂


Donald Trump is more like an Archie Bunker character with money. A man whose opinions seem largely formed by stereotypes,  raw social antipathies, and gut impulses.  whose base political stances often don’t really stand up to intellectual scrutiny…Quick to anger and to label, nevertheless he has an audacious personality that is as repellent as it is compelling and, like Archie Bunker, is also frequently funny.


After the recent Republican debates,  the media largely condemned the coarse juvenile rhetoric. But I don’t find debate jargon elegant anyway.  It is largely full of trite, common speech and  its closer to the language of commercial jingles than lofty speech. For example when Marco Rubio recently rebutted Trump’s claims that the world was too politically correct, he  said, “I’m correct, I’m not politically correct.”.  This reminded me of the old Starkist slogan, “Sorry Charlie, we don’t want tuna with good taste, you want tuna that tastes good!  So,   its not Henry James or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow up there trading colorful turns of phrase exactly.  In ages past politicians might have spoken in a more lofty way because there was more of a separation between the classes brought out by the way they spoke. Now, politicians are more largely concerned with words that will stick in your head and hit a nerve than in being particularly eloquent. Similarly, Trump’s reliance on name-calling is a quick attention getting device.In  As anyone whose ever watched a reality show, talk show, or had a fight with their own family can tell you , when you call someone a name you immediately command attention:  ” liar”, “choke artist”, “con man”.  . It makes people stop and take notice. The name calling is  just an effective entry point. no one will listen to you a long paragraph where you intimate, subtly suggest or symbols which show how badly you view the other candidate. Its not like the viewing audience at these debates is honed and ready to respond to subtlety ( Ah,so, the Empire in Star Wars is a symbol for Nazi Germany, good one, George Lucas!, nice subtle put down of the Nazi Regime).