While politicians aiming to reach the White House often engage in a courtship with all things connected to television, it is less talked about how much television mimics the White House. While shows like the West Wing do this directly, it can often be more fascinating to watch the indirect parallels. The television we watch reflects the world we live in, and the President of the United States is the leader of that world.

In the 1980s, we had Ronald Reagan. There was glitz and glamour. Nancy Reagan wore stunning dresses, Frank Sinatra crooned, and the top shows on television were “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” Wall Street boomed. J.R Ewing was not a criminal to most Americans. “It was just business darlin'” as only Larry Hagman could say with that grit eating grin. Rock groups like “Poison” and “Warrant” had big smiles, bigger hairs, and happy sounds.

When George Herbert Walker Bush took over, he wanted a kindler, gentler nation. “The Cosby Show” and “Family Ties” reached their zenith. It was during this administration that television shows provided analogies by the leaders themselves. George HW Bush “wanted an America that looked more like the Waltons than the Simpsons.” Dan Quayle made controversial statements about “Murphy Brown.” While Quayle’s remark was the more criticized of the two, his flaw was being ahead of his time. Bush’s “Waltons” comment showed he was behind the times. It was a “Simpsons” world. The glitz was gone. The Huxtables were wealthy, but quiet about it.

The Bill Clinton presidency is best reflected by the top show of the 1990s…”Seinfeld,” a show about nothing. This is not to say Bill Clinton was good or bad. He was peripheral. Conversations about nonsense took place, and he was part of those conversations. The world went by, and we all mused. The 1990s truly was a decade about nothing. Yes, we had the internet revolution, but most of us just watched it happen. Even if Al Gore was there at the beginning, he did not create Ebay, Jdate,, Yahoo Finance, or anything else that truly made the world a better place online. The Glam Rockers faded away, as did their hair.

George W Bush intervened, but 9/11 accelerated the next intervention. “Seinfeld” was fantasy. Reality television boomed. (In keeping with the Larry David-Seinfeld link, the John Kerry campaign should be called the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” campaign. It certainly curbed mine.) In the real world, people were trying to kill us. Compared to that, eating live bugs on tv did not seem so bad.

Could Seinfeld have succeeded post 9/11? Or was it a perfect show for the fat, dumb happy decade of the 1990s? Would people have cared about Monica Lewinsky in a post-Bin Laden world? Would Clinton have even had the time or the energy? It is difficult trying to get laid when you spend every waking minute worrying about the world blowing up.

These questions become paramount because as the lines get blurrier, the fictional characters we watch on tv could determine our next leader.

One of them is Fred Thompson. Even Ronald Reagan did not transition as easily as Fred Thompson. With his “aw shucks” country boy demeanor, his easy smile, and his pickup truck, Fred Thompson could be your neighbor. He was also a lawyer during the Watergate Hearings. His acting roles have always shown him as the cool, calm steady hand of a leader. As the top man at the Airport in “Die Harder,” as everyone else is freaking out, he calmly gives orders regarding the airplanes to “back ’em, stack ’em, and rack ’em.” In “Wiseguy,” as Knox Pooley, one minute he is leading a white racist mob, the next minute he is selling condominiums in Florida. He sold racism to young whites and property to old ones (even as the fake racist, somehow he was still likable).

As D.A. Arthur Branch, he has made “Law and Order” watchable again. When Sam Waterston goes on one of his bombastic liberal speeches, which seem to be more common than Al Pacino ranting in a movie, Arthur Branch has the quietest…and last…word. While I yell at my tv set for Jack McCoy (Waterston) to shut up, Big Arthur slowly calms him down, all the while giving orders. When his character fired a liberal prosecutor for being an activist, the stunned liberal activist asked him if her colleague agreed. Big Arthur replied “No. But it’s my office…and my decision. You’re fired.” He said it in a whisper, because big dogs don’t have to bark loud.

While Arthur Branch is a fictional tv character, Fred Thompson is very similar on the surface…an easygoing likable guy that simply wants to get things done. He is a rock solid conservative, but is appealing in the way Ronald Reagan used to be. Fred Thompson won’t scare little children. He did get rolled by the democrats during the Whitewater hearings, but he conceded this, and vowed not to get fooled again under the guise of being genial. Smart men learn. Thompson seems smart.

The last thing about Fred Thompson is he can talk to Hank Hill. Again, while “King of the Hill” is a fictional show, and a cartoon at that, it does what most shows fail to do…show red-state America in a positive light.

Yes, Boomhauer is incomprehensible, and Dale Gribble is the stereotypical government conspiracy nut. However, they are not treated as the norm. Hank is friends with them, but he (and the rest of the town) see them (especially Dale) as wingnuts. Hank Hill likes football, red meat, and while he believes in Jesus, does not preach to others. His primary concerns are feeding his family and helping his son grow up the right way. He is uncomfortable talking about things people don’t talk about.

Hank Hill might not be totally comfortable talking about gays, but he is not hostile towards them. He goes hunting, but does not have bloodlust. He drinks beer, not Evian water. He votes republican, but is more interested in talking about the Dallas Cowboys. Also, he is a “guy’s guy.” When a touchy feely liberal asked him “How about you just bond with me? How about you just understand me?,” he replied “How about I just kick your @ss?” He was not looking for a fight. He just wanted to be left alone from all the “touchy-feely” garbage that in his (and many) mind is bringing down America. When a Massachusetts client wanted to call him J.R., and have him wear a cowboy hat, he replied “You know, Texas has changed a lot in the last 150 years.”

King of the Hill works because it treats red state America with dignity. It does poke fun at “Bubbas,” but it pokes more fun at the elitists that misunderstand them. In the end, Hank is a Bubba, but what is a Bubba anyway? A Bubba is a hard working family man who just wants to watch football, drink a beer, and eat a steak, without being attacked by liberal, vegetarian tofu nuts while doing it. It was Bubbas at Iwo Jima, not New England liberals on college deferments.
Liberals look down upon such Bubbas at their own peril. It is difficult to lead 50 states when you only condescend to talk to people in 18 of them. The last 10 presidential elections have been won by people you could drink a beer and watch a ballgame with it. Al Gore, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis and even Bush Sr were people you could drink Chardonnay with and go to the opera. That does not make them bad people, but it is not what most Americans enjoy. Bill Clinton cheered on his Razorbacks. “Dubya” used to own the Texas Rangers. You can’t get more “beer-ballgame” than that.

The one mistake people make is to underestimate Bubbas. If they are so dumb, how do they keep winning elections? It takes brains. Lots of brains.

Fred Thompson is smart, likable and easy on the ears. While it would be a shame to have Law and Order become wretched again, it would be worth losing a tv show to have a good leader in the White House. I am not saying he is my 1st choice. I am already backing another horse. However, he is a legitimate candidate.

Hank Hill would vote for Arthur Branch. Hank Hill decides elections.

“Back ’em, stack ’em and rack ’em.” Go get ’em Fred.



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