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Le Figaro, France

Washington Seen as a
New Television Series:
Brrr, Very Bleak!

By Laure Mandeville

Translated By Lindsey Cambridge

5 February 2013

Edited by Lau­ren Gerken

France - Le Figaro - Original Article (French)

A new television show entitled “House of Cards” has just been released on Netflix. It recounts the habits and customs of Washington and its political system through the doings of Frank Underwood, a cynical and ambitious congressman who reveals the dark side of Capitol Hill and, more generally, politics in the federal capital. Played by Kevin Spacey — who has also played the role of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff onscreen — Underwood is a Democrat disappointed at not being chosen as secretary of state by the new president despite promises made during his campaign. Underwood then sets about playing his own political game in order push his own interests and get revenge. In order to do this, he uses the services of a young, ambitious, ready-for-anything journalist who has just landed at the fictional newspaper, The Washington Herald, which oddly resembles The Washington Post. Determined to make her way faster than the more seasoned journalists, who disregard her and whose approach to journalism she finds outdated, she doesn’t hesitate for a minute despite the simple, ethical journalistic infringements that Underwood imposes on her. Regardless, she understands one thing: In this city, it’s give and take. No question of feelings.

Underwood decides to impede the candidacy of the man who had been chosen to run the State Department in his place by spreading an unwarranted rumor about his anti-Israeli opinions. Disseminated by the young journalist through tweets and blogs, the rumor is circulated throughout the media world, whose superficial, sheep-like way of functioning is implicitly denounced by the television series. The candidate must forfeit his candidacy. He will not be the only one, as Underwood pressures and blackmails in order to call the shots in Congress and force other elected members to support his objectives.

What is striking in this series is the extent to which it reflects the ambiance of a political city where ploys and ambitions combine to make politics unsavory. Unfortunately, art is not that far from imitating life. The episode where the senator is forced to give up his post as secretary of state bears a striking resemblance to the recent attacks against Sen. Chuck Hagel for his supposedly anti-Israeli stance while he awaits confirmation as secretary of defense. In real life, however, it seems that the White House is as cunning as Congress and that it has therefore done its sums. Even though he has been subjected to a harsh hearing during which his own Republican colleagues turned against him, Hagel should head the Pentagon. But for those who are interested in the functioning of power in America, the tale of “House of Cards” is worth a look.



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