WASHINGTON (12/8/14)--As both watchers of television and former congressmen, current Credit Union National Association President/CEO and past President/CEO Dan Mica were able to speak on how Hollywood's portrayal of life in Washington, D.C., compares with reality.
In an event hosted Friday by the Congressional Management Foundation, Nussle and Mica shared the truths and falsehoods of Washington as portrayed by television shows such as "House of Cards," "Alpha House" and "The West Wing," as well as movies such as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Charlie Wilson's War" and "The Distinguished Gentleman."
Nussle served as a representative from Iowa from 1991 to 2007, and Mica served as a representative from Florida from 1979 to 1989, as well as CUNA's president/CEO from 1996 to 2010.
|CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle (left) and past CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica speak about the realities of political life in Washington, D.C., compared with how they are depicted in movies and television. (CUNA Photo)|
Mica categorized political life in Washington, D.C., as "90% very routine," adding that Hollywood's job is to tie fiction with threads of reality to make a better story. He also said he isn't one to watch those types of shows much.
While Nussle agreed, he also said he enjoys political intrigue on the screen.
"I love watching the movies and shows, and I probably watch them differently because of my experiences," Nussle said. "It's the same way a doctor might watch 'Grey's Anatomy' or a police officer might watch 'CSI.' It's interesting, and you watch and say 'that's plausible' or 'that's possible' or even 'that's a familiar experience,' but it's certainly not the norm."
Nussle and Mica were shown a scene from "The Distinguished Gentleman," a 1992 comedy where Eddie Murphy plays a con man who is elected to Congress. The scene showed a lobbyist pledging money to Murphy's character in exchange for favorable legislation.
Nussle said, "Typically what happens is that first you formulate your position, and it better be something that helps your district, because if you're not helping your constituents, you're not getting re-elected anyway. " He said support can come from positions you take, but "to have it in a one-minute scene makes it look unseemly and fails to show the entire evolution of the process."
The event moderator cited a story from a focus group conducted by then-Speaker of the House Tom Foley, where one of his constituents said he imagined congressmen traveling in limos, eating fancy foods and using utensils most of America has never heard of.
Both Mica and Nussle were able to refute at least one part of that view on the spot. Mica said he drove a used Oldsmobile during his tenure on the Hill, while Nussle said he traveled by Metro until inheriting a Pontiac Trans Am.
"TV and movies are great entertainment, but most of it isn't true," Mica said. "You want to see a real portrayal of Washington, tune in to C-SPAN."