The Big Mac Blog

“House of Cards” borrows not from FDR but from a lesser known fictional president

President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey, left), and his chief of staff, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), make employment a priority in season three of “House of Cards.”
President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey, left), and his chief of staff, Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), make employment a priority in season three of “House of Cards.” AP

“House of Cards” sells itself as art imitating life, but in the case of one storyline from Season 3 of the wildly popular Netflix series, it settles to steal from art.

Having successfully viewed all of Season 3 of the Kevin Spacey/Robin Wright drama about White House and D.C. politics in roughly four days (it’s called work for a reason), the show continues to combine political intrigue with soapy drama that is like eating a bowl of Girl Scout cookies with cigarettes, Jack Daniels and cocaine. It feels so good when it hits your lips!

In Season 3, our fearless Democratic President Frank Underwood is trying to shove a domestic policy that is ostensibly rooted in the type of Liberal agenda originally set by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the ‘30s. On closer inspection, Underwood’s plan is actually stolen right from the playbook of former U.S. President Dave Kovic/Bill Mitchell in the ‘90s.

Underwood’s plan to save the U.S. economy is the ambitious “America Works” program, a policy designed to put Americans back to work. He uses all of the power of the Oval Office to steal from FEMA funds to start his program.

This is not FDR. This is Kovic/Mitchell.

In the underrated but eternally endearing 1993 movie “Dave”, Dave Kovic’s (Kevin Kline) overnight stint as a body double for President Bill Mitchell becomes an extended run after the real Prez’ has a stroke and slips into a coma. For the sake of appearances, Kline must stay in the job. Eventually he takes it seriously and becomes President Bill Mitchell.

Like Underwood, who “earned” his seat in the White House without the cast of a single vote, Kovic rose to power without actually having to go through a single campaign. Like “House of Cards”, the marriage between Mitchell and the First Lady is equally dysfunctional as the Underwood’s, minus the face slapping and choke holds.

The President’s domestic priority in both “House of Cards” and “Dave” is to put people back to work.

Near the end of “Dave”, the impersonating President announces an ambitious “program try to find a decent job for every American who wants one.” President Frank Underwood says nearly the exact same thing, verbatim, in season 3 of House of Cards.

Kovic/Mitchell’s plan was called the “Jobs Bill”; Underwood went with “America Works.”

Unemployment is so big that Hollywood still can’t fix it. According to this website, in 2015 U.S. unemployment is 5.1 percent. In 1993, it was 7.3 percent, and it dropped to 6.6 percent the following year.

By that calculation, Kovic/Mitchell’s plan to put people back to work was successful. Perhaps Underwood’s plan will have the same type of impact.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof