I know Popwatch isn’t so much the place y’all go for politics, but watching all the breathless coverage about the impending health care vote in Congress – Mitchell votes “Yes!” Altmire votes “No!” – just keeps reminding me of the 1995 Michael Douglas/Annette Bening romance The American President. In the pre-West-Wing-Aaron-Sorkin-scripted under-appreciated gem, Douglas plays widowed president Andrew Shepherd, who’s determined to pass a comprehensive crime bill, and Bening plays the spitfire environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade, who’s determined to pass a comprehensive climate bill. When they first meet, President Shepherd makes a deal with Ms. Wade: Her bill needs 34 votes to pass, and if she lands the first 24, he’ll get the last 10.
This being a movie, the two subsequently fall in love, but what I keep thinking about is the montage of legislative scrambling as the White House and Wade’s lobbying firm work to secure enough votes for their respective bills. Both offices have giant tear-away signs counting down the number of needed votes; each new “Yes” vote causes someone to rip down a number with satisfying gusto.
I can’t be the only one thinking about this movie this weekend, right? I’m not alone in looking at this chart of undecided representatives and imagining giant countdown easels hanging in the White House and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office, yes? It’s not just me?
Meanwhile, I’ve been unable to find a clip of that aforementioned vote collecting montage in The American President, but since it’s also one of the best old-fashioned Hollywood romantic movies of the last 20 years, here’s one of my favorite scenes from the film, when President Shepherd and Ms. Wade confront the sexual tension between them: