5 'House of Cards' Plot Lines That Really Happened
Its February 14th, and you know what that means! That's right: House of Cards returns for a second season. Also, Valentine's Day, but who has time for that bullshit when House of Cards is on. Sorry ladies.
The Netflix original series follows the exploits of a corrupt congressman named Frank Underwood and his ruthless pursuit of power. The show has everything: murder, hookers, water towers shaped like female genitalia, and even a little bit of politics thrown in for good measure.
And while some of the plot lines can seem unbelievable, in many cases, similar events have actually happened to real-world politicians. For example, I have it on good authority that Nancy Pelosi gives long, meandering monologues to no one in particular, just like Frank. Probably.
"Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak. Or just have crazy eyes!"
Don't believe me? See for your god damned self! Here are five other (real) examples of House of Cards plot lines playing out in real life.
My Wife The Beard
What’s so shocking about a politician cheating on his wife? Absolutely nothing. But on House of Cards, there’s a twist. Frank’s wife Claire is cool with it (provided it’s for a higher political purpose). That’s super awesome of her, but political wives often look the other way on affairs and “stand by their man” in the midst of a sex scandal. So again, we need another twist. How about Frank being gay? Yeah, that’ll do.
In the series' eighth episode, it was heavily implied that Frank had a romantic relationship with a fellow cadet at his military college, which means he's probably bisexual, which is college for Gay. That means that not only is Claire Underwood looking the other way on her partner’s infidelity, but she’s also acting as his beard. That’s pretty crazy. But has a wife knowingly acted as a beard in recent American politics?
Dina Matos McGreevey
In 2004, New Jersey Governor James McGreevey admitted that he had cheated on his wife with a man. He probably could have gotten away with it if he hadn’t appointed the man in question as a homeland security adviser despite the fact that he was grossly unqualified, but that’s a story for another article. But what is worth noting is that his wife, Dina Matos, claimed to be shocked by the revelation, and eventually filed for divorce. That seems reasonable, except for one small detail: all the three-way sex she was having (and not the “good” kind of three-way sex).
In 2008, the McGreeveys’ former limo driver, Theodore Pedersen, grew tired of Matos constantly playing the victim card with the press, and came forward with wild stories involving group sex with both the former governor and his wife. Pedersen claims that their sexual encounters happened with such regularity that the trysts became known as the “Friday Night Special,” a nickname made funnier (creepier?) by the fact that the group would often start off their f*ck fests with dinner at a local T.G.I. Friday's. After all, nothing screams gangbang like a plate of loaded potato skins.
As you’d expect, Matos denied the claims, while her husband confirmed them. And while it’s possible that Pedersen could be lying, I have a hard time believing anyone would pick T.G.I. Friday's as the starting point for a fictional group-sexual encounter. That makes Dina Matos a willing beard, in my book.
Off The Record DUI
In the first episode of House of Cards, Congressman Peter Russo is arrested for driving drunk. The hooker police found in his passenger seat also didn't help matters. But in exchange for loyalty, Frank Underwood used his connections within the Washington, D.C. police department to free Russo without charges being filed.
I imagine this sort of thing happens all the time. Powerful, well-connected people have an uncanny knack for sweeping their indiscretions under the rug. But therein lays the problem. The whole point of sweeping something under the rug is to prevent shitheads like me from finding out and making jokes about it on the Internet. But luckily, we have a real life example that didn't remain completely under wraps.
Patrick J. Kennedy
On May 4, 2006, Patrick J. Kennedy, son of the late, great (at drinking alcohol to excess) Ted Kennedy, was out for a leisurely drive at 2:45 am. According to Sgt. Kenneth Weaver, Kennedy's vehicle was “traveling at a high rate of speed in a construction zone and also swerving into the wrong lane of travel" with its lights off. Weaver was forced take "evasive maneuvers” to avoid hitting Kennedy’s car, and when he began to pursue, the congressmen’s vehicle did not stop until it “collided head-on with a vehicle barrier.”
When confronted by Capitol Police, Kennedy claimed was “late for a vote.” This seemed unlikely, considering that voting had ended six-hours earlier. What seemed more likely was that Kennedy was as drunk as a friggen Kennedy, which would make sense since witnesses placed him at the Hawk and Dove bar earlier in the night, and he is a Kennedy.
But rather than beating and tasering the congressman as they would have done to an average drunken citizen who almost hit a cop car, officers were ordered by superiors to forgo the field sobriety test and to give Kennedy a ride home, which they did. Kennedy then spent several minutes attempting to open a gate until he realized he was trying to enter the wrong house. Whatever pills he was on, I want some
Luckily for the public, the officers involved were unhappy with the fact that they were ordered to give the congressman special treatment, and the information made its way to the press. But the fact that Kennedy was not given a field sobriety test meant that he was free to concoct any excuse he wanted. He settled on a bad reaction to prescription drugs, and chalked the whole incident up to “sleep driving.” After a brief stint in rehab, he eventually plead guilty to driving under the influence of prescription medication, and received probation.
Teachers Union Showdown
Early on in House of Cards, Frank Underwood is tasked with passing the President’s Education Reform bill. However, issues such as teacher performance standards and charter schools bring him into conflict with a powerful teachers union and its leader, Marty Spinella. This eventually leads to a national teachers strike, making fictional children everywhere very happy.
The labor dispute is eventually ended by Frank’s underhanded tactics, which include staging an attack on his own home and exploiting the death of a young boy, not to mention gay-baiting Spinella into a fist fight. On a side note, the term “cock breath” should really be used more often in everyday conversation.
While strikes from private sector workers are protected by federal law, laws regarding strikes by public employees vary from state to state, making the risk of a truly national teacher’s strike implausible. However, the events depicted in the show did bear similarities to the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, specifically in regard to issues such as performance standards and charter schools. Not to mention the fact that the personal animosity between Frank Underwood and Marty Spinella is reminiscent of the relationship between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis.
Lewis accused Emanuel of directing a barrage of f-bombs at her during a meeting in 2011. However, unlike the Underwood/ Spinella confrontation, the Emanuel/Lewis (Webster, anyone?) meeting ended in a hug. However, there was no word on whether Emanuel, like Frank Underwood, caught a whiff of cock on her breath during the hug, but I like to think that he did.
AIPAC Your Bags, Buddy
,p>When we first meet Frank Underwood, he is poised to become the Secretary of State. But his hopes are soon dashed when he discovers President Walker is passing him over in favor of Senator Michael Kern. As you can imagine, this doesn’t sit well with Frank, who quickly sets out to destroy his rival by painting him as anti-Israel.
While Kern was editor of his college newspaper, it ran an unsigned editorial critical of the Israeli government. Despite the fact that Kern did not write the piece, Underwood uses his media contacts to press the issue. Kern’s inability to diffuse the situation, along with a bizarre laugh reminiscent of the Howard Dean scream, quickly ends his tenure as Secretary of State before it even begins.
It turns out that when it comes to torpedoing someone’s political ambitions, painting them as anti-Israel is a pretty effective strategy. When Barack Obama nominated Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, he was painted as having views that "verged on anti-Semitic" by his opponents. The accusations failed to derail his nomination, although Hagel does have the dubious distinction of being the first Secretary of Defense nominee to have been filibustered.
Charles W. Freeman Jr. was not so lucky. His nomination to chair the National Intelligence Council was withdrawn after critics successfully painted him as hostile to Israel, a charge that is either ludicrous or completely accurate depending on your politics.
The Vetter Has Become The Vetted
Toward the end of Season 1, Frank Underwood is tasked with vetting potential candidates for the Vice Presidency, a role he secretly covets for himself. This job takes him to Missouri (which is never where you want your job to take you) in order to vet a billionaire named Raymond Tusk. After several fruitless days of trying to pin Tusk down, Frank realizes that the true purpose of the trip was not for him to vet Tusk, but rather for Tusk, who is secretly friends with the president, to vet him. This plot line might seem far fetched, but it closely mirrors what happened to Dick Cheney during the 2000 presidential election.
Like Undewood, Cheney lead the vice-presidential search committee for George W. Bush. And like Underwood, Cheney was chosen as the nominee over the candidates he was vetting. Of course, we have no way of knowing if Cheney, like Underwood, was secretly manipulating the situation to his advantage, or if Bush just felt he was the most qualified. And in all fairness, when has Cheney ever been accused of manipulating a situation for his own sinister purposes?
Oh, right. He was accused of that shit every other day.