WASHINGTON Decades in Washington are bound to make any lawmaker a little cynical, but former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., says Netflix's hit drama "House of Cards" goes too far.
He compliments the show's acting in a recent column for the Portland Press Herald, but dismisses the series as a "cartoon version of congressional reality."
The biggest problem, Frank argues, is that those outside of Congress will assume art imitates real life.
"What troubles me is that people will watch this, think that this is the way government functions and be further disillusioned from trying to influence it," he wrote in the Aug. 18 column. "I hope people will enjoy the drama, but ignore the message."
The show, which is darkly funny, follows the career of the fictional Rep. Francis Underwood, a South Carolina Democrat who functions as House majority whip.
"In one respect it treats politicians or rather one politician with far too much respect," Frank said, referring to the Underwood character. "His strategies were brilliant; his tactics superbly executed; his ability to manipulate everybody else in government the speaker of the House, the president and other members of Congress unchallenged and wholly unrealistic."
He added: "In other respects, 'House of Cards' demeans the democratic process in ways that are unfair, inaccurate, and if they were to be believed by a substantial number of the public, deeply unfortunate. The character is wholly amoral. He has no political principles, either substantive or procedural. There is no issue about which he cares; no tactic he will not employ, no matter how unfair it is to others; and he is thoroughly dishonest. I have never met anyone in a position of power in Congress who resembles that caricature."
Still, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the real life majority whip in the House, said in jest earlier this month that it's unfortunate Congress does not mirror the television show referencing an episode where Underwood (spoiler alert!) actually kills another congressman.
"He literally murders one member. If I could murder one member, I'd never have to worry about another vote," joked McCarthy, who as whip is responsible for ensuring enough votes for Republican measures.