After Barack Obama was elected president, we were treated to plenty of stories about presidential security.
The accounts included that the public couldn’t get within blocks of Obama’s Chicago home, that a date for Barack and Michelle Obama involved several dozen Secret Service agents, and that security measures caused hours of delays at the inauguration.
When I was in Washington for the performances of Our Lincoln, a week after the inauguration, we were advised that if the president had announced in advance that he was coming to the show, the Kennedy Center would have been locked down for three days.
Now, with all that real-world information, we watch 24 and have to suspend disbelief as much as if we were watching a show about space aliens.
Some of the first “wait a minute” moments involved First Dude Henry Taylor (Colm Feore), the husband of the new president on the seventh season of 24, Allison Taylor, played by Cherry Jones. Trying to uncover the truth about his son’s death, he was running around Washington, having meetings in wide-open parks while guarded by a total of one Secret Service agent. That agent turned out to be a rogue operative who tried to kill Taylor as part of a conspiracy.
Throughout these scenes, you had to be thinking, there’s a reason the first family has more than one bodyguard.
It was implausible.
But implausibility reached new heights with last Monday’s two-hour episode. Gen. Benjamin Juma (Tony Todd) of the fictional war-torn African nation of Sangala led a siege on the White House in an effort to persuade the president to stop military action opposing Juma’s terrorist regime. Juma already has caused a mid-air plane collision that killed more than 300 and has kidnapped the First Dude, who at this point in the show is in surgery for a gunshot suffered as our hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) was rescuing him.
Monday night, when Juma and a small band of commandos launched that attack on the White House and the president, it seemed all too easy.
Among the implausibilities:
■ The attack was launched through an underwater, basement entrance to the White House. Underwater? Anyone who’s been around the White House knows it’s several blocks from water. In a teleconference, executive director Howard Gordon admitted that the idea was based on a “what if” scenario.
■ For a White House on high alert, there was very little barrier between Juma’s men and President Taylor: a few men in suits hanging around in the hall.
■ Jack Bauer whisks President Taylor into a lockdown room that apparently has no communication with the outside world and no weaponry to protect the commander-in-chief. The whole episode made you wonder: Doesn’t anyone carry a cell phone in the White House? Meanwhile, the president sits trapped, and a weasel of a vice president orders nothing to be done.
■ The commanders on the ground are apparently a pair of FBI agents, Larry Moss (Jeffrey Nordling) and Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), who have been key characters in this episode. This falls into the Luke Skywalker-leading-the-attack-on-the-Death-Star category of implausibility. You would think that, with foreign soldiers in the White House, the military would be in charge.
I could go on — the enormous number of traitors this little rogue nation has apparently planted in the government and military, the thinly protected communications in the FBI headquarters, and so on.
To be sure, this has been an action-packed, suspenseful season of 24 that I will definitely watch until 8:59 a.m., when Bauer presumably will be due back in front of a Senate hearing on his interrogation methods. But we will have to believe that this is happening in a very different Washington, D.C., and White House from the one we know.