I like politics and I like watching television, so naturally I love TV shows about Washington. The sentimental favorite, of course, is The West Wing, a show in which politics is about the Big Ideas and Big Issues that brought most of us to DC in the first place. The most exciting is House of Cards, where plots and intrigues keep you bingeing to the end. But the most realistic, by far, is HBO's Veep, which, though broad in its satirical arcs, correctly catches the absurdity and triviality that dominates the daily lives of the most important people in government.
The treasure trove of Hillary Clinton emails that have been dribbling out this year show just how profoundly right Armando Iannucci's show gets Washington.
The case of the gefilte fish
This missive prompted much guffawing and speculation from Jewish media Twitter on Monday night, as dreams of Clinton shopping for Seder dinner danced before our eyes. The reference is to a minor contretemps in which Clinton, at the behest of former Illinois Rep. Don Manzullo, was trying to get the Israeli ambassador to intercede with the Israeli government in order to allow a shipment of frozen carp to enter Israel for processing into gefilte fish balls before Passover.
Neither Ambassador Michael Oren nor Hillary Clinton thought this was an important issue worth spending time on, and yet both were inexorably sucked into a petty dispute of no actual significance.
Hillary gets an iPad
This is more or less an actual plot point from season four, episode eight of Veep. Frank Underwood never has technical problems.
Meanwhile, the capital of Ukraine has traditionally been spelled Kiev, but there's been a push more recently to spell it Kyiv, which is more a transliteration of the Ukrainian (as opposed to Russian) Cyrillic characters. Getting this wrong is exactly the sort of thing that could cause a pointless international controversy (see gefilte fish, above), so spelling it Kyev — which is wrong according to everyone — works as a nice compromise.
Making travel plans is hard
In this lengthy exchange, Secretary Clinton tries and fails to change her flight to New York.
Hillary can't Google
Veteran DC principals get so hooked on staff that they for some reason find it easier to send emails asking people to look things up for them than to simply Google the title of Human Rights Watch reports (or TV show start times) for themselves.
The IT department ruins everything
Here we see Clinton's devious plan to use an off-label email address and server essentially foiled by a lowly help desk employee who is confused by the whole thing.
Of course, this is not to say that nothing dark and conspiratorial ever happens in Washington.
Clinton did, after all, genuinely cook up a complicated scheme to circumvent the State Department's email procedures and route her work onto a private server. But while the House of Cards version of the email caper would have led to a secret backchannel communications path to some shadow operators, the Veep-y reality is that it completely backfired. Clinton, like most people, didn't want a lot of folks rifling through her emails. And yet for the past 12 hours that's exactly what every reporter in Washington has been doing — in part because there's no real news happening this week, but also because the cloak-and-dagger setup makes the emails themselves seem more interesting than they perhaps really are.