Tom DeLay. Ronnie Earle. Harriet Miers. Their names are synonymous with the current political drama unfolding in Congress today. Whether it’s one’s alleged misdeeds, intentions or qualifications, each is under the microscope — and the public is watching them react as others have before, whether in history or Hollywood.
There’s a character that bears similarities to DeLay, Earle or Miers featured in many films, battling in the courtroom or before the Senate. But three films — “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “The Contender” and “Presumed Innocent” — stand out as examples of each character and his or her situation, somewhat comparable to the real deals.
‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’
Embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) brings to mind Larry Flynt, as portrayed by Woody Harrelson, in “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” Bear with us — let’s get some obvious differences out of the way right now.
No, DeLay did not create a free speech porn industry, and no, he is not an atheist. But Flynt and DeLay share one major thing in common: In their rise as public — and publicly scrutinized — figures, they both became larger than life. Flynt grew seemingly untouchable with his constant courtroom shenanigans, whether it was fighting to uphold the freedom of speech in very unusual ways or just being a “smut peddler.” The film accurately depicts the love-hate relationship that people had with Flynt.
DeLay has been a central figure in GOP power both in D.C. and his home state of Texas, where his influence helped reshape Texas Congressional districts favorably for Republicans following the 2003 elections.
Also like Flynt, DeLay is sharp-tongued and a strong defender of his beliefs in what is right and what is wrong, and not just when it comes to his personal life. This quality was demonstrated earlier this year when DeLay fought to draft a bill forcing doctors to reinsert the feeding tube for Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, and bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Of course, if we were more cynical we might also steer the erstwhile Majority Leader to Steven Spielberg’s forgotten 1974 film “The Sugarland Express,” an offbeat tale of an ill-conceived prison break that takes place in his district.
While Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is not in the running for Vice President Cheney’s job, she, like the character Sen. Laine Hanson (D-Ohio) in “The Contender,” is up for examination in a series of Senate confirmation hearings.
Actress Joan Allen starred as Hanson in the 2000 film, which features a fantastic depiction of hearings ripe with attacks on the nominee’s sex life, religious beliefs and more.
Miers, according to President Bush, is a woman of strong conviction, and the same is true for fictitious Sen. Hanson. While it is unknown what will become unearthed in Miers’ confirmation hearings set for Nov. 7, there won’t be an exact copy of what happened in the Hanson hearings.
The only Miers “scandal” on record is one about her “thank-you” notes. Recently, Miers’ correspondence has been the talk of critics who indicate that her rise through the ranks in the Texas legislature was, in part, due to her etiquette-conscious thank-you letters to then-Gov. George W. Bush.
One thing is for sure about the difference between the two women: Miers’ conclusion won’t be a tear-inducing, Hollywood-happy ending a la “The Contender,” featuring Hanson’s withdrawal and then, a surprising immediate confirmation to serve as vice president.
According to his Web site, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is tough on prosecution. Similarly, Harrison Ford’s character in the 1990s thriller “Presumed Innocent” is a prosecutor who is tough on crime.
Ford, who plays Rusty Sabich, chief deputy prosecuting attorney, is a stern, serious and uncompromising man, both in his courtroom and personal life.
Earle also has that ferocious tenacity. In late September he was responsible for the charges brought on DeLay and two associates, who were indicted for “allegedly attempting to evade Texas’ ban on the use of corporate campaign donations in state races.”
The Texas prosecutor also brings to mind the prosecuting attorney played by James Carville in “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” Like Carville’s character, Simon Leis, Earle has a strong Southern drawl and moral conviction.
In the film, Leis is the first to prosecute Flynt for his charges of “pandering obscenities in Cincinnati, Ohio, and engaging in organized crime.” In his prosecution, Leis attacks Flynt’s moral grounds and his lack of decency in publishing Hustler Magazine.
Earle’s convictions are made clear in a 2004 New York Times op-ed posted on his Web site: “The open contempt for moral values by our elected officials has a corrosive effect. It is a sad day for law enforcement when Congress offers such poor leadership on moral values and ethical behavior,” he wrote.