Posted on Jan 24, 1997

Richard Fox, assistant professor of political science, was co-author with Teresa Ortega, of an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday in which the authors take issue with President Bill Clinton's appearance on a CBS TV movie drama.

The show, A Child's Wish, chronicled the economic and emotional hardship of a
family with a daughter stricken with cancer. The centerpiece of the show was the passage
of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the movie highlighted the long political process
leading up to passage of the act, first with the family's despair over President Bush's
veto, then with their celebration of Clinton's signing the act into law. The movie ends
with the dying girl getting her last wish — to meet the president, played by Clinton
himself in a special appearance. (The scene is a re-enactment of sorts; the girl's
character is actually a composite of two girls who met Clinton under similar

Fox and Ortega recognize that other presidents have made prime time appearances, but
write, “Many of these appearances carried no political agenda beyond simply
humanizing the politicians. But A Child's Wish disturbingly blurs the line between
this sort of public relations and political speech. Consider that CBS chose to air the
movie on the day after Clinton's second-term inauguration. Did CBS's executives aim to
capitalize on the inauguration to draw higher ratings?”

They conclude, “By choosing to act in a Hollywood production — in a film that
conflates reality with drama — President Clinton will be casting into doubt the sincerity
of his future 'performances' in press conferences, town hall meetings and other public
forums. With the election behind us, it is time we examine how television has changed the
office of the president — and how the office of the president is now changing