I've been a fan of the Netflix political drama "House of Cards" since I got hooked on the first episode and spent a night binge watching most of the first season on my computer while sitting at the kitchen table. For those who have never seen the show, it is the story of Frank and Claire Underwood and their nefarious rise to the top in American politics (imagine the Clintons in an incarnation as wicked and corrupt as the worst right-wing fantasy of Bill and Hillary).
As a veteran observer of politics, I'd argue the real political world is much closer to the comical incompetence and narcissistic careerism of "Veep." Still, the relentlessly dark, twisted, Machiavellian vision presented in "House of Cards" has kept me engaged through four seasons, despite increasingly more absurd plot lines. (Could Frank really have recovered from a liver transplant in a couple of weeks and then engineered the nomination of his wife as vice president?)
Of course, it is also silly to fault a television show for offering occasionally preposterous scenarios when the nation is in the middle of a real-life political campaign that is ridiculously bizarre. Could any screenwriter sell a script built on the idea that an obnoxious reality TV star could win the Republican nomination or that a 74-year-old socialist would become the darling of young voters or that serious presidential candidates would get into a public dispute about the size of their hands and private parts? Maybe as a "Saturday Night Live" skit.
Now Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has come up with a made-for-fiction stunt to advance the story of this farcical campaign. On Wednesday he named his running mate, Carly Fiorina.
There are multiple reasons this is goofy, most particularly the fact that losing candidates do not get to pick vice-presidential nominees. Mr. Cruz has no chance to amass enough delegates to win the GOP presidential nomination. His only dim hope of heading the Republican ticket is to prevent Donald Trump from arriving at the party's national convention in Cleveland with the 1,237 delegates necessary for victory and then to convince the convention to turn to him as their leader.
PickingMs. Fiorina is apparently meant to boost Cruz's chances of performing that political jujitsu. Naming a woman to run with him is not unwise, given that Mr. Trump is loathed by a majority of female voters, but Ms. Fiorina is a weird choice. Her own presidential campaign never got off the ground and her political track record consists of one campaign for the U.S. Senate in which she was trounced by California Sen. Barbara Boxer. There are several other female Republican officeholders who would be more appealing candidates and better vice presidents.
But that is in the rational world. In the altered reality of the 2016 campaign, it had to be Fiorina because she is already in the cast of characters, a secondary player whose one stellar moment was her acerbic response to Trump when he called her ugly. Just as "House of Cards' brought back characters from earlier seasons in the most recent episodes, the show runners for "Campaign 2016" had to find something for Carly to do.
There are show runners for the campaign, aren't there? All this entertainment can't possibly be happening all by itself.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go tolatimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.