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How accurate is 'House of Cards?' Very, says President Clinton. (+video)

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(Read caption) Kevin Spacey: Bill Clinton backs accuracy of 'House of Cards'

In the Netflix series "House of Cards" Frank Underwood is a ruthless, Machiavellian politician, bent on obtaining absolute power. 

Underwood, played by actor Kevin Spacey, takes no half measures as he jockeys for position in Washington, and his risky dealings have earned the respect of someone who happens to know a thing or two about working in government.

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In an interview for Gotham Magazine, Spacey talked about playing poker with Bill Clinton while he was on the campaign trail in the 1990s, and he said the two of them are still good friends today.  

“He tells me, ‘I love that House of Cards,’” Spacey says in a pitch-perfect impression, which reminds you that the actor’s talent for mimicry is legendary.

However, there is one inaccuracy that the former president was quick to point out to Spacey. “Kevin, 99 percent of what you do on that show is real. The 1 percent you get wrong is you could never get an education bill passed that fast,” Spacey told Gotham, referring to a Season 1 plot point. 

Mr. Clinton is not the only Oval Office holder to embrace Underwood and his pragmatic approach to Washington's machinery, according to The Hill. President Obama said back in 2013 that he wished real-life Washington D.C. was as "ruthlessly efficient" as Underwood's.

An Emmy-winning program on the online TV service Netflix, House of Cards is a sometimes troubling exaggeration of a "broken" Washington rather than a realistic depiction of beltway policy-making. However, there are pieces of the show that are grounded in real D.C. dealings. The Atlantic's Alexis Coe cites a scene in which Underwood is caught on film, apparently admiring a passing female reporter, and its parallels to a 2009 photo of President Obama that was widely shared online. Coe also compared General David Petraeus's affair with his biographer to Underwood's affair with a reporter on the show. 

Legislation may be harder to come by in reality than on 'Cards' – the 113th Congress barley staved off becoming the least productive Congress in December by passing non-binding bills in a lame-duck session, according to the Washington Post. Underwood gets deals done with a whole lot of arm twisting, and remains steps ahead of his Washington peers.

Maybe that's why Clinton says Underwood could not get an education bill passed so quickly: In the real world, Washington is full of deft negotiators.


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