So I finally finished The Wire last night. Since I was watching the first four seasons when the fifth aired earlier this year, I had to wait until the DVD set came out on August 12th, and more specifically until Netflix stocked it. Suffice it to say, it was worth the wait. The newsroom was unrealistic, yes, particularly with my time at the Prospect at the back of my head. But I don’t think anyone would doubt that budget cuts, paper consolidation, and the general economics of the industry make responsible newspaper journalism next to impossible, which is the overall point of that plot thread. And yes, the main McNulty/Freamon storyline (which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t watched the show yet) was wildly implausible, but it wasn’t meant to be. Think of it as the sociological equivalent of isotopic labeling: just as sending a radioactive particle through an organism shows the inner workings of the organism better than the naked eye can, McNulty and Freamon’s plan illuminated the workings and fundamental corruption of the system in Baltimore better than a more realistic plotline would have. It was a fitting, if entirely depressing, ending to what is (yes) the greatest achievement in television history.
Anyway, since I finished the series I thought I ought to read through the Prospect‘s four-part (one, two, three, four) discussion of the fifth season. In light of John McCain’s recent VP selection, this section from Matt Yglesias stuck out:
Given everything we’ve seen portrayed about the state of Baltimore under Tommy Carcetti, why on earth would he be considered a viable gubernatorial candidate? Two years as mayor seems like a thin resume in general, and they’ve hardly been wildly successful, popularity-inducing years.
Kay Steiger follows up on this:
As for Tommy Carcetti, when I went to a David Simon event last week, he said Carcetti is based on Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, a Baltimore mayor who fudged his crime stats all the way to Annapolis. (Simon, by the way, admits that he voted for the guy. He was the Democrat, after all.) But this isn’t quite a fair comparison for Simon to make. O’Malley put in his time, serving two full terms as mayor of Baltimore before his gubernatorial run. There’s no way if Carcetti were a real candidate he’d get away with running a city (poorly) for just two years and be considered qualified to run for the statehouse.
Note that Baltimore, Maryland has a population of about 640,000 people, slightly less than Alaska’s 680,000. It was patently obvious to Matt and Kay that two years as the chief executive of an area that size isn’t qualification enough to run Maryland, much less the United States. Food for thought.