Take it from Michael Chertoff: The Homeland Security Department is no 24.

Chertoff, the department’s secretary, says he doesn’t have a way-cool, state-of-the-art Counter Terrorist Unit like the one on the Fox TV show. Bad guys aren’t foiled on an hourly basis. And not everybody is romantically involved with co-workers.

So by the time the clock stopped on a two-hour panel last week that included 24 cast members, Washington policy wonks and Rush Limbaugh, some mythical similarities between the show and the government’s counterterrorism campaign had been debunked.

And that was none too soon for Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays techno-chick Chloe O’Brian on 24, and clearly had her fill of those who take the show a mite too seriously.

“I got into acting to avoid politics and so I can remain in a fantasy world,” said Rajskub, who seemed bewildered at questions about how closely 24 cleaves to reality. “And you guys are kind of bringing me out of it.”

And so it went in the surreal meeting of Hollywood and Washington, sponsored by the Heritage Foundation think tank, about America’s image in the war on terror.

The star of 24, Kiefer Sutherland — that’s agent Jack Bauer — wasn’t there.

In one parallel between Homeland Security and the show, Chertoff spoke of the challenges in “trying to make the best choice with a series of bad options.”

Characters on 24 constantly face situations “where there is no clear magic bullet to solve the problem, and you have to weigh the cost benefits of a series of unpalatable alternatives,” he said.

“That is what we do every day.”

Limbaugh peppered the panel over whether 24 influences public perceptions about counterterrorism, and whether the actors are snubbed by Hollywood liberals for participating in what Limbaugh called a “pro-America show.”

Gregory Itzin, who plays the nefarious President Charles Logan, said he has had to defend himself from one or two people “about the fact that the show does have torture issues and how could I live with that.”

“It’s a show!” he said. “I’ve done Shakespeare and have killed people with a sword.”

Source: Associated Press

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