'Law & Order' Politics

The theme from "Law & Order" is not exactly "Hail to the Chief," but that was the music that swelled in the background as former Republican senator -- and "Law & Order" star -- Fred Thompson took center stage in California Friday, May 4, at the Lincoln Club of Orange County's 45th annual dinner.

"Ever wonder why when so many of our problems are getting larger, so many of our politicians are getting smaller?" Thompson quipped from the podium.

If you have any one of the 500 cable channels that play continual reruns of "Law & Order," you'll see Thompson playing District Attorney Arthur Branch on the hit NBC show, a venue for his folksy charm as sure as a GOP rubber-chicken dinner.

Remarkably, Thompson is only one of the fictitious prosecutors Americans have come to know and trust since "Law & Order" first hit the airwaves 17 years ago who are now trying to influence real life law and order.

The Politics of 'Law & Order'

While historically many politicians have run as law and order candidates -- tough-on-crime types -- Thompson is a whole different kind of "Law & Order" candidate.

Actor Sam Waterston has served as Thompson's underling -- Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy -- since Thompson joined the show in 2002. Waterston, who has been on the show since 1994, is also heavily involved in the Unity '08 campaign -- a movement to create a bipartisan presidential ticket to solve the nation's problems.

"This is a general situation where the Republicans and the Democrats both are stuck in this system that drives them to the wings of their parties. Something needs to be down to break it," Waterston says.

Through Unity '08, Waterston says anyone can become a delegate by logging on to the Web site and voting online in the primary next spring.

But Waterston says he would "never ever" be a candidate, even if he was drafted by online voters. "If you were drafted, you have to be willing to run, and that's not me. Yeah, that's not me."

Of a potential Fred Thompson presidential candidacy, Waterston says, "I think he's a good man. I think it very much depends on what policies he was tied to and what obligations he had to incur to become a nominee. That's what Unity '08 is about, those obligations."

Disunity for Some Cast Characters

One White House hopeful who will likely not be on the Unity '08 ticket is Waterston's predecessor on "Law & Order," actor Michael Moriarty, who played Executive Assistant District Attorney Benjamin Stone.

Moriarty left the show under uncomfortable circumstances in 1994, claiming then-attorney general Janet Reno was trying to censor television.

Since then, his interest in controversy only seems to have increased. He says he's running a write-in campaign for president as a member of the Realists 2008 party.

A staunch conservative and opponent of abortion rights, Moriarty lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and holds some interesting conspiracy theories, including one about 9/11.

"My theory is that Bush talked to the bin Laden family in Riyadh," Moriarty recently said on the conservative radio show "Deadline Live With Jack Blood"

The colony the legal drama created for these candidates and activists has graduated to a full-on political scale.

As one surveys the options from right to left -- Moriarty's realists to Thompson's Republicans to Waterston's bipartisan ticket -- just be grateful it's "Law & Order" and not "American Idol."