There is only hope.
September 21, 2008 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Have we seen this election before? Life imitates art as the current election cycle continues to echo the fictional 2006 Preisdential Election on The West Wing. Will the debates then be live and unmoderated like the seventh season episode "The Debate"? Will the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate suffer the same fate? And what would two-term President Josiah Bartlett say to Senator Barack Obama? (Final link warning: fan fiction by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin)
posted by crossoverman (52 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Major spoilers for The West Wing. No spoilers for the current election.
posted by crossoverman at 5:14 AM on September 21, 2008


I just read the MO'D piece and lolled till I smirked. It's very smooth, very intelligent and also full of hope. Which is nice.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:27 AM on September 21, 2008


What means it "MO'd"
posted by Mister_A at 6:02 AM on September 21, 2008


MO'D = Maureen Dowd
posted by piratebowling at 6:10 AM on September 21, 2008


I've watched Vinick, I've bought box-sets with Vinick, and you sir are no Vinick.
posted by WPW at 6:15 AM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Will Martin Sheen bow his head in thought, hands clasped in his lap, and then raise his chin resolutely when he has reached a decision?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:30 AM on September 21, 2008


I watched the Vinick-Santos debate episode on YouTube a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. I realized that America would be much better off if there was even the slightest possibility of such an unscripted discussion occurring, instead of the exact opposite.

(I also realized that I'm a hopeless political dork.)
posted by Rhaomi at 6:35 AM on September 21, 2008


Politics aside, *dammit* that last link makes me nostalgic for the old Sorkin-written episodes of The West Wing...
posted by Oops at 6:36 AM on September 21, 2008 [5 favorites]




Except in The West Wing the Democrats made fun of a speaker at the Republican Convention for using the corny "eight is enough" line. In real life they praised Obama for it. Apparently TV Democrats hate TV references more than real Democrats.
posted by aswego at 7:04 AM on September 21, 2008


It isn't fan fiction if you wrote the original.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:10 AM on September 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Except in The West Wing the Democrats made fun of a speaker at the Republican Convention for using the corny "eight is enough" line. In real life they praised Obama for it. Apparently TV Democrats hate TV references more than real Democrats.

Well, I'm pretty sure the West Wing world had eight good years of Bartlett, instead of eight incredibly awful years of Bush. So, yeah, I can see how that would be comparable.
posted by graventy at 7:22 AM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


A embarrassingly-bad presidential campaign imitates an equally embarrassingly-bad TV show.
posted by Zambrano at 7:34 AM on September 21, 2008


1. Vinick actually continued to be a "maverick." He didn't cave in to the worst of his party like McCain.

2. It's bad taste, at a minimum, to speculate about the death of a healthy VP candidate, whether this election has parallels to the show or not.

3. West Wing:Real U.S. Politics::USS Enterprise:The Space Shuttle.
(The Enterprise D. The Space Shuttle Challenger.)

4. Will next week's Dowd column have the Matthew Perry character from Studio 60 give advice to Lorne Michaels?

5. It's a dick move, I know, to comment in numbered lists. And to use the SAT analogy format. I apologize.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:58 AM on September 21, 2008


Did Sorkin actually provide this to Dowd, or was that part of the conceit setting up the dialog?
posted by WCityMike at 8:29 AM on September 21, 2008


5. It's a dick move, I know, to comment in numbered lists. And to use the SAT analogy format. I apologize.

The damage has already been done.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2008


I miss the West Wing. I've always been so sad that WW deserted me in the middle of the worst presidency I hope I ever have to remember.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:52 AM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The best part of the West Wing dialog was that it took the place of an actual Maureen Dowd column.
posted by Nattie at 8:58 AM on September 21, 2008 [8 favorites]


Also, in the West Wing, the only reason Santos won was because of a god from the machine, ie. the massively implausible nuclear accident. How is it even a presidential contest when the second-worst nuclear accident of all time happens during the election cycle at a plant actually signed off by one of the candidates? I would much rather have seen them write a campaign where the democrats actually have to be competent to win.
posted by Authorized User at 9:13 AM on September 21, 2008


I think it is funny that our debates are more scripted than the entirely scripted debates of a tv show. And by funny I mean I'm buying canned food and bottled water.
posted by I Foody at 9:14 AM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


the massively implausible nuclear accident.

As opposed to the collapse of several Wall Street giants (who survived the Depression) resulting in the largest bankruptcy (by a factor of 5) ever in the history of the US?

Yeah, life imitates art.
posted by kimdog at 9:19 AM on September 21, 2008


I would much rather have seen them write a campaign where the democrats actually have to be competent to win.

Except that truly effective writing still needs to have at least a small toe dangling in reality.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:54 AM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The West Wing" was never a realistic drama about how Government works. It was a fantasy about how Aaron Sorkin wished Government worked. I didn't buy the premise for a minute and I'm pretty much the opposite of an Anti-Government Libertarian.

When West Wing fans saw real Democratic Presidential candidates (Gore and Kerry) who were less entertaining than President Bartlett, a lot of voters lost enthusiasm. George Bush Jr. thanks you very much, Aaron. Senator Obama decided to go for the gold ring after Santos had won the fictional election on WW. Has his campaign style been Jimmy-Smits-inspired all along?

In "Benson", a sassy-mouthed butler hired to manage the Governor's mansion worked his way up to become Lieutenant Governor. In "Air Force One", President Harrison Ford kicked terrorists off his plane. And both of those were about as realistic as "The West Wing".
posted by wendell at 10:00 AM on September 21, 2008


Also, in the West Wing, the only reason Santos won was because of a god from the machine, ie. the massively implausible nuclear accident.

It's worse than that. One of the executive producers of the show claimed that the only reason Santos won was because they didn't think that viewers could handle the emotional strain of both John Spencer's passing and a Vinick victory. So they rewrote the episode. A metadeus ex machina, if you will.
posted by JohnFredra at 10:14 AM on September 21, 2008


McCain's RNC speech backdrop was used in Matt Santos' presidential announcement

That still cracks me up. What a fuck up.
posted by homunculus at 10:27 AM on September 21, 2008


Also, Lucy and Peppermint Patty are secretly gay lovers.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2008


Also, Lucy and Peppermint Patty are secretly gay lovers.

I totally fucking knew it.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2008


Also, Lucy and Peppermint Patty are secretly gay lovers.

It's a secret?
posted by brundlefly at 12:01 PM on September 21, 2008


I would much rather have seen them write a campaign where the democrats actually have to be competent to win.

The incompetent-Democrats meme has gone around for years now, but lately I've been questioning it. What would competent Democrats look like? Would it just mean them doing the same kind of dirty tricks (impeachment, base pandering, Swift Boating, that DVD going into newspapers, challenging election rolls, etc.) the Republicans engage in? Is there any good way to respond to those tricks without stooping to them?
posted by JHarris at 1:31 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


2. It's bad taste, at a minimum, to speculate about the death of a healthy VP candidate, whether this election has parallels to the show or not.

Is it then also bad taste to speculate about the death of a President in terms of his choice of an unqualified hockey mom as his running mate?
posted by Dave Faris at 1:34 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


In "Benson", a sassy-mouthed butler hired to manage the Governor's mansion worked his way up to become Lieutenant Governor. In "Air Force One", President Harrison Ford kicked terrorists off his plane. And both of those were about as realistic as "The West Wing".

And a PTA mom from a strip mall suburb has somehow ended up as a Vice Presidential nominee,meanwhile the current Vice Presidenthas been running his own shadow presidency under the noses of God, the press and everybody.And he would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you pesky kids.

Reality always outdoes fiction, so we can't really fault fiction for being fiction.

In Aesops fables, Ants talked to grasshoppers. Doesn't make the lessons any less relevant.

Watching Sarah Palin's interview with Charlie Gibson, as she valiantly parroted talking points in the place of real insight, i couldn't help but remember a scene from the West Wing...

These are important thinkers, and understanding them can be
very useful and it's not ever going to happen at a four-hour seminar. When the President's got
an embassy surrounded in Haiti, or a keyhole photograph of a heavy water reactor, or any of the
fifty life-and-death matters that walk across his desk every day, I don't know if he's thinking
about Immanuel Kant or not. I doubt it, but if he does, I am comforted at least in my certainty
that he is doing his best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets. Is it possible we
would be willing to require any less of the person sitting in that chair?


Does the real deputy chief of staff talk like that? I doubt it. Is it a valid and real point about politics today. very much so.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:35 PM on September 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just procured the first season of this show. The writing is frequently brilliant. I've no idea why I haven't given it a chance earlier.
posted by flippant at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did Sorkin actually provide this to Dowd, or was that part of the conceit setting up the dialog?

Dowd had Stephen Colbert write her column once, so there's precedent for that.

And the cadence is just too close to Sorkin's writing to be anyone else. I've seen attempts at replicating Sorkin's style, but the turns of phrase in this and specific points made are 100% Sorkin.
posted by crossoverman at 2:31 PM on September 21, 2008


[flippant] "Just procured the first season of this show."
Good as it is, just wait until the next one, which begins and ends in ways I think are just breathtaking.
[billyfleetwood] "Reality always outdoes fiction, so we can't really fault fiction for being fiction."
Yeah, it's Aristotle all over the place.
posted by genghis at 2:52 PM on September 21, 2008


meanwhile the current Vice President has been running his own shadow presidency under the noses of God, the press and everybody.And he would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for you pesky kids.

Oh no, he's going to get away with it. He's not even a member of the executive any more! He's out there commando-stylee.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2008


George W Bush goin' commando? No silk boxers? I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

I'll get me coat.
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:37 PM on September 21, 2008


Oh no, he's going to get away with it. He's not even a member of the executive any more!

If Sorkin or John Wells had written that into The West Wing, we would have all said the show "jumped the shark".

Man, this President jumped the shark six years ago, but it still got renewed and won't get canceled for months yet!
posted by crossoverman at 7:38 PM on September 21, 2008


I'm a huge fan of the West Wing, so predictably, that bit worked for me. I loved it. Two bits in particular.

This first is a bit that's been bugging me for a while, and I was glad to see Jon Stewart address it a few months back.

"where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average."

God, seriously, that. I am only barely resisting the QFT (oops).

Plus this standard Sorkin, which still gives me a bit of the shivers:

"OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”


One can only hope.
posted by aclevername at 8:58 PM on September 21, 2008


OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

Hmm. The "wait for it." The "by the way." The "How is ____ a ____?" Its Bartlett talking to Lyman there... Yeah, its just a TV show, but you know. It was a fairly well above average TV show thanks!
posted by SomeOneElse at 8:59 PM on September 21, 2008


the only reason Santos won was because of a god from the machine

This is Metafilter. You can say deus ex machina, if that's what you mean, without anyone rolling their eyes or looking confused. Anyone worth listening to.

And who the heck says 'a god from the machine', anyway? Oh, modern education, how I hate you!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:18 PM on September 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


Has his campaign style been Jimmy-Smits-inspired all along?

Actually, Sorkin has said that Santos was based on Obama. And it's certainly no secret that Vinick was based on McCain. Slate actually had a great video on this very topic during the primaries. And some people have pointed out how Sorkinesque Obama's convention speech was. To me, Sarah Palin also seems like a character right outta Sorkin's brain.
posted by lunasol at 9:18 PM on September 21, 2008


Actually, Sorkin has said that Santos was based on Obama.

No, he didn't. Santos was created after Sorkin left the series. But it is true, Santos was based on Obama and his 2004 Convention speech.

To me, Sarah Palin also seems like a character right outta Sorkin's brain.

His characters have more depth.
posted by crossoverman at 9:25 PM on September 21, 2008


I wish I could see that dialogue filmed for TV, with Bartlett and Obama having their chat as they speed-walk together around Bartlett's house.

Also, Sorkin should have stuck in an "I'm saying..." or two.
posted by emelenjr at 9:31 PM on September 21, 2008


from season 1: On Gubernatorial Foreign Policy Experience

Bartlet: It's not like I'm totally without experience, you know.

MORRIS: Yes, sir.

BARTLET: You're talking to a former governor. I was commander-in-chief of the New Hampshire National Guard.

MORRIS: You guys got into a lot of tough scrapes, did you?

BARTLET: Didn't have to. We'd just stand on the border and stare you down. Then we'd all go for pancakes.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:36 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish I could see that dialogue filmed for TV, with Bartlett and Obama having their chat as they speed-walk together around Bartlett's house.

I expect, by now, no more speed walking for poor old President Bartlett - what with having to use a cane and all.
posted by crossoverman at 11:05 PM on September 21, 2008


a god from the machine

I assumed he meant a RedBull from the Coke Machine down the hall. What? No, it didn't make sense but Caffeine is my god of choice.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:50 AM on September 22, 2008


BARTLET.
posted by Tehanu at 8:40 AM on September 22, 2008


It isn't fan fiction if you wrote the original.

It can be, and this is.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:38 AM on September 22, 2008


I love this quote. Would probably backfire in real life. But still.

"Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor." -- Matt Santos, The West Wing
posted by Slagman at 9:03 PM on September 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


The final link is pretty neat since it shows one of Sorkin's influences -- James Goldman's script for The Lion in Winter.

Bartlet to Obama (Sorkin): "You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained."

Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II (Goldman): "For these ten years you've lived with everything I've lost, and loved another woman through it all, and I am cruel? I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice!"

Bartlet to Obama (Sorkin): "You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like."

Henry II to Philip II (Goldman): "I found out the way your mind works and the kind of man you are. I know your plans and expectations - you've burbled every bit of strategy you've got. I know exactly what you will do, and exactly what you won't, and I've told you exactly nothing. To these aged eyes, boy, that's what winning looks like!"

James Goldman and his brother certainly shared some talents. Oh, hell. If you like good dialogue, just rent it. Bonus: Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn!
posted by amery at 9:23 PM on September 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


God I miss Aaron Sorkin's West Wing. Post-Arron Sorkin West Wing, not so much.
posted by zardoz at 4:39 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]




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