Sunday, November 03, 2002

 
"THE WEST WING": A POLITICAL FANTASY

Though I like "The West Wing," I haven't been able to see it that much this season. However, someone played me an episode he'd taped (I assume it was this week's show), and I was disappointed that the writers seemed to avoid showing a very important aspect of what has happened to our political/media system in recent years.

The main plot had to do with President Bartlett preparing for the last debate with his Republican opponent, played by James Brolin. During the debate, the Republican sounded an awful lot like Shrub did in his debates, with lots of empty platitudes and meaningless rhetoric. At one point, he even said something close to Shrub's "It's your money" in reference to taxes. Bartlett creamed him by challenging him to give the voters specifics on how he was gonna manage the budget. When the debate was over, the Republican knew it was all over for him and admitted as much to Bartlett.

Now, I don't have that much of a problem with that ending, even though it was obviously poetic license to portray a Republican who would actually admit to his opponent that he'd been beaten in a debate. But there was an elephant in the living room that was missing from the script: the pundits, aka The Beltway Bloviators.

If "The West Wing" mirrored reality more closely, as soon as the debate was over, it would've cut immediately to the talking heads, who would then inform us that the Republican obviously won because he managed to get through the entire debate with President Bartlett without once making a serious blunder. After all, Bartlett is a much more experienced and skilled debater, and he wasn't able to crush the Republican completely. Also, according to the pundits, many voters will see Bartlett as mean and arrogant for demanding that his Republican opponent come up with facts and figures.

Who knows, maybe that'll be next week's show, with Tim Russert and Brian Williams (since this is NBC) playing the parts of the Republican shill...I mean pundits.

But somehow I kinda doubt it.

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