On the Advice of Jed Bartlet

A few weeks ago I wrote about an article in The Atlantic that rated the fictional Presidents of film, much as Presidential historians today rate the real Presidents.

The Atlantic article limited itself to presidents such as Bill Pullman in Independence Day, Michael Douglas in The American President, Kevin Kline in Dave. Martin Sheen’s Jed Bartlet of The West Wing was mentioned but he wasn’t ranked, though the presidential scholars all would have ranked him highly.

Presidents sometimes turn to their predecessors for advice. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin imagine a meeting between Barack Obama and President Bartlet.

It’s a little weird and off-putting in places, but the column does eventually score some points. The best bit? Probably this, an angry rant from Bartlet on the Republican framing of this year’s presidential race:

Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — 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. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

I want Jed Bartlet to hit the stump and campaign for Obama, y’know? If he were out there, every single day, making that speech…

Alas, it’s only a dream. Obama has to deliver that argument himself.

Read the rest of Dowd and Sorkin’s fantasy. It’s worthwhile. 🙂

2 thoughts on “On the Advice of Jed Bartlet

  1. 😉 It is great having this little visit with President Bartlett. I read this rant OUT LOUD so my ears could savor his blend of intelligence, education and reason that was his trademark on WW. Can we have him back please? Or, in the alternative, Jimmy Smits in the continuation of the series. It is time for “West Wing, The Next Generation”‘s return along with a real administration for the show to shadow.

  2. Y’know, Jeff, I could “hear” Martin Sheen’s vocal cadences when I read this the first time. I know exactly how he’d say some of the things in that column — especially the bit I linked to above. 🙂

    And as for a continuation, as it were, I was thinking about that Sunday afternoon. What I think would be interesting is this — do an eight-hour miniseries in 2010, when President Matt Santos would be up for reelection. I think that could be awesome. 😀

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