Thanks (?) to Netflix streaming video, I’m watching episodes of The West Wing that I had missed the first time around. I missed the episodes because I had an inkling that The West Wing portrayed do-good Democrat meddlers in a favorable light. Several seasons into the show, I finally relented to my wife’s pleas to watch it. And so I became a regular viewer.
I endured The West Wing for its snappy dialogue and semi-accurate though cartoonish, depictions of inside politics. But by the end of the series, I had tired of the show’s incessant propagandizing for leftist causes.
Then, along came Roku and streaming video, and the opportunity to see the earlier seasons that we had missed because of my recalcitrance. My wife insisted, so here I am again, watching the same snappy dialogue and semi-engaging stories unfold in the service of bigger government. And, of course, bigger is better because Aaron Sorkin makes it look that way: a wise president, crammed full of encyclopedic knowledge; staffers whose IQs must qualify them for the Triple Nine Society, and whose wit crackles like lightning in an Oklahoma thunderstorm; evil Republicans whose goal in life is to stand in the way of technocratic progress (national bankruptcy and the loss of individual freedom don’t rate a mention); and a plethora of “worthy” causes that the West-Wingers seek to advance, without regard for national bankruptcy and individual freedom.
Thus far, I’ve watched the first thirteen episodes of the first season. What have I “learned”? Here’s a sample:
When persons of the Christian right refer to “New Yorkers” they mean “Jews.” This suggests excessive sensitivity on Mr. Sorkin’s part, not to mention a tin ear. In fact, there is ample evidence that a “New Yorker” is a pushy, obnoxious person, regardless of ethnicity. But Sorkin couldn’t waste an opportunity to paint persons of the Christian right as anti-Semitic bigots.
When an American military transport is shot down by a Syrian missile, the only choices presented to President Bartlett (the all-wise, all-knowing one) are a token retaliatory strike and a massive retaliatory strike that would kill thousands of civilians. Hmm… A lot of middle ground is omitted, including a decapitation strike, which at the time (1999) would have been timely and popular in the U.S. Well, the all-wise, all-knowing (AWAK) president somehow doesn’t come up with a middle-ground plan, so he wimps out and orders the token strike. An obvious defense of Clinton’s abject wimpiness in the wake of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998.
It’s okay to use sampling in the decennial census because the Constitution doesn’t say how the census should be conducted. Well, that’s the line taken by Toby Ziegler — the irritating “New Yorker” who serves as the AWAK president’s chief speech writer. However, Mr. Z fails to quote the Constitution correctly when lecturing the evil Republicans whom he summons to the White House for the purpose of delivering Mr. Sorkin’s misleading version of the Constitution’s language about the census. Mr. Z conveniently omits the word “enumeration,” which clearly implies a count, not an estimate, and which occurs twice in the clause about the census (Article I, Section 2, clause 3). Mr. Z further makes a big deal about the part of that clause which (in the original Constitution) counts a slave as three-fifths of a person. He conveniently omits to mention that (a) the three-fifths rule was mooted by the ratification of Amendment XIV in 1866, and (b) the three-fifths rule was a political compromise that favored the non-slave North, not a statement about the worthiness or unworthiness of slaves as persons. All of this finagling is in the service of the not-very-subliminal message that anyone who opposes statistical estimation of the population must be a racist. (A prescient line, which is now recycled as “everyone who opposes Obama’s policies must be a racist.”)
Then there’s the WASP-y nominee for the Supreme Court whose name must be withdrawn by the AWAK president, who (unaccountably) doesn’t know that the nominee holds views similar to those of Robert Bork about the source of rights. A strange nomination for an AWAK liberal. But the undoing of it enables the same AWAK liberal to nominate a humble judge of Hispanic ethnicity, and to show the door to the WASP-y Bork-like creep. The fact that the WASP-y nominee was represents the true minority group goes unmentioned during the closing moments of the episode. Those are given to an unseemly demonstration by members of the White House staff as the Hispanic nominee-to-be is paraded from the Oval Office through the warren of staff offices (an unlikely route), to the obvious delight of a token Hispanic staff member.
Finally, for now, there is a Matthew Shepard-like victim whose murder (like the real one) justifies the passage of thought-crime legislation. (The motive for the killing of Matthew Shepard probably wasn’t his homosexuality, though his homosexuality proved convenient to the purveyors of thought-criminalization.) In a twist that’s meant to shame critics of homosexuality, the victim’s father turns out to be a staunch defender of his late son’s “lifestyle.” This gives the father a chance to mouth off about the AWAK president’s namby-pamby approach to “gay rights” issues, such as the nominal ban on homosexuals in the armed forces. (A slam at Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.) Well, leave it to a “New Yorker” like Sorkin to glorify the practitioners of disgusting physical acts that serve to spread AIDS and other dread diseases, and which bear no relation to the evolutionary purposes served by male organs and orifices. (Evolution is okay with lefties, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of debauchery or lead to disparities in intelligence.)
But the dialogue is snappy.