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Sorkinism

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#!dcdisplay fp\b0\i0\fs10Source~WARNER_BROS; Shoot_Date~19.10.1999; Type~COLOR;  ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ fs16\bNo Titlefs12\b0 (GANNETT PHOTO NETWORK) TV-SHEEN: Martin Sheen playing President Josiah Bartlett in "The West Wing." A scene from the show including (l-r) Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlett, The West Wing airs Wednesdays on NBC (9-10 p.m. ET) (GNS Photo by Warner Bros.) fp\b0\i0\fs10ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ fp\i0\b\fs16Copyright 1998 The Cincinnati Enquirer fp\b0\i0\fs10Copyright=OTHER; Photographer~Kevin_Foley;  Aspect=WARNER_BROS; Aspect=19.10.1999; Aspect=COLOR; Aspect=OTHER; Aspect=Kevin_Foley;

Aaron Sorkin truly is the Broderite wankertastic gift that keeps on giving.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) is floating the idea of simultaneously confirming both Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee, and Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s nominee, to the Supreme Court.

The New Mexico Democrat told reporters Monday that he pitched moving the two judges during his meeting with Gorsuch, according to multiple reports.

“[Trump’s] got a book that’s widely acclaimed in terms of ‘The Art of the Deal.’ This is a deal that makes sense for the country,” Udall said, according to CNN. “It’s a deal that heals the real deep wounds we’ve had in this election.”

Under Udall’s pitch, Trump would meet with justices considering retiring.

If he promised to nominate Garland — whom Republicans refused to give a hearing or a vote — a justice would submit their letter of resignation. The Senate would move both Gorsuch and Garland’s nomination simultaneously.

What? Who would this resigning judge be? And how would Tom Udall or anyone else make this happen? But then, well, I should have known.

Udall’s proposal is similar to a 2004 episode of “The West Wing.”

In the TV show, the Democratic president needs to fill a Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of a GOP-appointed justice.

As part of a deal to preserve the balance of the court, the president and his staff convince the chief justice to retire and nominate a younger conservative judge to serve on the Supreme Court, as well as a judge considered too liberal to otherwise be confirmed, to be the chief justice.

But an aide for Udall told CNN that the Democratic senator’s plan isn’t ripped from the “West Wing” plot and that he’s only seen a few episodes of the TV show.

I might believe Udall on that last part, but clearly he has a staff member taking The West Wing seriously enough to put this idea in the senator’s ear.

The long-term impact of this show on the thinking of people who are legitimately not stupid and politically minded is way, way too strong.

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  • nemdam

    Does The West Wing get a lot dumber in later seasons? I saw the first 2 seasons recently, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting. There wasn’t any of this stupid dealmaking that this show gets its reputation for. I guess that’s why I made it through so many episodes.

    • Nick056

      I really think the West Wing and its racial politics have aged incredibly poorly. Dule Hill is great, but his character is off, in that he’s a phenomenally brilliant college kid whose mother was killed in street violence and who, by dint of both facts, earns the chance to carry the President’s briefing books. They even have an incredibly awkward moment when the character of Fitzwallace — the black chair of the joint chiefs and recurring guest star — gets asked, “Is it awkward that the only black person working in the West Wing carries the President’s bags,” and explains how it’s all good. Classic Sorkinism, like the episode where a woman explains how a sexist comment doesn’t affect her because she’s a strong individual, and shuts down a co-worker who was offended, I.e., humorless. Sorkin is obviously writing a whole plot to work out his feelings about SJWs and “sexual banter.”

      Then, without spoiling too much, the show has a key plot point regarding racial violence incited by Hill’s character, but none of the storytelling grapples with how the incident affects him, or any person of color. Instead, it’s entirely focused on how it affects and triggers the white chief of staff. It is essentially, how this racialized violence disturbed all the white people caught up in it. The storyline is really well-acted and very poignant for what it is, but it feels hollow. And then there is the truly awful affirmative action episode.

      • CP

        I think the West Wings gets a lot of its liberal-cred simply because it was willing to punch back hard against the religious right and against heartland chauvinism in general, which, if it’s a breath of fresh air now, was even more so at the time it aired.

        Once that’s worn off, though: as you say, the race and gender politics were often cringe worthy; the economics often strayed uncomfortably far into the DLCism the left is always talking about; and the foreign policy is often as messianic and hubristic as that of any neoconservative. Not all of that is Sorkin, of course, since he left halfway through.

        • Hercules Mulligan

          One thing I also remember a lot of is shots of dumb hippies protesting free trade, or unions who refuse to understand that the administration is pursuing the Good Economic Policy, dammit!

          That certainly aged well.

          • EliHawk

            Eh. The Battle of Seattle folks (which is what they were clearly referencing) did not age well either.

            • Gregor Sansa

              Hey, now. Some of us are still here.

              • AdamPShort

                You were right for the wrong reasons! Wait that was that other thing

        • Nick056

          Some of the sexual politics are more careful. A regular commenter here seems to be a fan of Abbey Bartlett. Her role in the MS storyline is rich and lets her be a complex character. The scene where all the women drink wine and Donna cuts through her bullshit is great. But then, I always read Josh’s romances as, partly, can he date a big ol’ committed feminist/a brilliant pollster when he obviously loves the woman who works for him?

          • One of Sorkin’s frustrating qualities is his ability to craft amazing female characters (C.J. Cregg, Abbey Bartlett, Joey Lucas) and then use them almost exclusively for comic relief, or in supporting roles to men. There’s a lot to be said against the later, non-Sorkin seasons of The West Wing, but they not only used the women on the show to their fullest potential, but allowed them to express frustration with the men in their lives (Abbey nearly leaving Jed after Zoe’s kidnapping, Donna bitterly pointing out to Josh that he let her career stagnate for years because it was convenient for him to have her as his assistant). On paper, making CJ chief of staff made no sense, but it was a gift to fans of the show who had spent years watching her be the butt of jokes while less impressive men got to do the serious work.

            • Abbey Bartlet

              If nothing else, there’s a *lot* to digest. I wrote two papers in college on the role of women in the West Wing.

      • ASV

        Then, without spoiling too much, the show has a key plot point regarding racial violence incited by Hill’s character, but none of the storytelling grapples with how the incident affects him, or any person of color. Instead, it’s entirely focused on how it affects and triggers the white chief of staff.

        Sports Night did exactly the same thing with sexual harassment.

      • the show has a key plot point regarding racial violence incited by Hill’s character, but none of the storytelling grapples with how the incident affects him

        It’s even worse than that. Post-shooting, Charlie is taciturn and irritable – basically, classic symptoms of trauma. And yet this is depicted purely in terms of how it affects the white people around him – he’s short with Bartlett, and nearly tanks his relationship with Zoe. No one seems to consider that maybe this young kid who nearly got murdered for dating a white girl could use some help (instead the character who gets a PTSD diagnosis is Josh, a white guy, though admittedly he did get shot). Finally, Charlie gets some sense knocked into him by a Wise, Lower Class Black Person, and goes back to being the sweet, non-threatening and endlessly accommodating guy he used to be.

      • Manny Kant

        Wait, there was a Democratic president and it was explicitly acknowledged that Charlie was the only black person in the West Wing? Jesus Christ.

        • Mellano

          Anna Deveare Smith played the National Security Advisor in another recurring guest role — I think beginning in the first season.

          But yeah, among the tight-knit “office family” cast, Charlie was it. And Bartlett was supposed to be the “left-wing” President in the show’s universe, compared to Tim Matheson’s blue dog Texan senator, who lost the primary. Curious if any CBC members ever said anything within the show.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            There was also Fitz, who did make some comments about race.

            It’s astonishing to me how white 90s/00s tv was.

    • ASV

      It got much worse after Sorkin left, but also was declining in his last couple seasons. But I think 2004 was after he was gone.

  • Nick056

    Good Lord. West Wing is only good because John Spencer and Allison Janney were terrific, and Richard Schiff was fun.

    Democrats should do exactly the opposite and add 2 seats to the Court in 2020, filling them immediately, and calling the authorizing legislation “The Mitch McConnell’s Proudest Moment Act.”

    • alexceres

      Does your muse accept Paypal ?

    • Joe_JP

      West Wing was an alternate universe after Bush won … Gilmore Girls also was one; Gore won totally there.

      Various good things about it imho. Anyway, shout out for Melissa Fitzgerald’s work IRL.

      ETA: RIP John Spencer, of course … saw him recently in a Touched By An Angel episode … played a cop. Was rather good.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        West Wing was an alternate universe after Bush won … Gilmore Girls also was one; Gore won totally there.

        This is incorrect. There are several mentions to Bush, including in the “monkey monkey underpants” ramble. Also, several mentions to when Hillary is going to be president, and I can probably never rewatch it without crying. Also, too.

        ETA: Melissa Fitzgerald is amazing.

        • Joe_JP

          In Stars Hollow, “Gilmore Girls” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino once told me, Al Gore was president.

          http://www.salon.com/2007/05/16/gilmore_girls_3/

          I remember that line, if not necessary in that article. Your references are well taken. “Totally” is misleading; the reference is to the fact that he did win the popular vote and in spirit he won totally in GG.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            Smh Amy this is season *one*!

            LORELAI: I hate president Bush.

            STRAUB: What?

            GRANDMA: Lorelai….

            CHRISTOPHER: Oh boy.

            LORELAI: He’s stupid and his face is too tiny for his head and I just want to toss him out.

            STRAUB: That is the leader of our country young lady.

            GRANDPA: Ignore her.

            FRANCINE: His face is too tiny for his head, what kind of thing is that to say?

            STRAUB: I see your daughter is just as out of control as ever.

            CHRISTOPHER: Pop please. Let’s try and keep it civil.

            STRAUB: Tell me Lorelai, what have you been doing with your life anyway, besides hating successful businessmen. I’m just curious.

            ETA: Yes, I take Gilmore Girls and West Wing very seriously, but it’s my birthday so you can’t judge.

  • The long-term impact of this show on the thinking of people who are legitimately not stupid and politically minded is way, way too strong.

    Do you mean people who are neither legitimately stupid nor politically minded? Or people who really aren’t stupid but are politically minded?

  • Bootsie

    The only influence I want The West Wing to have on politics is putting Martin Sheen in the oval office.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      Charlie can be Uday and Qusay rolled into one. Not sure where that leaves Emilio

      • los

        playing checkers?

      • Dr. Acula

        He can be Otto.

        • John Revolta

          Otto Partz?

          • Dr. Acula

            The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.

    • John Revolta

      “The President’s methods have become……….unsound.”

    • Hob

      With our luck, we’d get the wrong one.

  • Mark Field

    If Udall can convince Thomas or Alito to resign, I’d take this deal.

    • JKTH

      If Udall can convince Thomas or and Alito to resign, I’d take this deal.

      • rea

        Really, its a silly idea, but excellent trolling by Udall.

  • Lurking Canadian

    At the present historical moment, that deal would actually be better than what is likely to happen should one of the liberal justices die and/or resign during the Trump era. This actually strikes me as a kind of clever brinksmanship. “You want Gorsuch? The only way we’re not filibustering is in exchange for a guarantee that things aren’t getting worse”.

    I’m totally on board with packing the Court in 2020, though.

    • Dilan Esper

      At the present historical moment, that deal would actually be better than what is likely to happen should one of the liberal justices die and/or resign during the Trump era.

      This is correct. (Erik, of course, is also correct that it will never happen.)

      More generally, Democrats have to at some point get past the Merrick Garland obsession (it was entirely clear for quite some time that no President of either party was going to get to shift the ideological balance of the Court in his or her final year of office without controlling the Senate) and figure out a fucking strategy for how to handle judicial nominations, including Gorsuch.

      • Lasker

        It was entirely clear for quite some time that no President of either party was going to get to shift the ideological balance of the Court in his or her final year of office without controlling the Senate)

        Is this kind of like how it was entirely clear that the Supreme Court would find that the medicaid expansion was an unconstitutional extension of the federal government’s spending power?

      • Chetsky

        Uh, except Bush, who got to put Thomas in Thurgood Marshall’s chair. IOKIYAR.

    • Dave W.

      Even if Democrats were somehow willing to agree to this “maintain the status quo” stuff, what would keep the Senate Republicans from going all North Carolina Legislature by turning around and voting Garland down? “Hey, we just said Trump was going to nominate the guy, we didn’t guarantee we were going to vote for him.”

      • los

        “there’s nothing in the consitution about crossing our fingers behind our backs”

      • corporatecake

        I’m glad I’m not the only person who thought “yeah, but what do you do when the Republicans renig on the deal and appoint Scalia’s ghost instead? What could Democrats even do but shout into the wind?”

      • The only way to even consider a deal like this (which, I agree, will never happen) is if Garland goes first.

    • Ahenobarbus

      Yep, although we should be allowed to replace Garland with Pamela Karlan or Hillary Clinton or someone like that.

      • Colin Day

        With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, can we get someone younger?

        • Abbey Bartlet

          I’ll be available by 2020.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            I mean technically I’m available now.

            • rea

              Damn, I just realize I’m too old for the supreme court! The dream of a lifetime shattered.

        • Ahenobarbus

          Chelsea Clinton?

        • searcher

          I know we’re still short women on the court, but there’s a 55 year old constitutional law professor recently out of a job.

    • addicted44

      I agree that this isn’t as bad an idea as suggested, assuming that a liberal judge is planning on resigning within the next 4 years.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Sports Night was a pretty great show. When it arrived in the late 1990s, it was pretty innovative, too. Turns out that what made it bearable was that Sorkin didn’t have the opportunity to convince himself he was solving the world’s problems with it. The lower the stakes, the better Sorkin was.

    • nixnutz

      I rank them West Wing > Studio 60 > Sports Night > The Newsroom, with The West Wing being the only one that I enjoyed. I think it was better after he left although it took them some time to get their bearings so the worst period was probably immediately post-Sorkin.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        Studio 60 is better the second time around. Sports Night would be 500 times better sans laugh track.

        The Newsroom we must never speak of again.

        • wjts

          The laugh track was why I only made it through two or three episodes of Sports Night.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            The laugh track is a big problem with Sports Night. As a half hour show, the network treated it as a sitcom, even though it was really a dramedy with more drama than comedy.

            (Incidentally, decades ago I watched a few episodes of M*A*S*H in another country where they had taken the laugh track out. The show was infinitely grimmer without it, though it still worked just fine.)

            • Aaron Morrow

              Doesn’t the laugh track die out halfway through the first season of Sports Night, though?

              Also, MASH was released on DVD with and without laugh track. Definitely worth checking out if you like the show.

        • Studio 60 suffered because it was compared with the similarly named and similarly… concepted… 30 Rock, which is one of the best sitcoms of all time.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            I feel extremely vindicated. My ex thought I was crazy to make that argument, but I legit think it was a factor.

            • Hogan

              Aaron Sorkin: I’m Aaron Sorkin. “The West Wing,” “A Few Good Men,” “The Social Network.”

              Liz Lemon: “Studio 60”?

              Aaron Sorkin: Shut up.

          • Donalbain

            Studio 60 died a death because it was awful. The fact that 30 Rock was one of the greatest TV shows of all time didn’t help it but didn’t harm it either.
            The main problem with Studio 60 is that it treated sketch comedy as if it was the most important thing in the world. The fate of the nation hinged on whether a sketch about Krazee Kristians was shown at 11pm on a Friday night. It also didnt help that Sorkin is not able to write comedy and so the sketches were lame as fuck, but treated as masterpieces by the people living in the world of the show. Plus there was the fact that Sorkin was clearly using the show as a way to win old arguments with Kristin Chenoweth. And then there was the YOUR BROTHER IS STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN nonsense.

            God, I hated Studio 60. But, then it did lead to the hilarious walk and talk in an episode of 30 Rock, so I am glad it existed. Plus the roleplaying people on twitter can be pretty funny.

            • Murc

              It also didnt help that Sorkin is not able to write comedy and so the sketches were lame as fuck, but treated as masterpieces by the people living in the world of the show.

              Studio 60 made a horrible mistake that 30 Rock didn’t; it actually tried to write, and show, the comedy sketches.

              30 Rock, if you look closely, almost never tries to do that. You would occasionally get ten or fifteen minutes of a sketch concept or opening and that was it. They didn’t try and actually write and show a full five minutes of “Prince William and Prince, Time-Travelling Fart Detectives.”

              I’m gonna say it; Sorkin is at his best when he’s just writing about relationships between people and not trying to deliver either a polemic or a brick through a window. He’s had a few of those that went off very well and those rare moments of success convinced him he could do it all the time. He cannot. He is not capable of doing “Bartlet yells at God” every single week, and Bartlet yells at God doesn’t work by itself; it works because we care about Jed Bartlet, we cared about Dolores Landingham, and because we’re kinda shocked that someone who wears his faith on his sleeve as much as Bartlet does is having what amounts to a nervous breakdown right in the middle of a cathedral.

              The speech itself is serviceable, and I respect the ballsiness to throw in that much latin with no subtitles, but by itself it is no Gettysburg address.

              Sorkin and later Wells made that mistake a lot in West Wing. Sam is supposed to be a hot-shit speechwriter, well and good, only they actually tried to show us his speeches all the time and they actually AREN’T that amazing. Better to not show us. We’ll take your word for it!

              • MDrew

                Hearing a speech that isn’t “actually” good in a fiction and believing that is is good because I’m told so is within my powers of suspension of disbelief. Good/bad speechwriting is pretty subjective, and in any case such assessment is a faculty I can turn on and off pretty much at will. (This is within some bounds of composition quality. But I don’t think any of the successful-according-to-the-show speeches we here in The West Wing are anywhere near as bad, at least for me, as to not be able to take them at face value as good speeches in the show universe.)

                And I think many times in The West Wing, it matters that we hear what the president(‘s speechwriters) actually have to say. For example, in 20 Hours In America, I don’t think it would be the same moment if we don’t hear what Sam writes after the pipe bombing in Iowa. You’re absolutely right that the speechwriting part of that that gives us the behind-the-scenes thrill is how Sam tells Bruno that he wrote it in the car on the way over, Lincoln-style, and it wouldn’t matter what the speech said for that moment to work (if it does). But it still adds a great deal that we hear the president say the words.

                Whether the same is true of the comedy sketches in Studio 60, I have no idea; I’ve given that show about 5 minutes of my time in my entire life.

              • Mellano

                30 Rock, if you look closely, almost never tries to do that. You would occasionally get ten or fifteen minutes of a sketch concept or opening and that was it. They didn’t try and actually write and show a full five minutes of “Prince William and Prince, Time-Travelling Fart Detectives.”

                The content of TGS itself seemed pretty unwatchable.

                Sometimes I felt like the 30 Rock writers were three-quarters of the way towards, “let’s have these characters spend their lives killing themselves over a trainwreck of a show, but it will keep running because TV is a preposterous business.” But really the sketches were, rightfully, only a backdrop of unbelievably funny gags like Hamburglar Macbeth to the central comedy.

                • xaaronx

                  Part of the point in 30 Rock is that TGS is a bad show.

            • ColBatGuano

              the sketches were lame as fuck

              This is being generous.

      • ColBatGuano

        West Wing > Studio 60 > Sports Night > The Newsroom

        passes out

    • Donalbain

      This is demonstrably wrong. Sketch comedy is lower stakes than sport, and Studio 60 is garbage.

    • Sports Night sometimes falls into the trap of mistaking the production of a mid-level sports news program (or, indeed, sports itself) as some kind of revolutionary act. Not as badly as Studio 60 or The Newsroom, but it’s there. In some ways, The West Wing was Sorkin’s perfect canvas, because it was the only time he could convincingly argue that his characters’ sense of their own importance was justified.

      • Abbey Bartlet

        because it was the only time he could convincingly argue that his characters’ sense of their own importance was justified

        Probably why The Social Network worked out, too.

        • Hmm. I actually think The Social Network‘s core flaw is that it can’t earn the importance it places on the invention of Facebook – though Fincher’s direction and Reznor’s score do a lot to pick up the slack.

          In a way, Sorkin’s tragedy is that he wrote that movie too soon. If he’d waited with the Fincher/Reznor combination until Steve Jobs died, he might have been able to make something more resonant out of that material (certainly Jobs deserves the characterization he gave to Mark Zuckerberg more than Zuckerberg himself). And if he’d waited until the election, he could have written something about Facebook’s role in increasing political polarization and spreading fake news.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            I was really just mocking Sorkin/TSN/Zuckerberg/Facebook…

            Also, it’s my birthday.

            • Yay! Happy birthday!

              • Abbey Bartlet
            • Hogan

              Happy birthday! And congratulations on missing the Pirates of Penzance Paradox.

          • MDrew

            I got the impression that, really, the reason that the doings in The Social Network were expected (by studio execs) to captivate us is that they took place in Cambridge. There still is a Harvard mystique that remains bankable now and again for Hollywood.

  • awarrens

    This is a little pedantic, but, what the fuck, I’m pedantic: that particular episode is from the years after Sorkin left.

    • Remfin

      Most of the examples of “Sorkinism” are (from The West Wing, I know nothing about his newer stuff).

  • (((max)))

    The long-term impact of this show on the thinking of people who are legitimately not stupid and politically minded is way, way too strong.

    Wait until House of Cards percolates through the the interns moving into staffing positions. Oh, boy. Of course, a show (that I don’t watch!) about American Hitler does seems to have had its thunder entirely stolen at this point.

    Aaron Sorkin truly is the Broderite wankertastic gift that keeps on giving.

    Broder spinning in his grave is what Zombie Broder does when he’s HAPPY!

    max
    [”They’re looking for the respectable white people to come out on top.’ ‘Which ones?’ ‘Any.”]

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Scary to think we might have to count on the political influence of Veep, a show that more or less recreates the actual idiocy of DC, rather than imagining some other form of idiocy to put in its place.

  • Davebo

    Fired a bit of a blank of this one Erik but keep shooting!

  • anonymous

    The reality is that Repugs have no incentive to do this deal. If Dems filibuster, the Repugs are going to nuke it to on order to seat Gorsuch. So why do Repugs need to do this deal??? After Gorsuch is seated with the filibuster nuked Trump can just nominate Gorsuch II.

    From the Dem side though it actually makes sense. There is a good chance that RBG, Breyer or Kennedy will leave the Court. You have a chance to replace Scalia with Gorsuch but any of the three with Garland under a Trump Presidency with a Repug Senate majority, you take that deal without reservation!

    The fact that the deal is so favorable to Dems is why the Repugs can never go for it

    • MDrew

      Agreed. I’m not sure what Udall thinks he’s doing here. It doesn’t even look particularly reasonable, or certainly not enough so to prove any particular point (certainly not after the point that was proved by Obama in the nomination and rejection of Garland on his own).

      What would at least be an innovative idea would be a proposal to institutionalize an even number of justices by offering confirmation of Udall in exchange for appointment and confirmation of Galand – without and additional resignation. It would at least put in the public’s mind again the fact that the number of justices isn’t constitutionally fixed in any way.

      I’ll also say that I have no problem believing that this proposal in no way had any inspiration in The West Wing for Udal of his staff. I mean, maybe it did, but I have no problem believing that it didn’t.

      • MDrew

        confirmation of Gorsuch, not of Udall.

  • wengler

    I can’t wait to see who is in the Gang of [insert number here] that will preserve the filibuster and pass Gorsuch through in return for nothing. Gotta preserve it so the Republicans can use it for years to come.

  • Tsuyoshi

    I think what we really need here are a lot more primary challenges to incumbent Democrats. Otherwise, it seems they will never abandon the dream of bipartisan centrism.

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    Udall needs a better TV show to give him ideas for negotiating. I recommend “Breaking Bad.”

    • Gareth

      Game of Thrones.

  • EliHawk

    To be fair to Sorkin, this entire scheme was from after he left. His big Supreme Court recurring storyline was about dumping the Highly Credentialed, Ivy League Pedigreed Robo-Judge for Edward James Olmos’ Liberal Latino Working Class Judge and muscling him on the Court instead.

    • Murc

      That episode, where Olmos refuses to take a breathalyzer and is arrested for standing firm on his 4th Amendment right (seriously, those laws are 100% bullshit) was excellent.

      I love the first three seasons of West Wing, especially season two, and I don’t care who knows it.

      It has aged badly, I will admit. In fact, it aged badly while it was airing. Remember; the West Wing started airing when Clinton was still in office. Things… changed. During the shows run. A lot.

      • EliHawk

        Right. But the point of the episode is absolutely the opposite of Broderism, because the guy they rejected was a Broder Wet Dream. Indeed, the overarching plot of the first season is that Barlet and his team are stuck in neutral precisely because they’ve been pushing milquetoast Broder-crap rather than getting stuck in for what they believe. If anything, the problem is more the ‘Green Lantarn’ style, even if in the Sorkin years they made clear much of those ‘Green Lantern’ style accomplishments were small bore stuff, like putting on two new FEC Commissioners. Like, when he’s having his big “Fuck You, God!” speech at the end of Season 2, his big accomplishments are: Reasonably Good Economy, Mexico Bailout, New Trade, some new national parkland, his SCOTUS Justice, and no major war. Not exactly the Great Society there.

        • Yeah, I would argue that the problem with Sorkinism is more often how milquetoast his idea of leftism is (and how often it tends to exclude anyone who isn’t an educated white male) even as he makes barnstorming pronouncements about how that sort of leftism is going to change the world.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            Let us never speak of Amy Gardner’s SWERFiness.

            • Gareth

              Wouldn’t that be plausible for an early-2000s feminist?

              • Abbey Bartlet

                Yes, but hasn’t aged well.

        • Murc

          Like, when he’s having his big “Fuck You, God!” speech at the end of Season 2, his big accomplishments are: Reasonably Good Economy, Mexico Bailout, New Trade, some new national parkland, his SCOTUS Justice, and no major war. Not exactly the Great Society there.

          This was back when we all thought history had ended, after all. We were still in the rosy afterglow of the Clinton economy and it seemed like all our biggest problems had either been solved our would be solved by good’ol technocratic thinking and political compromise. The Republican Party wasn’t nearly as dangerous, or didn’t seem that way.

          • MDrew

            The conservative movement’s threat to take over the Republican Party was imminent (but happened during the run of the show), but we really didn’t know how bad it would be yet, no.

            • CP

              This is one of the things that actually feels nostalgic to me when watching The West Wing.

              The GOP had been getting worse for decades, but as late as the late 2000s, it didn’t seem completely crazy that the party might finally be compelled to sober the fuck up. Not to Arnie Vinick standards, but at least to George H. W. Bush standards. Years of the most conservative government we’d had since the 1920s had left us with the most catastrophic economic and foreign policy conditions in at least that long, the party was experiencing its worst electoral backlash in a generation, even Republicans who defended the pricks in power were getting thin on the ground.

              Of course, as we now know, that wasn’t to be and instead they’ve spent the eight years since working overtime to make sure we would miss George W. Bush.

        • CP

          Like, when he’s having his big “Fuck You, God!” speech at the end of Season 2, his big accomplishments are: Reasonably Good Economy, Mexico Bailout, New Trade, some new national parkland, his SCOTUS Justice, and no major war. Not exactly the Great Society there.

          There was this moment partway through Obama’s second term when I realized that between his real life presidency and Bartlet’s fantasy one, Obama easily cleaned Bartlet’s clock. Biggest step towards universal health care since the 1960s, economy brought back from its worst recession since the 1930s, restored relations with Cuba, treaty resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran, and (although admittedly this last one isn’t Obama) gay marriage legal in the entire nation. If you’d told the West Wing showrunners even as late as the mid-2000s that this would all be achieved by the time the next liberal presidency had run its course, I think their reaction would’ve been the same as mine – that it was a hopeless fantasy.

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            And yet, the left *still* seems to think Obama is a neoliberal sellout.

  • Murc

    This is an excellent deal if one of the conservative judges goes. Otherwise, I don’t know what Udall is thinking.

    I mean… he understands that we’re not wedded to Merrick Garland per se, right? We’re wedded to two things; the notion that this seat was stolen, and to replace Scalia with a not-Scalia and thus changing the ideologically balance of the court. Anything less is bullshit.

    • anonymous

      It’s a great deal for the Dems.

      If RBG, Breyer or even Kennedy leave the Court during Trump’s term, you would be ecstatic to replace that Justice with Garland.

      The only reason not to do it is if you believe that all three stay on the Court past Jan 2021. I wouldn’t bet on it.

      Repugs won’t go for it because it’s such a great deal for the Dems. They don’t need it to seat Gorsuch via nuking the filibuster and once it’s nuked they can replace RBG, Breyer or Kennedy with someone much more right wing than Garland.

      If Repugs truly the offered this deal, you take it without reservation!

  • NewishLawyer

    We used to watch West Wing when I was in college. The second half of college was dominated by Bush v. Gore and 9/11. Obviously all of us good liberal college students used West Wing as a kind of escape valve. Once a week, we could gather and watch Jeb Bartlett and crew be wonderful instead of the general incompetence and then horror of the Bush II admin.

    I go back and forth on escapism from politics and how much is good and when it becomes dangerous and distracting.

    Justin Trudeau’s stock is riding high among liberal types especially since the election of Trump. I can’t seem to go a day without seeing someone on social media praise Justin Trudeau.

    Now he seems to be a generally great guy but Trudeau is still a politician with handlers and spinners who can stage scenes. IIRC the scene where he starts what seems to be a spontaneous lesson quantum computing was very staged. Yet I can still see it crop up and up again with the words “LOVE HIM” or some such.

    There seems to be something in the human psyche that wants a leader to follow. It exists on the right and on the left though I admit it is much, much more harmless to follow Justin Trudeau than it is follow Trump. However, I am still mystified and how much this spreads on social media.

    But then I feel bad and like a killjoy for being mean-spirited about what can be people’s coping mechanisms and possibly angry because joining in in meme time does nothing for me.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      Jeb Bartlett

      Jed Bartlet.

    • Phil Perspective

      Justin Trudeau’s stock is riding high among liberal types especially since the election of Trump.

      If people checked under the hood, they wouldn’t like what they see. An empty suit who knows how to work the media even better than Zombie-eyed Granny-starver.

      • LeeEsq

        There is something touchingly innocent about your belief that if only people knew the truth as you see it than the world would be a better place.

      • mmy

        If people checked under the hood

        So you mean “if Americans checked under the hood?” The Canadian media, had, in general, been fall less in googly-eyed about Justin than has the American media.

        There is a good argument to be made that Trudeau won the last election because Canadians really wanted to get rid of Harper and enough people who might have voted NDP decided to vote Liberal to get rid of the Conservative government.

        Justin’s father was a complex political figure. The man who declared ‘the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation’ AND invoked the War Measures Act. He, and his successors as leaders of the Liberal Party, are well remembered and much argued about in Canada. It is Americans who first fall in love with Justin and then admonish Canadians that ‘he isn’t perfect’ or that they ‘need to look under the hood.’

        Also please don’t confuse “party leader people are most willing to shag” with “party leader I will always vote for.”

    • LeeEsq

      Justin Trudeau benefits a lot for being a lot younger and easier on the eye than many other politicians. He screams photogenic.

      • MDrew

        People in my Fb feed were literally e-ogling his rear end the other day.

        • mmy

          It would be good for Americans to realize that Canadians knew that Justin Trudeau existed (and was photogenic, thank you) long before Americans realized he existed.

          Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) was nowhere near as traditionally photogenic but had lashings and lashings of charisma (google Trudeaumania.)

          Justin grew up, quite literally, in the public eye and his looks, behaviour, and political stances did not come as a surprise to the Canadian public.

    • CP

      Now he seems to be a generally great guy but Trudeau is still a politician with handlers and spinners who can stage scenes. IIRC the scene where he starts what seems to be a spontaneous lesson quantum computing was very staged. Yet I can still see it crop up and up again with the words “LOVE HIM” or some such.

      The beautiful thing about that isn’t that he’s so smart because he knows quantum computing. It’s that he, and apparently enough of his constituents, consider things like “knowing quantum computing” to be desirable and praiseworthy enough to do that kind of thing.

      Coming from a political scene where “HURR DURR IT SNOWED LAST NIGHT GLOBAL WARMING AMIRITE LIBZ?” is considered solid argumentation and the people who use it just elected one of their own president, it’s hard to overstate how incredibly refreshing that is.

  • NewishLawyer

    While I think others have points in this thread that this could be a good deal for Democrats even if RBG, Breyer, or Kennedy step down; I think that there is still a lot of magical thinking and not often straight thinking going on in Democratic land.

    But again, I have a hard time deciding what is the line between harmless escapism and escapism as denial of what is going on and retreating into a bubble.

    Cause things look really bad:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/02/27/trump_era_anti_semitism_border_thuggery_are_what_we_feared.html

  • Joe_JP

    Ah. Is this why Justice Kennedy invited Ivanka Trump to a session?

    ETA: Dawn Johnsen argued no one should be confirmed for the 9th seat but Garland & Gorsuch can get the next seat open (well, be put up to a vote). She put this out as a matter of justice. Doubts that she thinks it would actually happen.

  • NickUrfe

    This is a pretty low slander of Sorkin. Not only didn’t he write the episode, but the moronic centrism, both-sides-do asininity *does not* plague his tenure on the show. The famous compromises with Conservatives – the government shutdown, Barlett’s ‘friendship’ with Alda, the Supreme Court compromise, with the pathetic bit of the liberal and conservative nominees switching sides in the argument – all hale from the post-Sorkin era. It’s nonsensical, not to mention ahistorical, to call that shit ‘Sorkinism’.

    More generally, it’s regrettable that the West Wing’s legacy has been boiled down to “Liberal counter-programming to the Bush Administration”, and that this legacy is conflated with Sorkin’s supposedly mushy liberal politics. The first four seasons of The West Wing was genuinely superb television, every episode crafted intelligibly as a play, written by an Academy Award winning screenwriter, at a time when ER passed for prestige tv. Watch any episode of Season 3 of The West Wing and compare it to any episode from Season 3 of The Sopranos, and it will shock you that The Sopranos has the more glittering cultural cache. We remember The Sopranos as the better show because it got better as it went on – unlike the West Wing, which became its own pale shade after Sorkin resigned.

    • dougok

      Word. Loomis gaffed this one.

    • Gareth

      I liked it myself, but I have to admit it wasn’t any more relevant to actual American politics than The Jetsons. Even at the time, and politics has actually become even more different since.

    • MDrew

      +1 to your second graf, except that I think that there are parts of the post-Sorkin period that are extremely worthy of recognition. The Israel/Palestine sequence had the ring of some reality to it, and the nominating contest storyline(s) is one of my favorite parts of the show. In fact, whenever I watch the (re-)election sequence in season 3(?), I find myself thinking they just utterly mailed the whole thing in – in comparison to what was done with the election(s) in season 7(6?). That’s not to say those were bad episodes in the Sorkin years; they just didn’t take a whole lot of interest in the election. That’s okay, but I am really glad for the election episodes later in the series, especially because we get to see so much of Gary Cole, one of our very best character actors, in the prime of his career, and because we get to see Donna come into her own as a political professional.

      But that notwithstanding, +1 to your second paragraph.

      • The Israel/Palestine sequence had the ring of some reality to it

        Oh boy.

        • CP

          I was wondering if you’d touch that one.

          When I mentioned above that the foreign policy was often as hubristic and messianic as that of any neocon’s, “fix Israel/Palestine by putting American troops on the ground” was one of the two big moments I had in mind. (The other being, of course, putting American troops on the ground in the middle of a budding Russian-Chinese war. Even Bush had more sense than to challenge nuclear-armed competitors).

          The war on terror/Arab world policies aren’t always a beauty, either.

        • Abbey Bartlet

          “It’s incredibly hot and there’s no water” isn’t the grand unifying theory Sorkin thinks it is?

        • MDrew

          I just meant the presentation of the summit at Camp David, etc.

          On the politics/policy, I mean, they gave it a shot. I give them credit for trying.

    • AdamPShort

      Agreed. Sorkin himself may indeed be quite a Broderite centrist cult leader in his personal life, and the Newsroom is cover-your-eyes awful, but even as a left-left-leftist i would say TWW is excellent and while it may not reflect my worldview, why should it?

    • Hogan

      The famous compromises with Conservatives – the government shutdown, Barlett’s ‘friendship’ with Alda, the Supreme Court compromise, with the pathetic bit of the liberal and conservative nominees switching sides in the argument – all hale from the post-Sorkin era.

      Two words: Ainsley Hayes.

      • NickUrfe

        Ainsley Hayes is a character that highlights the differences between Sorkin and post-Sorkin TWW. She’s hired and she chooses to take the job despite her objections qua-conservative: political considerations are secondary to an obligation, and moreover a *desire* to serve the President and the country. Not only does this fit intelligently into the dramatic interests of the show and of the specific episode (AH is convinced to take the job after seeing the White House respond to the national security crisis in Nimbala’s home country.) but it has the ring of truth, even if its an aspirational truth, all while giving voice to the considerable and just political differences between Ainsley and the rest of the White House staff.

        By contrast, the Supreme Court bit aims to contradict the premise that “all is politics” not by giving voice to the legitimate concern about the long-term damage a SC compromise like this will do, but by showing the SC justices as somehow having no politics. The SC compromise is supposedly to resolve a dramatic conflict by portraying the justices as above politics, which flatly treats that original conflict as a false dilemma: apparently it doesn’t matter whom you appoint to the Supreme Court, since SC justices don’t have politics anyway. Do you see how this is aspirationally different than Ainsley’s conflict with the Bartlett White House? And more importantly, it’s horrible dramatically. That’s not a mistake you’ll catch Sorkin making.

    • ColBatGuano

      that this legacy is conflated with Sorkin’s supposedly mushy liberal politics.

      I’m pretty sure The Newsroom is responsible for a lot of this.

  • leftwingfox

    I wonder what, specifically, makes these people think the modern Republican Party is receptive to any sort of political compromise?

    • Abbey Bartlet

      Too much sniffing glue?

  • MDrew

    Am I the only one who thinks that a show like The West Wing should be judged not on the politics it espouses, but on how well-realized as a piece of dramatic art it is?

    Its difficulties with women and minority characters definitely play into that (and do relate to its politics as well, but incidentally). So the way the show has aged poorly in terms of its sexual politics is a completely valid point of assessment. But that’s because it is on any show, whether it’s set in the political world or not.

    Many conservatives like The West Wing a lot. I’d like to think many of us could recognize a good show about politics that casts a conservative government as its protagonists, and works to have us root for them as “good guys” as a good drama, if that’s what it were (if we can even conceive that such a thing is possible). But maybe I’m giving us too much credit.

    • CP

      I personally manage to enjoy “24” despite not being a conservative, “Firefly” despite not being a libertarian, “Star Trek” despite not being a socialist, and “The Three Musketeers” despite not being a monarchist, so I don’t think you’re asking for too much, no.

      That said, when a work of fiction is about politics it’s fair to judge it at least partly by those politics, and all the more so with writers whose soapboxy tendencies are as pronounced as those of TWW writers.

      • Aexia

        24 did have oil companies faking evidence that a middle-eastern country was behind a terrorist attack in order to provoke the US into war as well as a craven Republican President being removed from office for colluding with the Russians.

        • CP

          True, and I give it credit for that.

          The reason I list “24” as conservative is that the use of torture is as central to the show as it is. At the time when that was one of most controversial issues in American politics, “24” repeatedly took the stance that it worked, that it was necessary, and that people who couldn’t handle it were weak-kneed and wrong. Even when the bad guys were oil cartels, defense contractors, or Republican presidents, the solution was always giving Jack Bauer free rein to beat, kill, and torture his way to the bottom of the conspiracy. (Actors or directors might’ve said they didn’t support torture or think it worked in real life, but that’s not what showed up on the TV).

          But yes, outside of torture the show’s politics could vary a lot. The Jack Ryan novels are probably a better “conservative West Wing” example.

  • Aexia

    Veep is the purest, most painfully accurate depiction of American politics and it just doesn’t get enough recognition for that.

  • azumbrunn

    I keep reading so much Sorkin bashing that I think it is time to call a stop. Enough is enough.

    He is a writer, not a politician. And West Wing in particular jumped the shark after 9/11. Every political drama would have been flailing after that. The concept was shattered but the show was popular so they tried–and failed badly–to incorporate terrorism as a theme. This caused a loss to the original concept. And the courage to keep the show (which is fiction after all) going under the original concept is too much to expect from TV executives in such a situation.

    I remember an episode of Sports Night where two stories were ongoing in parallel, one in a letter the main character was writing and one happening in the office in a beautiful and elegant sort of counterpoint. Sorkin could (and hopefully still can) do that too.

    I would say this in general anyway: If someone takes a stupid idea from a work of fiction and tries to apply it in real life the blame is on that someone and not on the author of the fiction. Prime Minister Cameron early in his tenure delivered a paraphrase of “how dare he ask for a second bowl of gruel” in his reaction to the riots in immigrant neighborhoods. That was Cameron’s foolishness, not Dickens’s.

    So please no more gratuitous Sorkin bashing! This post could easily have been written without it (could even have mentioned the WestWing origin of the idea) and certainly without using this particular title, which suggests that Sorkin mattered in this context in any way at all.

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