The Debate

I am a huge fan of The West Wing so it should be no surprise that my wife and I spent an hour last night watching the “live debate” between Jimmy Smits (Matt Santos – D) and Alan Alda (Arnold Vinick – R). While perusing ABC’s The Note, I came across this link to Tom Shales Washington Post review of the program which I have to fully disagree with.

First of all, Shales’ review sounds more like that of an bitchy Broadway critic than anything else (sheesus criisst, I can’t believe they would wear that!). His main point of contention seems to be that the show,

“[squandered] the novelty of their attention-getting gimmick by avoiding almost any semblance of controversy, ending up with an hour that lent itself to catnaps. Instead of having the candidates argue about actual and urgent issues of the moment — terrorism, the Patriot Act, politicization of the Supreme Court nominating process and, of course, the faltering war in Iraq — Vinick and Santos chatted about generic generalities.”

I could not disagree more. He is correct in that the debate did not touch on any of the most hotly contested issues facing American’s today but I do not believe the writers could have. Shales seems to forget that it has become a sport in this country to attack the Hollywood elite. Had the writers attempted to address the issues mentioned above it would have simply been seen as an attempt by Hollywood to impose their “out of the mainstream views” on the viewing public.

What the writers accomplished instead was something not a single politician or political pundit has been able to do in the past two decades I have spent active in politics, create a debate in which two opposing political philosophies were presented in such a way as to leave the viewer saying “hmm, now that I look at it both of these people have equally palatable, although opposing views on how the country should be run.” This shows me one thing; Hollywood seems to know better than either Washington insiders or the media how to make politics appealing again. Kudos to The West Wing.

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