West Wing Live Debate - Verdict? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

West Wing Live Debate - Verdict?

I happened to be flipping by and stopped on the "West Wing" Sunday although -- usually -- I turn it off if I see it, because I haven't watched for a year and don't know the storyline. I watch some of the re-runs on Bravo and, being the kinda guy who will rent a DVD to watch a TV show without commercials, I figure I'm far enough behind the West Wing not to worry about every catching it live.

Well, LIVE, it was. The first thing I noticed was that the show didn't look like it had been shot on film, as it usually does -- it was being fed through video cameras, which I thought was silly. "They're making it look too much like a real debate and not enough like the show." Then I started watching a little more carefully and listening closely and got totally engrossed -- it helped that there weren't commercials.

As it turns out (and as the whole world other than me probably knew) that they would have a "live" debate on the West Wing between the two presidental candidates played by Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda. It was a fascinating hour of television that literally got my heart pumping the way the real debates did. And, of course, it was a fantasy, because both candidates laid out positions and defenses that were not only relevant, but much more sophisticated than anything we get out of any politician in the public eye these days. (If Obama and McCain had a debate and left some of their handlers at home, it might be close.)

The craziest thing is that, while scripted, both actors were also coached in their topics and in debating, such that they were allowed to go off-script and mix it up. In so doing, I must say that I think Alda's character -- playing the moderate Republican from California -- won the debate by a nose, although Smit's character was by no mean a pushover. (In fact, had Smit's character had the final word, he probably could have pulled out the debate, because Alda's left a few holes in his closing remarks.)

The New York Times' snarky little TV column said that the West Wing doesn't deal in "what if" but in "if only" scenarios:

Sunday's live presidential debate was the quintessence of wishful writing. Two intelligent, principled candidates tossed aside debate rules and went at each other full throttle on live television, debating everything from immigration and energy policy to foreign debt relief. They didn't discuss abortion, however, because in "West Wing" World, even the Republican nominee is pro-choice.

That may be true, but for someone who *likes* the idea of leaders who would actually explore intelligent solutions to our country's problems in a political debate, it was, at the very least, good television.

Previous Comments

ID
103620
Comment

Amen. Great television. I actually thought early on that Smits' character was getting too many good lines, but Alda's character pulled through with the line about the tax cuts, and the great closing statement. Cool on so many levels. And Forrest Sawyer was fantastic--I know he was playing himself, but he seemed convincingly befuddled, annoyed, etc. when the plot called for it. Re "West Wing" World and abortion: Don't look now, New York Times, but if Giuliani somehow wins the Republican nomination for 2008, we'll have two pro-choice candidates for real. Something else everyone should watch: The Boondocks on the Cartoon Network. Saw the first episode the other night, and it was nothing short of amazing. I wondered how well the strip would adjust to a 22-minute format. It adjusted quite well, with a central plotline involving a garden party where...well, you folks just need to watch it. Amazing stuff. And a subtle metanarrative, there towards the end, that seems to suggest some frustration on McGruder's part that more whites don't get annoyed at what he says--and why he thinks they don't, and why he doesn't always see this as a good thing. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-08T16:42:59-06:00
ID
103621
Comment

(Oh, and re The West Wing: I hope they don't forget the vice-presidential debate, which would also be worth a full episode given the cast members involved.)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-08T16:45:07-06:00
ID
103622
Comment

It's like a parallel universe in which both candidates are actually smart enough to answer questions about their beliefs. We just get to sit there and gaze longingly at the television, as yuck-yucks who can't intelligently defend their own ideas run our country. Sigh. I'd vote for the Alan Alda character; at least he could explain his ideas. It was good TV. I'm behind on that show (as in occasionally watch re-runs on Bravo). Who are the actors playing the vice presidential candidates?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T16:53:35-06:00
ID
103623
Comment

I have been considering writing a column about what we really need these days: a few, good conservatives. I haven't met one, yet, in Jackson who can articulate intelligent conservative ideas, much less argue with an intelligent progressive in a convincing way. Often, I read commentary by conservatives here that I could out-argue -- from the right. It's as if people are incredibly misinformed -- and just grab the label "conservative" without knowing what it means. And the libertarians here are even worse. Except Lawrence Silver, who writes for us when he has time. He is an intelligent libertarian. I don't agree with him, but he makes me think. I'm not saying other intelligent conservatives aren't there, but I don't hear them speak (or publish) in public often. It's all that kneejerk crony-magnum crap, or such extreme wingnutism that defies logic (and actual conservative ideals, although they're not informed enough to know it). OK, I may be sounding elitist now -- but at least it's about conservativm, not progressivism. ;-) Thoughts? Where are all the smart conservatives!?! I kind of think they're hiding, tooófrom the idiots who have hijacked their party and ideology. Seriously.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T16:58:27-06:00
ID
103624
Comment

I think part of the trouble is that the Republican Party has required people to sell out in a way that pushes away intellectually honest people. There are at least three different kinds of conservatives who make up the Republican base: Social conservatives, who care about the poor and disenfranchised (unless they're gay, but even then they'll help with food, shelter, health services, etc.), may or may not buy into the whole Republican fiscal policy agenda, but want to do what they can to help the government encourage what they consider to be a Christian moral framework. Jackson is full of intelligent social conservatives--most of the faculty of RTS or Wesley Biblical would qualify, as would several folks at Belhaven College. Many social conservatives are actually Democrats rather than Republicans--especially African-American social conservatives, of whom there are many. Fiscal conservatives, who are not terribly concerned about moral issues, but completely buy into free trade, capitalism, and the general philosophy of laissez-faire economics. Not very many of these in Jackson, but the Cato Institute is full of them. I absolutely adore the Cato web site, by the way--if they had a blog, I'd link to it even though I completely disagree with about 80% of what they say, just because they're so intellectually honest that they squeak. Fiscal conservatism clashes with social conservatism because it's hard to be both laissez-faire and support a government guided by religious principles. Particularly when it comes to Christianity which, if you take a literal view of the Gospel (as social conservatives generally do) and really do accept Jesus as your personal savior and political philosopher (as social conservatives generally do), is incompatible with faith in a free market economy. There are two subcategories of fiscal conservatism: Traditional fiscal conservatives, who believe that the government must be run as a business (so the budget must always be balanced) and therefore cut social spending, and Reaganite fiscal conservatives, who believe that the government should willingly accept deficits in order to cut taxes, out of faith in the free market, and are willing to do some amount of deficit social spending as well when it seems necessary. Both kinds of fiscal conservatism can be defended quite well, but they are at odds with one another. Neoconservatives, who may or may not be terribly concerned about moral or fiscal issues, but believe that we are in a culture war against Islamist theocracy. Contrary to popular opinion, most neoconservatives I've met are not necessarily anti-Muslim; they are against theocratic government in general, just as they were against communist governments during the cold war. Then there is a fourth category of people, who I guess I would call true believer conservatives, who try to uncomfortably mix social, fiscal (Reaganite tax cuts plus traditional opposition to social programs), and neo- conservatism so that they can buy into every possible mainstream expression of the Republican Party platform. These people are almost invariably intellectually dishonest, incredibly stupid, or both, because it's almost impossible to fit all four categories into a system that makes any sense at all. Some make up for these gaps by spackling them over with subtle racism, misogyny, and contempt for the poor. I would say that our problem is that we've been dealing with too many true believer conservatives, and it has skewed our impression of what real conservatives are like. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-08T17:16:15-06:00
ID
103625
Comment

BTW- Some of my best friends are social conservatives. Some of my best friends are fiscal conservatives. Some of my best friends are neoconservatives. But true believer conservatives; they inevitably end up turning on me, because the same loyalty that makes them accept such an unwieldy set of contradictory propositions makes it very difficult for them to have liberal friends. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-11-08T17:25:03-06:00
ID
103626
Comment

My biggest frustration, Tom, is that so many "conservatives" (in quotes, because I respect real conservatives, not in quotes) don't care about facts. It's as if lying has become a perfectly OK thing to do as along as it justifies your philosophy. Yes, liberals get caught lying, too ó but, when they are, it's usually a big deal to people (although Clinton's lies should have been a bigger deal to more people, but I digress). But, it's as if the crony-magnums (the only phrase that is working for me right now for this bizarre subset of humans seemingly driven only by greed) don't care one iota about truth. They don't want to attribute their statements; when they do, it's to other crony-magnums who also aren't relying on facts, eithers. And so on, and so on. I've had some crony-magnums approach me about writing a column. (They usually start their pitch with "Hmmmm"; a bad sign.) They then insult me personally. They then challenge me to actually have the courage to run their incredibly written screeds that are going to show the world that crony-magnums have all the answers. I then mention that they need to provide factcheck materials. And I never hear from them again. I'm not being facetious: I really want to hear from good, smart conseratives who understand what conservatism is. I want to have a battle of wits with an armed conservative who understands the difference between civil debate and hurling personal insults. A conservative who likes to be challenged -- rather than sets out for revenge if they're proven wrong. WHERE ARE ALL THE SMART CONSERVATIVES? Don't be afraid; the crony-magnums are a fleeting fad. They're imploding. Y'all smart, informed conservatives step up and reclaim your ideology and let's have some good debate, based on logic and facts, and not on jingoism or racism or plain old hate. Please.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T17:27:27-06:00
ID
103627
Comment

Some of my best friends are social conservatives. Some of my best friends are fiscal conservatives. Some of my best friends are neoconservatives. I hear you ó except on the neo-con part. I've yet to meet a neo-con who didn't seem completely narcissistic (thus, incapable of being a good friend). You're hitting on something meaningful, though: I don't want to live in a world with just a bunch of "liberals." Hell, I sure don't want to live in a world like we saw on the Chick thread the other day where you're beaten up by an angry lefty because you poke fun at a bad waitress. Ick. But, the crony-mags seem to want to live in a world inhabited only by crony-mags. It's as if they grab their club every time they see a suspected liberal and go chasing and whacking after them -- because they don't think they people have the right to think differently. Of course, as we saw on that thread, lefties do that, too. But right now they're the minority and beaten into submission. The truth is, both nutballs (left) and wingnuts (right) are hazardous to our health and democracy. I really, truly don't understand a world where you only respond to other ideas with insults. Now, sometimes you gotta insult back, but we both know the vicious cycle that starts. Wingnut insults; we swing back; then everyone but the club-swingers leave, and the conversation dwindles. I really want to recommend that everyone try to read a copy of Deborah Tannen's "The ARgument Culture"óa book about what is wrong with our discourse in America (and really hurt by the so-called "objective" media; great chapter on that). I try to live by Deborah's principles, although I backslide (and even Deborah says you gotta fight back when attacked). What's so vital to understand is that it is a tactic by really mean people to beat many of us into submission. It doesn't matter whether they use facts, personal insults or just smear tactics. They want to stop the dialogue even if they have to bait you into it first in order to beat you down. So, my theories on this is to (a) avoid the trap of crony-mag discourse; that's why I don't do talk radio and (b) keep having the discussion and insisting on civility and, most importantly, facts and attribution. Oh, and (c), bypass the lamestream media and call them out on their bad reporting and faulty "objectivity."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T17:42:42-06:00
ID
103628
Comment

By the way, I don't believe all liberals are "nutballs" and all conservatives are "wingnuts." I use those labels for the radical extremists who don't want to work with, or communicate with, people who don't agree with them. Just to be clear. I should also be clear that I do not believe the left-right paradigm works in today's world. Atall.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T17:48:23-06:00
ID
103629
Comment

Donna!....See 6 entries up!...Ouch! [bud]

Author
Ben Allen
Date
2005-11-08T20:31:23-06:00
ID
103630
Comment

Ha! I know how you bring you back out of the woodwork, eh Ben? Where you been?!? OK, you're a pretty smart conservative ... but as I tell you often, you don't demonstrate it in public often enough. ;-P

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-11-08T22:17:02-06:00

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

comments powered by Disqus