An exasperated White House press secretary asked reporters this week if they expected “a President Bartlet moment” — say, a march up Capitol Hill to whip Congress in line, à la fictional president in “The West Wing” television series. “Yes,” one reporter replied.
Is anybody in charge around here?
An exasperated White House press secretary asked reporters this week if they expected “a President Bartlet moment” — say, a march up Capitol Hill to whip Congress in line, à la fictional president in “The West Wing” television series.
“Yes,” one reporter replied.
The country is crying out for a grown up to take charge of negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. As senators and congressmen squabble like children on Capitol Hill the country needs an adult to step in and sort it all out. President Obama hasn’t risen to the task yet. He’s been reduced to practically begging both parties to come up with a bi-partisan compromise that he can sign into law. And asking voters to tweet their representatives to demand they do a deal. It’s not how President Bartlet would have handled it.
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All those Americans who longed for Bartlet to take charge when Bush was their real life president are once again wishing that a fictional Nobel Prize winning economist was in charge.
There was a debt ceiling episode on The West Wing. It neatly explains in 56 secs everything you need to know to understand this current political mess:
“Are we doing a press release on raising the debt ceiling because I don’t understand a word of it,” Annabeth Schott (Dep Press Sec) asks CJ Cregg (Press Sec).
CJ: “No press release – when is the vote scheduled?
Charlie Young (Personal Aide to the President): “Treasury figures show the interest on the debt will hit the legal limit at midnight tomorrow, so they want the president to press for the vote right now.”
Toby Ziegler (Communications Director): “Which of course is a ridiculous idea.”
CJ: “The leadership like to schedule it at the last minute. They always like to schedule it at the last minute just when the government is about to default.”
Toby: “When it’s too dangerous for any senator to try to stop it.”
Charlie: “…or stick an amendment on it.”
CJ: “When there is just enough times for a couple of house and senate speeches about how awful it is that we have maxed out the national credit card followed by a quick vote to raise the limit on the credit card.”
Charlie Young: “It’s a one sentence bill. Just change the 7 to an 8.”
Annabeth: “Why does treasury want the president to read a 20 page memo on a one sentence bill?”
Toby: “They like to run a worst case scenario.”
Annabeth: “In case it doesn’t pass?”
Toby: “Yeah, you know, the immediate collapse of the US economy followed by Japan sinking into the sea followed by a world wide depression the likes of which no mortal can imagine, followed by week two.”
Annabeth: “So this debt ceiling thing is routine or the end of the world?”
I have long maintained that any student of American politics could learn everything they need to know about campaigns, procedures and political manoeuvring by watching all seven seasons of the West Wing. Sounds like American’s elected politicians could learn a thing or two as well.
Of course, whilst we are deep in the middle of a very real life crisis, it’s a bit silly to be dreaming about what fictional President Bartlet would do. As we all know Matt Santos was elected president in 2006.
So the real question the White House should be asking themselves is “what would President Santos do?”