Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The West Wing Debate

NBC’s fictional series "The West Wing" took a bold new step this past Sunday with a very LIVE presidential debate between their two very FICTIONAL presidential candidates.

On one side, we have Congressman Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smitts. He’s the Democratic nominee trying to keep his party in the White House after the two-term presidency that has been the "West Wing". On the other side we have Republican Senator Arnold Vinik, played by Alan Alda.

Now on the onset I’m sure some of you are thinking… "Oh, wow… 2000 all over again." BUT… no, not really.

For starters, we have a Democratic nominee that sounds a lot like a Republican… he’s pro-life. He supports intelligent design. He finds himself supporting liberal causes that he himself has a hard time agreeing with. On the other side, we have a Republican that comes off as a moderate. He refuses to deal with the Religious Wrong, he throws a fit when the issue of abortion comes up… he also finds himself supporting causes that he has a hard time agreeing with. These guys could change parties tomorrow and probably feel better about themselves in the process.

In short, guys, these are Hollywood's IDEAL candidates, trying to take over the reins of thier IDEAL two-term president.

The other thing is that this debate was NOTHING like the real presidential debates we’ve seen. The first thing they do is they throw out the rules and just have a complete ad-lib debate on the issues. No time limits, no issue off the books, no sacred cows. Everything gets hashed out between the two fictional candidates.

And I can tell you there’s one question that people were asking when they saw this live debate…

Why couldn’t our REAL debates be like this?

I’ll tell you why... because the cast of "The West Wing" have better actors! Jimmy Smitts and Alan Alda are SEASONED professionals. They’ve been performing for YEARS. They know how to get in character and stay in character no matter what, even when they have to ad lib. And people, I know from personal experience that it is NOT EASY to do that!

Much like "The West Wing", politicians in the real word have to create a character in order to stay elected. But these people are not actors. They’re negotiators, grifters, shysters, and the occasional heart surgeon who pretends he’s a brain specialist. They have to have their political persona fine-crafted and orchestrated by image consultants. They don’t know how to ad-lib and think of the fly, so everything they say has to be polished and refined by writers. Everything they do is scripted in advance. The debates are prepared MONTHS in advance. It’s all a CHARADE! They guys wouldn’t DARE do a completely off-the-script debate because then their TRUE selves may come out… and then they couldn’t get elected to the position of dog catcher.

That’s why people enjoyed seeing the cast of "The West Wing" do it… because was handled by professionals. WE KNOW that Alan Alda and Jimmy Smitts are just actors, and when the show is over, they go back to being themselves. On the other hand, our elected grifters, shysters, and the occasional heart surgeon who pretends to be a brain expert want us to BELIEVE that the persona THEY put on for us is for real 24-7.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a sad state of affairs when the pretend politicians turn out to be better at the game than the real ones.

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