Thursday, November 18, 2004

West Wing rerun

Okay, the last source for great politics should be a fictional television show, I'll admit that. But from time to time the show does come up with pretty damn good quotes which I wish real politicians -- and the American public -- would heed. I was watching a rerun of the show on Bravo last night, and found myself going, "That's what I'm talking about!"

It was just before President Bartlet was announcing his intention to run for President again. He had just disclosed his M.S. recently, and the West Wing was engaged in a slew of hand-wringing about what he should say in his next address to the nation, etc. etc., when Toby reads out loud a draft sentence that contains the word "torpor." (The following dialog is paraphrased from memory; I didn't have the time to transcribe.)

Consultant: You can't use that sentence. No one will know what the word "torpor" means.
Josh: "Torpor"? It means "apathy."
Toby: And dullness.
Consultant: I know what the word means, but most of the American public won't!
[C.J. walks into the room.]
C.J.: What word?
Josh: "Torpor."
C.J.: It means "apathy."
Toby: And dullness.
Consultant: I know what it means! What I'm saying is most of the American people....
[The President's voice interrupts.]
The President: ... can look it up. We shouldn't have to talk down to be understood by the American people, we should be raising the level of dialog. If you're going to be the "education President" you can't very well be hiding the fact that you have one.

Now that's what I'm talking about. John Kerry was trashed early in his campaign this election cycle because -- scandal! -- he can speak fluent French. That quality of his quickly dropped from any public image he portrayed of himself, as if being ignorant of the world were an asset. "I don't want no hoity-toity French-speaking Massachusetts senator as President!", proclaimed the so-called "heartland" voter from the Red States.

Instead, they preferred a president who can barely string together a sentence in English without a teleprompter.


Matthew said...

People like it when they don't feel challenged.

Oh, they'll go on and on in their corporate meetings about how they embrace new challenges, etc. etc. but it's just a front.

Give "the people" someone that doesn't force them to learn something new and expand their minds, and they'll be content. It's pathetic, but it's the sad truth.

Personally, I think we should be challening people to broaden their knowledge, but it often backfires on politicians. See: Kerry, John.


Randy said...

I agree with both of you, but the need to dumb things down in Washington is why I have a job.

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