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Complete West Wing, US edition

Complete West Wing, UK edition

It's absolutely clear to me that the true predecessor of The West Wing, the great science-fiction show that ended its seven-season run this spring, is the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The plot of the 1988 movie revolves around an attempt by the villainous Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, naturally) to pave over the enclave of ToonTown in 1947's Los Angeles to make way for a new system of "freeways." ToonTown is a protected zone where the animated "toons" who star in this era's movies live: the detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired to investigate a ToonTown-related murder and winds up—as one tends to—tied up while Doom explains his plans:

DOOM: Right here where we're standing, will be the cornerstone of my idea... the cloverleaf—an elegant cement structure that intertwines freeways.

VALIANT: What the hell's a freeway?

DOOM: A freeway, Mr. Valiant, is eight lanes of asphalt running uninterrupted from L.A. to Pasadena. Pasadena to Hollywood. Hollywood to Santa Monica. Someday everyone will be in cars driving happily, non-stop from one end of the L.A. Basin to another.

VALIANT: That's what this is all about? Tell me, who's gonna use your lousy freeway? We got the Red Cars, the best public transportation in the country.

DOOM: Not for long. We're retiring the Red Cars. People will drive, Mr. Valiant, because they'll have to. And when they drive, they'll have to buy our cars, our tires, our gasoline.

In the movie, Doom is defeated and Los Angeles is saved as a place with decent public transportation, an enclave for Toons and no freeways. The film tugs at the heart because it's a counterfactual: it posits a better place than the smog-choked, concreted-over, dislocated Los Angeles that we have now. Moreover, it says that by ending up with the Los Angeles we have, we've somehow failed to choose the right story—despite the obviously fantastic tropes it uses. For liberals in an era of an aggressively right-wing White House, The West Wing works the same way. It places an impeccably moral left-of-centre President at the heart of a web of hardworking, ferociously smart advisors; and it by and large allows them to find the complex problems of their world soluble.

The setup is simple to paraphrase. Episodes of The West Wing are set overwhelmingly in the White House; each 45-minute episode tends to throw a couple of stories—problems of government—into the air and resolve them by the end. (Howard Waldrop has a wonderful review of the first couple of seasons in which he argues that this set-up was a very close match for 1960s Star Trek, another series founded on irrepressible optimism about human nature.) The core cast for the first few seasons—President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer), his deputy Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), Press Secretary CJ Cregg (Allison Janney), Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), and his deputy Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe)—looks in hindsight like a dream team, a once-in-a-decade piece of casting genius. Most of those actors now have an Emmy or two—in Janney's case, half a dozen—to demonstrate the admiration of their peers. The premiere episode gave each of them a chance to shine in their most characteristic ways. Josh engineers the main action by hubristically telling the truth about fundamentalist Christians on television; Toby gets a few moments of fortissimo moral outrage at his stupidity; CJ corrals the press corps with a steely twinkle; Bartlet provides a bedrock of moral and intellectual authority; Leo, world-weary and politically astute, holds the whole show together. Rob Lowe, the notional star of the series, must have been taken aback to find himself just one member of a superb ensemble cast like this, and this was apparently behind his eventual departure a few years later. But for the moment, even Sam has a self-deprecating klutziness at odds with his movie-star looks.

Peak episodes of the series could vary from screwball comedy to the deadly serious. Late in the first season, for instance, came a glorious example of the former, "Celestial Navigation," in which another piece of Josh arrogance—the presumption that in CJ's absence he's capable of briefing the press—falls apart spectacularly. An obvious example of the latter is "17 People," from the second season, in which Toby figures out the President's most deeply buried secret: that he's had multiple sclerosis for some years and has concealed it from both his staff and the voters. One criticism of The West Wing is that problems are too often resolved by alpha males shouting at each other; "17 People" transcends that because of the intimacy of its setting—the crucial scenes are just between Toby, Leo, and Bartlet—and the scale of the stakes being played for. For my money, though, even more affecting is "Bartlet for America," from the point in Season 3 when some implications of the MS revelation are playing out. Leo is required to testify before Congress on the scope of his interrogation, and one of his interrogators is threatening to blackmail him with a public revelation of his past as an alcoholic. This is intercut with Bartlet's memories of Leo persuading him to run for President in the first place, a pitch sealed with a napkin on which Leo had scrawled "Bartlet for America." Spencer—himself a recovering alcoholic—gives an astounding performance, filled with dignity and, in the flashbacks, a potent sense of the fallibility he has been hiding. At the end of the episode, Bartlet hands Leo a Christmas gift: the original napkin, framed. This is one of Sorkin's favorite techniques: resolving the conflicts of the present by re-telling the stories of the past. (Bartlet's encyclopedic knowledge of the world—his Nobel Prize is just a sidebar on his CV—provides frequent opportunities for this, starting in the very first episode with a folksy story about a cut tomato revealing the face of the Virgin Mary.) So "Bartlet for America" is about redemption and possibility, and comes perilously close to sentimentality. It evades that, I think, through the performances and the sense that choosing a new path—for oneself, or for a country—is hard work.

In a sense, that's what I was referring to when I said at the start of this piece that I regard The West Wing as science fiction. On one level, of course, the claim is silly: there is nothing in the series outside the canon of current political or scientific possibility (or what we as outsiders might imagine those to be.) The West Wing is entirely mimetic. Of course, in another sense, it's trivially true that The West Wing is SF. It's a piece of alternate-world science fiction: presidential elections take place in 1998 and 2002, not in leap years; the September 11th terrorist atrocity does not take place; and global events in general follow a different track from our recent past. I want to argue, though, that it's SF in a more profound sense, the Roger Rabbit sense. It makes an argument, as SF does, about possibility, about what can be done, and it does so by presenting us with a world already showing a change from our own. (One might call this technique cognitive estrangement.) Science fiction has always, I think, been a peculiarly American genre because of its allegiance to a belief in possibility. Once this was geographical: a new frontier, somewhere out west, was always there to be discovered by anyone smart and brave enough. (And anyone who happened to be living there already might find themselves getting effaced from the story, like dumb aliens in a pulp magazine.) Sf moved this frontier out into space, the potentially infinite worlds out there to be discovered. But as the difficulties of space travel become more and more apparent, it might be better to say that SF's frontier is now temporal. It tells stories about what might be done with tomorrow, starting today. Lowe gets a speech making precisely these points in "Galileo," an episode about a failed Mars probe.

Whenever Bartlet has finished with some piece of business, he hollers "What's next?" at his secretary; this, I'm suggesting, is the same impulse that fuels our reading (and writing) of SF. It's the same impulse, too, that made Bill Clinton choose Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" for his inauguration, as well as his rhetorical tropes like the famous "bridge to the 21st century." On the same subject, here's Anthony Lane, in the New Yorker for 11th December, reviewing Neil Gabler's Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination:

To be gripped by a story, especially one that is trawled from the past, is everything [to Disney]. To realize that it might not be true, or that it might have been blown up out of all proportion, is no big deal. Changing its proportions, in fact, could be just the ticket, because what are fables if not stories that have been lofted out of the reach of regular experience, no longer scratchable by the quibbles of common sense?

You could make the same case about the fantastic in general, that it takes "realism" away from what stops it being exemplary, what stops it being as story-shaped as we'd like. (Disney's genius, says Gabler, was to have an instinctive understanding of the shape we want stories to be.) The problem, of course, is that the more exemplary a story becomes, the more difficult it becomes to believe in. Sorkin's solution was, for want of a better word, to aerate the story, and in particular the dialogue. The West Wing's plots are so dense with data, delivered at such exhilaratingly high speed (the kinetic direction can take a lot of credit here too), that it's all the unbriefed viewer can do to keep track of what's happening, let alone to start questioning how plausible it is. As Clive James has argued in a fine essay on the show ("Fantasy in The West Wing," collected in The Meaning of Recognition [2005]), the dialogue and the debate it engenders sublimate all the other tensions that one might expect in a TV series. I'm not quite saying that The West Wing is (as SF is often accused of being) part of a "literature of ideas"; but it foregrounds engagement with the world, like Bartlet's love of facts, in ways that character-driven drama doesn't usually manage. So the perennially off-on sexual tension between Josh and his assistant Donna is far more interesting to Sorkin when turned into words; only at the very end of the show's run does it start to grudgingly resolve itself. As a final example of Sorkin's faith in words (and his tendency to create Mary Sue-ish writer characters), take a look at "The Portland Trip" from Season 2. Here, Bartlet uses a long plane-flight with Sam and Toby to articulate more clearly than ever the idea that his job is about creating possibility, and writers are the ones who tell the story of how: "You know why late flights are good? Because we cease to be earthbound and burdened with practicality. Ask the impertinent question. Talk about the idea no-one has thought about yet." A perfect credo for science fiction.

Of course, it all had to end, and conventional wisdom says that The West Wing fell apart after Season 4. Lowe left mid-season; Sorkin and his lead director Thomas Schlamme did the same at the end of the season. The creative lead for the last three seasons was John Wells, who had formerly done the same job on ER. What Wells did was to render The West Wing closer to more orthodox drama—for many, including myself, damagingly so. The fizz of dialogue became flatter, continuity became more rigorously enforced, actions started having longer-term consequences—something Sorkin wasn't always that interested in. The series became, in other words, more scratchable by common sense. Anyone who does persist to the end of the show's run will also have a good deal of darkness to contend with, darkness stemming (I contend) from the show's increasing out-of-stepness with the world we inhabit.

But Wells was also prepared to shuffle the characters away from the roles they were accustomed to. Bartlet fires Leo at the start of Season 6 over a long-fermenting disagreement about Israel, although after a heart attack—brilliantly played by Spencer—Leo is brought back later in a reduced role. CJ succeeds him as Chief of Staff, Josh goes off to work for one of Bartlet's potential successors, Matt Santos, and Toby self-destructs in spectacular fashion. As a result, the last season or two of The West Wing, which largely follow the race to follow Bartlet, have a weirdly emptied-out quality, like wandering through a great house from which all the children have left. Wells's argument, I'm sure, would be that dream teams like those of Seasons 1-4 don't stay together forever, and that their existence tends to exert costs on their members; and that the series was showing this realistically. The real world was getting ready to do the same, though: Spencer died of a heart attack half-way through the filming of Season 7, and a rapidly written funeral for Leo McGarry was inserted into the run. The episode containing it, "Requiem," is heartbreaking. The opening sequence, showing the funeral, brings back guest stars from across the series's run, all sitting silently in black, all crushed by self-evidently real grief. That so many actors would turn out to play low-profile, non-speaking parts for a few seconds shows plainly how much Spencer's loss hurt.

So the obvious advice about the seven seasons of The West Wing—now all available on DVD—is to sample the first if you haven't done already, and see if you're taken by its charms. You may want to proceed with caution from Season 5 on, but I find plenty to value in the later seasons: Wells's efforts at exposing the costs of counterfactuals draws some very fine work from his cast, Whitford and Janney in particular. But you have to watch the series remembering the context in which it was made. Seasons 1 and 2 come from the dying days of the Clinton era, whose end was marked by another great piece of science fiction, The Onion's "Bush: our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is over." From then on, we're not just in the Bush era but the post-9/11 era. There's a whole other essay to be written on the show's treatment of Islamic terrorism and the Middle East, from the hastily conceived one-off "Isaac and Ishmael" episode that opened the third season to the more serious consequences played out in Season 4, and then the just-like-that solution of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at the start of Season 6.

In the penultimate episode, CJ pays a surprise visit to her former colleague Toby, now in disgrace and facing jail. They fence a little around the issue of a pardon for him, and around their batch of never-quite-addressed sexual tension. As she's leaving, she says with a smile, "We had it good there for a while." The "we" might be their group of staffers, or their group of actors, or America. Like youth, it's something they know won't ever come back. Toby is pardoned in the final episode, as Bartlet leaves office and his Democrat successor takes over. The final episode is, even more than the earlier ones, a leave-taking whose emptied-out rooms and echoing vacancies reminded me of nothing so much as the last ten minutes of 2001. The ending is the necessary and obvious one, perhaps a bit too literal, perhaps a bit too much part of Wells's sentimental streak—which is at least as obvious as Sorkin's. Leo's daughter returns to the President the "Bartlet for America" napkin, and he opens it as he departs Washington on Air Force One. He looks at it for a moment and passes it to his wife.

"What are you thinking about?" she asks him.

"Tomorrow."

Graham Sleight lives in London, UK. He would like to thank John Clute, Niall Harrison, and Dan Hartland for discussions about The West Wing. The conclusions above are, of course, his own.



18 comments on “Don't Stop: A West Wing retrospective”
Ted Chiang

I stopped watching West Wing around the time Sorkin left, but I quite enjoyed the first few seasons, albeit in a conflicted fashion. I used to joke that it was genre television because of the wish fulfillment involved; the idea of such a principled, intelligent, and effective administration in the White House sometimes seemed only slightly more plausible than the idea of a teenager slaying vampires in southern California. It reminded me of what Vonnegut said about the similarity between science fiction and pornography: that both depict an impossibly hospitable world.

I recall that China Mieville once gave a GoH speech at Wiscon in which he, in passing, criticized The West Wing for essentially being consolatory fantasy that contributed to liberals' complacency about politics. That wasn't popular with Wiscon attendees, but I definitely knew what he meant.

Thanks, Ted. Yes, there is an activism argument that says that time spent immersing yourself in the warm bath of West-Wing-ness is *avoidance*; in a sense, you can generalise that to all time enjoying stories. It's displacement from doing something about the world outside your window. The single biggest structual criticism to make of TWW (I think) in both its Wells and Sorking incarnations is that it doesn't feel as difficult as real politics does. Which, yes, lines up very closely with the critique of sf that it presents a world too frictionless to be believed.

I missed series 5 through Channel 4's cheduling shenanigins -- moving it onto digital. When I caught series 6, it always felt out of kilter with the earlier episodes, but I put it down to simply having missed a whole series. It was interesting to learn that other factors doubtless contributed to that.
Maybe there's a basis for 'slipstream television' there: Make a series and don't air the even numbered episodes.
Thanks for an interesting and informative review.

Thanks, Colin. Yes, C4 served UK viewers who were West Wing fans so consistently terribly that it's a wonder there are any of us left at all. And yes, there is a clear break in tone between the Sorkin seasons 1-4 and the Wells seasons 5-7; but that's been so extensively examined elsewhere (and is relatively tangential to what I wanted to say) that I didn't want to talk about it any more than I had to.

I have been known to remark, half-jokingly and on several occasions, that The West Wing is a great science fiction show. It is nice to see someone actually attempt to turn this into a well-constructed argument.
It's an interesting piece of writing. Warnings apply: spoilers for all seasons, and it's a bit American (no, SF is not a particularly American genre, go talk to people from Eastern Europe); some interesting thoughts nonetheless.

Wonderful article Graham - a very insightful elegy to my favourite TV show. 🙂 I'm especially glad to see such balance in your assessment of the final seasons, for which I have a certain respect. Part of which is loyalty, I know, and an unwillingness to let go of something I admired so thoroughly...but nevertheless..
In some ways I think Wells was the braver man, more willing to confront difficulty and disappointment than Sorkin (who liked character conflict but too often made its resolution saccharine); more willing to ask the big 'what if' questions (admittedly, not always satisfactorily...); more willing to cause pain/confusion, and to explore it. It was difficult to see favourites colliding, but the time had come for just that kind of disintegration. Strong minds tend to disagreement, and it was always bubbling under the surface. Josh hitting Toby? The combustion of Toby's relationship with the President (it made all kinds of sense!), and the poignancy of his never-never with CJ? These were necessary.
So, although the two 'halves' of TWW privilege different elements of the show and provoke me in different ways, they both have their worth methinks.

*blush* Thanks very much, Victoria. I was eager not to re-open the Wells-Sorkin wars here, but a lot of what you say makes sense, especially re Wells playing out the darker side of character arcs that Sorkin had started off.

Nice work Graham, you perfectly expressed what it is that I really like about the West Wing and what I think was most present in the first couple of series.
One of the more interesting things about the progress of the series is how the show lost intellectual energy and focus as it went along in much the same way as a real government would.
If you look at the later series (certainly 4 and 5 with 6 and 7 really being about the next government) there's a movement away from discussing those big ideas and towards the whole phatic discourse of the soap opera with X and Y having relationships and Z coming to terms with this fact about himself.
That move from servicing a political and intellectual agenda to just keeping the character's relationships ticking over marks the move from substantive discourse and engagement with ideas and towards the phatic discourse of soaps.
Similarly, if you look at the later days of the Clinton government or the current Blair and Bush governments, it's not really about politics anymore, it's all about who's in, who's out, who's coming in next and who isn't talking to whom.

Dan Hartland

"You know why late flights are good? Because we cease to be earthbound and burdened with practicality. Ask the impertinent question. Talk about the idea no-one has thought about yet." A perfect credo for science fiction.
But then the point of The Portland Trip is that, at its close and for all the main characters' varying types of idealism and fantasy, the plane touches back down and not a lot happens. Toby gets the killer position in response to Sam's blue skies thinking - responsible government is as important as inspirational government, and floating the fantastical idea, the speculative proposition, is unfair on an electorate who probably won't get what you promise. You have to deal in the currency of the real. This is what saved the show at its best from the accusations Ted talks about.
And it was also the heart of The West Wing - not the issues alone, but the way in which the world (our world) acts upon them, the way it drags them back downwards. (Jed: "I remind you sir, that I have the following things to negotiate:
an opposition Congress, special interests with power beyond belief, and a bitchy media.") The show asked what would happen if people like its dream team were allowed to govern - it planted them very firmly in our own world as it did so. Is it SF? In set up, perhaps, but in purpose and effect? Of course not. Though your manful attempt to make it so just so you could write about it deserves some congratulations. Just not from me. 😛
And Victoria - Wells as the braver writer is an interesting idea, given how he tried to shake up the show's rather comfortable formula, but ultimately the stories he tried to tell were splashy and showy. The idea that this was a drama about some people in an office was brave - who was going to watch that? Blowing up cars, introducing secret military shuttles, and solving the Middle East, North Korea and China, is probably the stuff everyday drama is truly made of.

I think there is an argument to be made that Sorkin shied away from tackling the big "what if?" problems, but I don't agree that Wells was braver about it. Sorkin handled the conflicts between Toby and Jed Bartlet in the brilliant 17 People and the less successful The Two Bartlets in dialogue-heavy episodes which were true to the character. Wells couldn't hope to keep the same style, but introduced drama through character conflicts which seemed to make no sense - while it was interesting to see our favourites be shaken up and in conflict with each other, there's no way I can see the Josh/Toby punch-up and promoting CJ to Chief of Staff as consistent with the four seasons of character development that went before. I agree with Dan - a brave writer would have introduced the middle east peace crisis and done something with it, rather than solving it in 90 minutes and throwing in a heart attack for extra drama, and in the end it is Sorkin's faith that you can make enthralling and engaging TV from six guys in an office talking about politics that seems brave to me.

itchyfidget

Here via Niall - wanted to say thanks to Graham for an interesting and thought-provoking essay.
I'm not totally buying tWW as SF, but I can see that to an extent, SF is all about "look at where we could be" (with variations on when and where). To that extent, I do think that the Sorkin years are much more SF than the Wells stuff* - Wells' version of tWW universe is no more SF than a Tom Clancy novel. Sorkin's universe isn't wholly utopian, but it's a step or two further away from reality, I guess.
Also, I really want to see Jed jump through the Oval Office window, leaving a Jed-shaped hole in the glass.
* I confess: I've only seen up 'til about halfway through S6, by which time I was so appalled by what Wells had done to the dialogue and established characters that I had to stop.

Dan, I hear what you're saying...about Wells being a flashy showman. He didn't have Sorkin's eye for the subtle scenario and so you end up with the Middle East deal and the shuttle debacle. (Although, to be honest, I don't think the Middle East deal was the wonderland cure for the Arab-Israeli conflict that some people have claimed. What Bartlett does is embed an American military presence in a hostile zone. He doesn't 'solve' the crisis as much as intervene, somewhat hastily and heart first, as always. Is this so thoroughly out of character and out of sync? Then Wells dropped it from the radar, which was always a Sorkin trick. Mandy for instance? Or Kundoo? Plus, I think Jed and Leo's relationship was the emotional centre of that whole storyline.)
But (and I've argued about this with Niall before) I don't think Wells ever really left the political-office process of the show behind. He didn't disavow it. True, the emphasis was turned to the campaign in S6 and S7, but a lot of those episodes were as heavy in strategy and minutiae as the early shows: you have to know TWW to see the panache in them. Equally I don't think Sorkin was ever really subtle. He just hid his foreign policy melodramas and character bombshells under an avalanche of domestic issues. (I've been thinking too about why S6 and S7 saw such a shift towards big foreign policy arcs...and I'm beginning to wonder if it wasn't necessary to balance out the draining weight of the campaign, which was always centred on domestic affairs?)
Liz, you couldn't see Toby and Josh fighting?! Even though their egos had been wrestling throughout S3 and S4, and even though there was always a tense confusion over who had most authority and influence over the President? I thought they were going to slog it out well before they did. As for CJ being promoted to chief of staff? I admit I struggled to compute it too. But then again hadn't she always been the most consistently insightful and efficient of the team, aside from Leo. And neither Toby nor Josh had the centralising, mediating qualities necessary, or the solid relationship with the president. Who else was there?
Evidently I could talk about this for hours... but now it's time to shut up. 🙂

I have difficulty buying the idea of The West Wing as consolatory, because of the Roger Rabbit effect Graham identifies at the start of his piece. Watching the show sometimes really hurts, because it's all too obvious how far removed it is from our own reality. And I think Sorkin increasingly recognised this, which means I also have difficulty accepting Dan's argument that "in purpose and effect" the show isn't sfnal; it seems to me that highlighting the gap between the show's world and our own is a clearly sfnal move.
That said, in contrast to (correct me if I'm wrong) everyone else commenting, I think The West Wing became more sfnal as it went along, not less. In the early seasons, the show is distant from our world along a utopian axis; in the later seasons, it may be closer to us in that sense, but it's further from us in a literal alternate-history sense. I've said this before, but for me it's as though history is on hold for the Sorkin years, and then as soon as Wells takes over the clock starts ticking again. For Sorkin, the backdrop was always static, and you could forget that it wasn't ours, because (as Dan says) functionally, it was ours. And Sorkin used fictional countries such as Qumar whenever a foreign-policy case study became a major plot point; Wells used, as mentioned, Israel and Palestine. Bartlet's intervention there is hard to swallow, at least for me, in part because it moves his world away from ours. The same could be said of the potential oil war between China and Russia in season 7.
Which is not to say the Wells years were much good. The intent may have been to show the breakup of a dream team, but I'm with Liz and Dan in that I think it wasn't handled in a consistent manner. Season 5, in particular, was a disaster; you could argue that Wells was trying to replicate the utopian impulse of the show, e.g. by having Toby solve social security in a day, but having no idea what made that aspect of the show work. S6 and S7 are on a gradual upslope of quality, but largely because they turn into a different show called The Campaign Trail, and arguably they fall prey to providing the same sort of consolation -- the administration gets too much done, too easily. I can't help thinking that if Sorkin had still been writing it, Vinick would have won.

"I can't help thinking that if Sorkin had still been writing it, Vinick would have won."
No, no, no! Sorkin's ending *would* have been different, but he wouldn't have had Vinick win! It would have still been Santos (or his equivalent) only the finale would have been more grandiose, far more sentimental and much more centred on Bartlett. You know he could never resist a 'God Bless America' moment.

All: sorry I've been away from this discussion for a bit. (You've seen Abigail's great post, right?) Don't have time, I'm afraid, to comment in detail about everyone's points, except to say, re sentiment, that Sorkin had at least as much of a sweet-tooth here as Wells, possibly more so - just watch the end of "The Midterms", or "Ellie", or (special case) the close of "Isaac and Ishmael".

I can't help thinking that if Sorkin had still been writing it, Vinick would have won.
Lawrence O'Donnell has said that until John Spencer died the intent was that Vinick would win, pipping Santos at the post. I can believe this because, for all the force-feeding of Santos as a great and charismatic leader, Alan Alda is just a lot more compelling than Jimmy Smits, and his character is pretty liberal by Republican standards. It makes a nice way to mark the changing of an era and bring the series in line with the current political climate. I suspect that the knowledge that the show was ending made this choice more palatable.

With Vinick though you got the sense that he was being given bad advice. He knew the right thing to do and when he took a stand always succeeded triumphantly, but he was weighed down by the baggage of the Christian right and the preceived need to pander to different demographics.
You can argue that this made him weak because he failed to stand up for himself, and I might agree, but I think it also showed someone who was absolutely the right man for the job, but was struggling with the muddy realities of the political landscape. I think his reaction to Santos's family secret - both his gut reaction and the way he handled it politically - showed that he's a man of moral and personal integrity.

Gensionskiz

i'm new... hope to register around more regularly!

 

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