First of all, apologies for not getting this up sooner but I wasn't feeling well on Sunday. I think it could be reasonably argued that the seventh and final season of The West Wing was the best of the period after Aaron Sorkin left the show, either because of the subject matter or because at least subconsciously the producers knew that it would be the last. They had to deal with off screen personel situations in the form of contracts coming to an end. Dule Hill for example was only meant to appear in a limited number of episodes as was Martin Sheen. It seems likely that NBC knew at the beginning of the season that they would be cancelling the show but didn't announce it officially until early in January, at about the same time as the biggest off screen event of the season occured - the death of John Spencer. Spencer was the heart and soul of the series and if we are to believe published reports, his death changed a lot of things including the results of the show's election. On screen the show tried at least one innovation with the (mostly) live debate between Santos and Vinnick. They consumated the Josh and Donna relationhip in what was for the most part a believable manner. They actually had the election and its aftermath. Still, for better or for worse the season came to be about Leo. Even the last scene of the final episode, in which former President Bartlet opened a package with the napkin on which Leo had written "Bartlet For America" was meant to remind viewers of Leo and how integral the character had been to the success of the show. This brief scene aired during the episode Running Mates which ironically (given the subject matter oft his particular speech) was the first episode to air after John Spencer suffered his fatal heart attack.
Moderator: Given your medical history, why shouldn't voters feel concern about you?
Leo By an overwhelming percentage, the first symptom of a heart attack is death. I am fortunate to be here. But it wasn't all luck. I was the beneficiary of the finest medical care in the world - medical care available to me, to Governor Sullivan; but not to the millions of Americans with no or inadequate health insurance. They have their noses pressed against the windows of the world's greatest hospitals, best trained doctors and nursing professionals. And when they most need, most desperately need their services, they can't get in.
The following scene is from the live debate episode hosted by real life NBC journalist Forrest Sawyer. It is the closing statements of the candidates in which they sum up their positions.
Sawyer: Congressman, Senator; we have just a very few minutes left. Would you like to use that time for your closing statements?
Sawyer: All right then. According to the coin toss, the first closing statement is from Congressman Santos.
Santos: Well, Senator Vinick was eager to take a pledge about taxes, but now taking a pledge about anything else is beneath the dignity of the Presidency. The President has to lead. He has to actively head off problems, not just hope the market will figure out everything for him. It's the free market that Senator Vinick trusts so much that has left 45 million people without health insurance. But to his credit, the Senator's very honest about the fact that he has no health care plan, no education plan, no jobs plan, no energy plan. All he has is a tax plan. After he cuts taxes, what's he going to do for the next four years? Tax cuts are not a magic wand that you can wave at every problem. Senator Vinick is very quick to attack my plans, but the Presidency is about more than just saying no, no, no. You have to say yes to something. You have to do something. We don't have enough time for me to remind you about every policy difference that you've heard here tonight. But when you go to work tomorrow and you're talking about this debate, talk about the qualities that you want to see as a President; the leadership qualities. Ask yourself if Matt Santos is the kind of guy who's going to give up on the promises that he's made tonight because it's going to be too tough to get them done. Talk about what it was like for Matt Santos to go from where he was baptized 45 years ago to where he's standing tonight. Ask yourselves what it was like to do that. And then ask yourselves if you're ready to give Matt Santos the Presidency of the United States. You know, you've seen the stories: in newspapers all over the world, people are asking is America ready for a Latino President. I have never asked that question. I never asked if Annapolis was ready for a Latino midshipman. I never asked if the Marines was ready for a Latino fighter pilot. I didn't have to ask. I just had to prove that I was ready, that I could get the job done. I am asking for your vote now because I know that I am ready to do the job. I thank you.
Sawyer: Senator Vinick, your closing statement.
Vinick: First of all, I want to thank Matt for agreeing to drop the rules tonight and let us have a real debate. And what you've heard, over and above the many policy differences, were different philosophies of government. I believe both of us want what's best for this country, we just have different ideas about how to go about it. I think it's fair to say that Matt has more confidence in government than I do. I have more confidence in freedom your freedom; your freedom to choose your child's school, your freedom to choose the car or truck that's right for you and your family, your freedom to spend or save your hard-earned money instead of having the government spend it for you. I'm not anti-government. I just don't want any more government than we can afford. I don't want government doing things it doesn't know how to do or doing things the private sector does better or throwing more money at failed programs because that's exactly what makes people lose faith in government. And all of us, Democrats and Republicans, Independents, Liberals or Conservatives, we all want a government that we can believe in. We all want a government that doesn't make false promises, a government that doesn't overreach, doesn't take on more than it can handle; an efficient, effective, honest government. That's what the Founding Fathers created. That's what they wanted for us. The choice in this election comes down to this: do we want more government or do we want to get control of government. To govern is to choose and the choices are never easy. There are lobbies out there that will fight you on every choice you make. They're ready to call you names the second you make a choice they don't like. You heard that heckler go after me tonight. You have to be tough to stand up to that. But being tough won't help you make the right choice. That takes experience and mature judgment. That's what the Presidency needs now more than ever. And that's why I ask you to give me your vote: so that I can give you the government that you were promised by the Founding Fathers. Thank you, very much.
Sawyer: Senator Vinick, Congressman Santos: our thanks to you both. That is our debate and thank you for watching. Goodnight.