Monday, May 01, 2006

Fourteen Days Of The West Wing - Day 2

Well sort of. I was late getting started yesterday so...

Let's spend some time with President Josiah "Jed" Bartlett. Nobel Prize winning economist, walking encyclopedia of obscure knowledge, descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence (the real-life Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire), "Abu el Banat" - father of daughters. Bartlet was actually a late addition to the series. The show was meant to focus on the staff - Sam in particular - with the president rarely if ever seen but when Martin Sheen signed on to play the President things changed. Sheen brought a certain charisma to the role and was letter perfect for the part. Increasingly the balance of the show shifted towards Bartlet and away from Sam and the staff.

Bartlet is not a person to suffer fools or hypocrites lightly. In the following exchange from the Season 2 episode The Midterms he artfully skewers a right-wing radio talk show host based on Dr. Laura Schlessinger (it's part of an explanation to Toby of how he beat an early political opponent who is currently running for a school boards seat). The character of Dr. Jenna Jacobs was played by Claire Yarlett.

Bartlet: I'm sorry, um... you're Dr. Jenna Jacobs, right?
Jenna Jacobs: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: It's good to have you here.
Jenna Jacobs: Thank you.
Bartlet: The awesome impact of the airwaves and how that translates into the furthering of our national discussions but obviously also how it can... how it can...
Bartlet: Forgive me, Dr. Jacobs. Are you an M.D.?
Jenna Jacobs: Ph.D.
Bartlet: A Ph.D.?
Jenna Jacobs: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: In Psychology?
Jenna Jacobs: No sir.
Bartlet: Theology?
Jenna Jacobs: No.
Bartlet: Social work?
Jenna Jacobs: I have a Ph.D. in English Literature.
Bartlet: I'm asking, 'cause on your show, people call in for advice and you go by the name of Dr. Jacobs on your show. And I didn't know if maybe your listeners were confused by that, and assumed you had advanced training in Psychology, Theology, or health care.
Jenna Jacobs: I don't believe they are confused, no sir.
Bartlet: Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.
Jenna Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
Bartlet: Yes, it does. Leviticus.
Jenna Jacobs: 18:22
Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, and always clears the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2, clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important, 'cause we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes us unclean, Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother, John, for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?
Bartlet: Think about those questions, would you? One last thing, while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tightass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.

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