Monday, November 07, 2005

Broken Wing

So, I'll say it. For some reason, I was really nervous about last night's "live" West Wing debate. First of all, it could have turned out to be crap (as many, many "live" tv epsiodes have over the years. See, e.g. ER). On the other hand, it could have turned out to be a actual discussion of actual policies, unburdened by the cross-talk of battering imaginairy strawmen which passes for discussion in modern America.

Sadly, it was closer to the former then the latter. (Query: Can MSNBC really review an NBC show and pass it off as objective? Well, they just did...) Never has the show more missed Aaron Sorkin than last night. The ideas may have been there, but the words were lacking.

This summer, while flipping radio channels, I turned to NPR and had to stop. They were re-broadcasting a portion of an MLK speech as part of a series on "Great African-American Voices" (the exact title escpaes me.) First of all, the man's voice was arresting in and of itself. But that only gets you so far. Christina Aguilera has an amazing voice, but she sings crap, so why listen? More important were the words, and the manner in which they gave the deeper meanings life instead of being mere intellectualisms foisted upon college freshmen in Political Philosophy.

And that's what made the Wing special in its early years. Maybe people don't really talk that way, but wouldn't the world be better if they did? From the "20 Hours in America" episode:

The streets of Heaven are too crowed with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of Heaven are too crowed with angels but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American Heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American Heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you, and God bless the United States Of America.

The dialogue from last night could charitably be described as meat and potatos. (Very charitably, I suppose). Functional, cogent, but never really rising above the pedesatrian. Perhaps, as some suggest, the episode was hamstrung by the writers' own political leanings. Santos got the best lines, because the authors are better at writing 'progressive' material. Unfortunately, Alda is a far, far superior live actor than Smits, but:

How the hell is Alda supposed to sell his baby-killing anti-health care platform? Especially when they inexplicably stacked the audience with raucous democrats?

I think irony is intended in "baby-killing anti-health care platform", and if it isn't it should be. But that being said, the more interesting points all could have been made by Vinick. His spiel about what "conservative" really means (or used to mean, I suppose before we got all evangelized) was ripe for Sorkin's oratorical flourishes. But sadly, all we got was what Fletcher described as senseless shouting.

Another opportunity to raise the level of public debate in this country, lost. But good news! Lost is back with a brand new invention with a new epsiode this week. If we aren't gonna talk about issues, let's talk about hot people surviving on a mysterious island...

Update via instapundit: Classical conservatives love Arnie Vinick. However, I reiterate my earlier point that the ideas were good, the words could have been better.

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