Last night The West Wing on NBC hosted a “live debate” between its two candidates for president, Congressman Matt Santos, Democrat (played by Jimmy Smits), and Senator Arnold Vinick, Republican (Alan Alda). Real-life NBC news anchor Forrest Sawyer moonlighted as moderator, and NBC made sure to cyrrhon “Live” across the screen. Why is TV news never more honest than when its fake? Meanwhile, the candidates fumbled over words, attempted Hollywood style to look presidential, walked aggressively toward each other (thanks, Al Gore), and all around demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge about anything.
Questions thrown at them asked for “how to” solutions to border issues, education, healthcare, Africa, corporate lobbies, and taxes. Democrat Santos offered only one concrete response to all the questions (“delete the words ‘over 65’ from Medicare”), preferring to hurl “you don’t care” or “what would you do” phrases at his opponent. To be fair, he did propose a return to programs that didn’t work the first time around such as Head Start. He encouraged viewers to vote for him on the “trust me” and “I am Latino” platform.
As for Alan Alda playing the “conservative,” he’s a lot better at it than other ultra-libs like Donald Sutherland who always turn the conservative characters into right-wing psychopaths (on their better days). Alda’s Vinick was actually able to articulate the role of government as conceived by the Founding Fathers. There to help, not play babysitter.
Afterwards, viewers were encouraged to vote in an online poll. Results this morning had Matt Santos winning over Vinick by 70% to 30%. In televisionland, Vincik turns out to be even more unpopular than George W. Bush. Anyway you look at it, that’s a compliment.