LadyGhosts of TV Past

Two Questions About The West Wing: “Bartlet for America” & “H.Con172”

“Bartlet for America” and “H. Con172” focus on Leo’s questioning for the hearing regarding President Bartlet’s MS cover up. We see Leo’s fierce loyalty, and the senior staff’s dedication to the president as well.

Text reads "Two Questions about The West Wing."While Leo and Jordan talk to Congress (hooray! I like Jordan), we get a picture of how the Bartlet campaign came to be. We also see the problem that’s approaching in Leo’s testimony. During the campaign, Leo was drinking alone, but ended up being found out. As that part of the testimony approaches, Cliff managed to get a recess arranged.

In the background, Josh is working up the courage to ask Amy out, and Sam is hot and bothered by a tell-all book.

Sally J: We learn a lot of the history between Leo and President Bartlet in “Bartlet for America.” What makes their relationship tick?

Selena: I think  the Bartlet/McGarry relationship is based on trust and secrets. These two men know just about every detail about the other, and they’re clearly the kind of friends who accept and strengthen each other, in spite of whatever missteps each might take. They remind me of my grandpa and his best friend, both of whom were powerful, privileged dudes. While my gramps was never president, he did run a company, and like Leo, his friend Lee had mysterious buckets of money he made legitimately (we assume). I’m sure both of them took plenty of juicy stuff to their respective graves.

Sally J: In “H.Con 172,” Cliff pushes Leo, and then Josh, to convince the president to agree to the censure. Do you have any insight to what Cliff’s motivation might be to spare the Bartlet administration additional investigation?

Selena: You know, I never fully sussed Cliff out. I think we’re supposed to believe he was a big damn hero in this episode, solely because he’s just that decent of a guy. Maybe I’m an old cynic, but I don’t think anyone can get to the position Cliff holds (Congressman?) without stabbing a few backs and stomping a few toes. It could be I’m poisoned by the higher-than-healthy levels of partisanship in our current political arena to believe this guy would help out someone from the other party.

Selena: You know I love me some Leo, so take this question with the affection intended. We’ve known that Leo has had a history with liquor and pills (Leo used to be Sally Bowles, with less abortion!), and I am increasingly annoyed by the rampant TV/movie/book trope of the Sainted Former Addict. Nashville, to use a current example, is rife with SFAs. Do you think this trope is accurate or effective?

Sally J: I have no idea how accurate it is in actual life. I mean, I know there are a lot of people in recovery, many of whom have gone on and done successful things. I think it’s a way to give seemingly privileged characters more of a human touch. They are rich, powerful and well-connected, but they have this demon right under the surface. It’s an easy way to create sympathy and empathy in characters that might otherwise turn some people off. Think about Dr. Romano from ER. If we’d ever seen him at an AA meeting, he may not have always come off as the jackass that he was (at least until the helicopter accident).

Selena: The senior staff throws all their weight behind Leo in these two episodes, which is touching and predictable, knowing what we know about all these relationships. Let’s play a little “what if,” though. What would the members of the Bartlet administration do if they were investigating a high-ranking republican who’d lied to everyone?

Sally J: Their loyalty to Leo is admirable, and predictable, that’s true. If it was anyone from the other camp, they’d throw that person under the bus. They’d seize the opportunity to maximize on that person’s weaknesses, and sway the court to their favor, no doubt about it. They’d get things lined up like they were in Leo’s hearing, and it would take someone like Cliff to put a stop to it. Of course, when I say they, it’s senior staff, probably not including Leo or the president. They don’t seem to get as caught up in party games as the senior staff does.

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