Bartlett Meets Obama – Our Greatest Fictional President Meets Our Potential Next President After Five Years

     September 21, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

Aaron Sorkin’s run on “The West Wing” was magical. In a time where our politics could seem to find no low, he reminded us what they could be at their best. We were treated to a borderline Capra-esque rendition of politics inside the executive branch of government on a weekly basis but never had our intelligence insulted. After Sorkin left the show in 2003, so great was his loss that fans started the first campaign to actually have the show canceled rather than let remaining showrunner Jeff Wells run it into the ground with relationship melodrama and ripped-from-the-headlines event plots that were better suited to shows like “ER” and “Law & Order” but not “The West Wing”.

So five years after the Republican Speaker of the House told President Bartlett he was relieved and Bartlett exited the Oval Office (the show’s true and bittersweet finale in the mind of most fans), Maureen Dowd of The New York Times asked Sorkin to craft a fictional meeting between a retired Bartlett and candidate Obama who is looking for guidance.

Unfortunately, the dialogue that follows isn’t Bartlett. Maybe Martin Sheen’s impact on the character was so strong that I can’t believe them without hearing them from his voice, but on the page, I just see Sorkin’s opinions on the current race. Perhaps that’s why it was best that “The West Wing” shared our political reality but none of the players from the last generation. If anything, this sounds like a dialogue between Toby Ziegler and a lamp post.

The dialogue is really more of an op-ed piece strained to remind us why we all wish Josiah “Jed” Bartlett had really been our President. But if Martin Sheen and Barack Obama (or a good Obama impersonator) would be willing to act this out for me, I might warm up to it. Here’s some of the conversation. The link for the full article is a bit further down.

BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

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