Top Ten Left Wing Scenes on The West Wing
On Sunday night, May 14 2006, NBC aired the final episode of The West Wing. Since its debut in September of 1999 when "President Josiah Bartlet," played by Martin Sheen, told some cartoon-ish conservative religious leaders to "get your fat asses out of my White House," as ratings fell over the years the prime time drama regularly advocated liberal policies and showcased liberal causes. From oldest to newest, this Web compilation provides text and video/audio for a "Top Ten" presentation of some of the program's most notorious liberal moments and crusades. Actually, you'll find nine scenes pushing liberal ideas followed by one unusual scene which mocked liberal opposition to tax cuts.
■ September 22, 1999, the series debut. Viewers saw how the Hollywood Left views conservatives as the show concocted a preposterous plot and series of scenes which portrayed leaders of the Religious Right as anti-Semitic buffoons. The show culminated with an angry Democratic "President Josiah Bartlet," played by Martin Sheen, indignantly telling some conservative ministers: "You can all get your fat asses out of my White House." For more, check the September 29, 1999 CyberAlert.
Video (4 minutes) is of the scene described below:
Controversy ensues after Deputy Chief-of-Staff "Josh Lyman" says to a Ralph Reed-type character, named "Mary," on a TV show: "Lady, the God you pray to is too busy being indicted for tax fraud."
For some reason this concerns the Democratic White House and the staff call in Mary and several other male Christian Right types so that Josh can apologize. Mary then demands that in return for "insulting millions of Americans" the liberal President come around to their viewpoint: "Sunday morning radio address: public morals, school prayer, or pornography, take your pick.
Mary soon says to Josh: "It was only a matter of time with you, Josh. That New York sense of humor was just a little..."
A reverend tries to calm her down and Josh points out he's from Connecticut, but "Toby Ziegler," the Communications Director played by Richard Schiff, is on to her: "She meant Jewish. When she said New York sense of humor, she was talking about you and me."
The show soon portrays the ministers as confused by basic religious facts:
Reverend: "The First Commandment says: 'Honor thy father.'"
Toby: "No, it doesn't."
Toby: "It doesn't. No! If I'm going to make you sit through this preposterous exercise, we're going to get the names of the damn commandments, right. Honor thy father is the Third Commandment."
Reverend: "Then what's the First Commandment?"
In walks "President Bartlet," limping from a bike accident: "'I am the Lord your God, thou shalt worship no other god before me.' Boy those were the days, huh?"
The Reverend asks Bartlet: "If our children can buy pornography on any street corner for five dollars, isn't that too high a price to pay for free speech?"
The Reverend seems surprised by this logical answer from a liberal: "Really?"
Bartlet: "On the other hand I do think that five dollars is too high a price to pay for pornography."
"C.J.", the Press Secretary: "Why don't we all sit down?"
Bartlet: "No, let's not, C.J., these people won't be staying that long."
Turning to one of the ministers, Bartlet demands: "Al, how many times have I asked you to denounce the practices of a fringe group that calls itself the Lambs of God."
Reverend Al: "Sir, that's not up to me."
Bartlet: "Crap, it is up to you, Al. You know my wife, Abby, she never wants me to do anything while I'm upset. Twenty-eight years ago I came home from a very bad day at the State House, I tell Abby I'm going out for a drive. I get into the station wagon, put it in reverse and pull out of the garage full speed. Except I forgot to open the garage door. Abby told me not to drive while I was upset and she was right. She was right yesterday when she told me not to get on that damn bicycle while I was upset but I did it anyway. And I guess I was just about as angry as I'd ever been in my life. Seems my granddaughter Annie had given an interview in one of those teen magazines and somewhere between movie stars and makeup tips she talked about her feelings on a woman's right to choose. Now, Annie, all of 12 has always been precocious but she's got a good head on her shoulders and I like it when she uses it so I couldn't understand it when her mother called me in tears yesterday. I said, Elizabeth what's wrong. She said, 'It's Annie.' Now, I love my family, and I've read my Bible from cover to cover so I want you to tell me from what part of Holy Scripture do you suppose the Lambs of God drew their divine inspiration when they sent my 12 year old granddaughter a Raggedy Ann doll with a knife stuck through its throat? You'll denounce these people Al, you'll do it publicly, and until you do you can all get your fat asses out of my White House. C.J., show these people out."
Mary: "I believe we can find the door."
Bartlet: "Find it now!"
■ January 12, 2000 episode. Just two weeks before the real State of the Union address by the real President, NBC's fictional West Wing delivered the State of the Union message every liberal dreams the real President would provide: The "era of big government is over" is itself over. After becoming angered by error-laden arguments against the National Endowment for the Arts, "Communications Director Toby Ziegler" marches in to see the President and within seconds convinces him to use his State of the Union address to show how "government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind....An instrument of good." For more about what leads up to the scene, check the January 27, 2000 CyberAlert.
Video (1:30) is of the scene described below:
Toby goes to see the President in the living quarters where he is recovering from the flu. He's joined there by "Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh Lyman." Toby utters the line to the President: "The era of big government is over."
President Bartlet: "You want to cut the line?"
Toby reaches into his liberal gut to deliver an emotional appeal for hardcore liberalism: "I want to change the sentiment. We're running away from ourselves. And I know we can score points that way. I was a principle architect of that campaign strategy right along with you Josh. But we're here now. Tomorrow night we do an immense thing. We have to say what we feel, that government no matter what it's failures in the past and in times to come for that matter, government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one gets left behind. An instrument of good. I have no trouble understanding why the line tested well, Josh, but I don't think that means we should say it. I think that means we should change it."
Toby's sermon convinces the President: "I think so, too. What do you think Josh?"
Josh: "I make it a point never to disagree with Toby when he's right, Mr. President."
■ October 4, 2000 season premiere featured a rant against guns. NBC answered the May season-ending cliffhanger which showed the President and his aides being fired upon as they walked to the limos after "President Josiah Bartlet" addressed a group of students at the Newseum in Arlington, Virginia. When the show unfolded, in a plot line ripped from what really happened to Ronald Reagan, as the limo raced from the scene a Secret Service agent saw blood coming out of Bartlet's mouth, figured out hed been shot and diverted the limo to The George Washington University Hospital. By the end of the two hour season premiere, Bartlet had recovered, but aide "Josh Lyman" remained in critical condition. A bunch of West Virginia skinheads were the shooters and their target was not the President but "Charlie Young," the black personal aide to the President who is dating the Presidents white daughter.
Video (1 minute) of the scene described below:
The liberal political crusading came when Allison Janney, as Press Secretary "C.J. Cregg," briefed the press the morning after the shooting. She used the barely 12-hour-old tragedy to make a political point:
"This is our fifth press briefing since midnight and obviously there is one story that's going to be dominating the news around the world for the next few days and it would be easy to think that President Bartlett, Joshua Lyman and Stephanie Abbott were the only people who were victims of a gun crime last night. They weren't. Mark Davis and Sheila Evans of Philadelphia were killed by a gun last night. He was a biology teacher and she was a nursing student. Tina Bishop and Belinda Larkin were killed with a gun last night. They were twelve. There were 36 homicides last night, 480 sexual assaults, 3,411 robberies, 3,685 aggravated assaults, all at gunpoint. If anyone thinks those crimes could have been prevented if the victims themselves had been carrying guns I'd only remind you that the President of the United States was shot last night while surrounded by the best-trained armed guards in the history of the world. Back to the briefing."
In the back of the room a reporter turned to Chief-of-Staff "Leo McGarry" and opined: "She's good." McGarry agreed: "Yes she is."
■ October 18, 2000 episode. NBC gave a prime time airing to the anger behind the Hollywood Lefts crusade to shut down syndicated radio personal advice host Dr. Laura's daytime Paramount TV show. There was no mistaking the intended identity of "Dr. Jena Jacobs" as "President Josiah Bartlet" quizzed her about misleading listeners about her expertise by calling herself "Doctor" when she has no medical degree and castigated her reference to homosexuality as "an abomination." When she cited the Bible, he sarcastically asked: "Im interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7....What would a good price for her be?" Bartlet/Sheen scolded: "You may be mistaking this for
your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-ass club." The setting for the confrontation was a reception at the White House for talk radio hosts, all of whom were portrayed as buffoons. One boasted to the White House Press Secretary: "I call myself Gary with a G."
Video (2:15) is of the scene described below:
"President Bartlet" walked into the large room where most people were standing and talking, but "Dr. Jena Jacobs" who was played by a blond women prettier and younger than the real Dr. Laura (though with the same hair style), remained sitting, the relevance of which you'll soon see.
Bartlet saw her and became distracted, leading to this exchange followed by a sermon from Bartlet: "Forgive me Dr. Jabobs, are you an MD?"
Jacobs: "A PhD."
Bartlet: "A PhD?"
Jacobs: "Yes sir."
Jacobs: "No sir."
Bartlet: "Social work?"
Jacobs: "I have a PhD in English literature."
Bartlet: "I'm asking because on your show people call in for advice and you go by the name '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."
Jacobs: "I don't believe they are confused, no sir."
Bartlet: "Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.'"
Jacobs: "I don't say homosexuality is an abomination Mr. President. The Bible does."
Bartlet: "Yes it does. Leviticus-"
Bartlet launched into an impassioned diatribe which was interspersed with shots of an uncomfortable Jacobs fidgeting: "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, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? [silence in the room] 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 one 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? Think about those questions, would you.
"One last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-ass club, in this building when the President stands, nobody sits."
Unlike the real Dr. Laura, this one was silenced and after a long pause she acquiesced and stood up before a proud Bartlet walked out of the room.
■ March 27, 2002. The program railed against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) as characters recited a litany of talking points espoused by real-life liberal environmental groups. Martin Sheen, as "President Josiah Bartlet," insisted drilling "will forever damage natural treasures like ANWR." After a staffer expresses skepticism about the damage drilling will cause, Press Secretary "C.J. Cregg" lectures him: "It hurts flesh and blood subsistence hunters in the area, changes migratory patterns in ways we don't even understand, increases freezing depths of rivers and lakes....It will cause pollutant haze and acid raid and all this in exchange for?" The skeptical staffer is now convinced and so responds with the liberal party line: "Not a lot of oil to begin with." For more on the episode, check the April 3, 2002 CyberAlert.
Video (52 seconds) is of the scene described below:
The President's personal aide, "Charlie Young," played by Dule Hill, expresses doubt about the White House position. He and "Press Secretary C.J. Cregg," played by Allison Janney, have this exchange:
Charlie: "If we want to be energy independent, if we've been relying for too long on foreign oil, what's wrong with drilling in Alaska?"
C.J.: "It will do huge and lasting damage to the environment and will not in the long run reap that much oil."
Charlie: "It will have zero impact on the environment. And how do you know how much oil is down there until you explore?"
C.J.: "You mean drill?"
Charlie: "That's how you get where the oil's at."
C.J. asks an aide to put together a briefing packet for Charlie and soon after the two meet up again in a hallway and Charlie reveals he has seen the light:
C.J.: "So as a matter of cold fact, chipper, you'll see that it's the porcupine caribou and ANWR is their calving ground and you can't put a price on that, but that's hardly the point."
Charlie, reading from the folder: "36 species of fish, 36 land mammals, 160 different bird species. I admit, this is a lot of wildlife."
C.J.: "Forget the wildlife. It hurts flesh and blood subsistence hunters in the area, changes migratory patterns in ways we don't even understand, increases freezing depths of rivers and lakes."
Charlie: "And the emissions from drilling."
C.J.: "Welcome home. It will cause pollutant haze and acid raid and all this in exchange for?"
Charlie: "Not a lot of oil to begin with."
■ September 25, 2002, season premiere. Just six weeks or so before a real mid-term election, NBC's The West Wing returned to the air with its fictional "President Bartlet" campaigning for re-election six weeks before a presidential vote. West Wing creator/writer Aaron Sorkin who had Bartlet facing off against a dumb Republican Governor from the South, used NBC's prime time to advance the liberal agenda. The episode opened with a campaign rally set at an Indiana farm. Bartlet proclaimed: "We need to find energy alternatives....The Republicans are busy. They're trying to convince us that they care about new energy and that they're not in the chest pockets of Big Oil. And that's a tough sell."
Later in the two-hour season premiere, in a scene set in the Oval Office, Bartlet lectured his Commerce Secretary about a global warming treaty: "I think whats lunacy is a nation of SUV's telling a nation of bicycles that they have to change the way they live before well agree to do something about greenhouse emissions."
Video (1 minute) is of the scene described below:
The show opened with the crowd on an Indiana farm chanting "four more years!"
Sheen, as President Bartlet, related a joke he subsequently used to slam Republicans: "You know the story about the guy whose car gets stuck in a muddy hole. Farmer comes along and says he'll pull the car out of the mud, but he's going to have to charge fifty bucks because this is the tenth time he's had to pull it out of the mud today. The driver says, 'God, when do you have time to plow your land? At night?' The farmer says 'no, no,' night time is when I fill the hole with water.
"We need to find energy alternatives. We're getting our cue [cue? Hard to understand what he said], we're getting it right now. The Republicans are busy. They're trying to convince us that they care about new energy and that they're not in the chest pockets of Big Oil. And that's a tough sell. I don't envy them because their only hope is that we don't notice that they're the ones who are filling the hole with water every night. And I think Americans are smarter than that. I think we noticed....
"This isn't a time for people whose doomsday scenario is a little less at the pump for Texaco and Shell. This isn't a time for people who say there aren't any energy alternatives just because they can't think of any. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars."
■ March 26, 2003 episode presented a case for the notion that global warming isn't just a theoretical hazard, but is already killing Americans - in this case by melting a glacier and causing a sudden catastrophe in an Alaskan village. The West Wing writers created an expert hydroclimatologist, "Hillary Toobin" who told an astonished White House Chief-of-Staff, "Leo McGarry" played by (the late) John Spencer, that 14 people who died after the lake flooded were "definitely global warming fatalities." For more on what leads up to the scene described below, check the April 2, 2003 CyberAlert.
Video (1 minute) is of the scene described below:
McGarry is in a roomful of people being briefed on the situation. A man identified only as "Paul" informs him that "so far we've evacuated 250 people, but residents along the shores of the lake have been difficult to reach." McGarry asks, "Why?" The man tells him: "For one thing, most of them don't have addresses anymore."
McGarry, exasperated: "Paul-"
Paul: "And for another, there are high winds in the more exposed areas right along the shore."
McGarry: "Alright. And Canada?"
Paul: "Canada is delivering the Pavehawks inside the hour."
McGarry: "Can someone tell me why this happened? Is this an act of God?"
Woman's voice pipes up from the back of the room: "No."
McGarry, confused: "I'm sorry?"
Paul: "This is Hillary Toobin. She's a hydroclimatologist with the USGS."
McGarry: "What's a hydroclimatologist?"
Hillary Toobin: "An expert in what I'm about to say. Mean temperatures in Alaska have risen seven degrees in the last 30 years. That's insane. The temperature hike has caused glaciers to shrink and go backward, leaving lakes of melted glacier water in their wake. A shift in these collapsing glaciers puts pressure on the lakes, forcing them to overflow their natural limits, and killing, this morning, 14 people, not spotted owls."
McGarry, looking uncomfortable: "Are you telling me that the deaths this morning are the first fatalities of global warming?"
Toobin: "They're definitely global warming fatalities, but I doubt that they're the first."
■ March 23, 2005. Hollywood's ideal Republican President, as brought to life late in the 2004-2005 season on The West Wing, is "pro-choice," "pro-environment," will save the party from the "right wing," engineers a deal to raise the minimum wage and lectures about keeping religion out of politics. On the March 23 episode, a Democratic consultant told Republican presidential candidate, "Senator Arnold Vinick," played by Alan Alda, that he can win in a landslide because he's "moving the Republicans away from the right wing. You're not saying Democrats are not patriotic." After pro-life leader "Reverend Butler," who is so intolerant that he rejects Vinick's offer of the vice presidency, invites Vinick to join him in church,
Vinick lectures a gaggle of reporters: "I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government." For much more about those scenes and others on this episode, check the April 6, 2005 CyberAlert.
Video (1:20) is of the scene described below:
In the final scene of the episode, Vinick is in front of the White House at night with a gaggle of reporters when he delivers a lecture that was clearly meant to denounce the tactics of the real President Bush, picking up after he touts his championing a hike in the minimum wage:
Reporter: "Senator, are you going to reconsider Reverend Butler's invitation to his church this weekend?"
Vinick: "I fully respect Reverend Butler's position. I mean, I appreciate his invitation and, look, I respect Reverend Butler and I respect his church too much to use it for my own political purposes. And that's exactly what I'd be doing if I went down there this Sunday, because the truth is it would just be an act of political phoniness. I may be wrong, but I suspect our churches already have enough political phonies in them."
Reporter: "Senator, do you or do you not-"
Vinick: "I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government. And I want to warn everyone in the press and all the voters out there. If you demand expressions of religious faith from politicians, you are just begging to be lied to. They won't all lie to you, but a lot of them will, and it'll be the easiest lie they ever had to tell to get your votes. So, every day until the end of this campaign, I'll answer any question anyone has on government. But if you have a question on religion, please, go to church. Thank you."
■ October 30, 2005. Hollywood's fantasy that Republicans could sweep the nation if they only put up a "pro-choice" candidate animated the episode - and Janeane Garofalo got in a blast at conservatives. Anti-Religious Right Republican presidential nominee "Arnie Vinick" is angered by an independent ad which attacks liberal Democratic presidential candidate "Matt Santos," played by Jimmy Smits, for opposing parental notification and a ban on partial-birth abortions, policies the otherwise pro-choice Vinick backs: "Who told them to drag abortion into my campaign?" Demanding the ad be pulled, Vinick asserts: "Do you realize how many states my pro-choice position puts on the table?" Later, Santos
remarks: "Vinick's appeal is that he's a different kind of Republican, moderate, reasonable, pro-choice." Democratic VP nominee "Leo McGarry" relegates two mainstream positions as far right: "Vinick's the one who won't criticize his party on this - partial-birth, parental notification. He's bowing to the far-right fringes." For a lot more of the dialogue in this episode, check the November 4, 2005 CyberAlert.
Video (18 seconds) is of the scene below:
Vinick goes to the RNC Chairman to ask that he get the ads pulled. The RNC guy points outs corporate conservatives and libertarians like Vinick, but Vinick doesn't speak to social conservative issues.
Vinick to RNC Chairman: "If this were Europe, the Republican Party would be three parties."
RNC guy: "Thank goodness they don't have to sleep together. They just have to show up on the same day and vote Republican."
Vinick, leaning forward at table: "Do you realize how many states my pro-choice position puts on the table? Do you realize how we can grow this party if we're willing to reach out?"
An Anti-Liberal Moment:
■ November 3, 1999 episode, a rare instance of air time to ridiculing liberal assumptions as "Donna Moss," the assistant to "Deputy Chief-of-Staff Josh Lyman" played by Bradley Whitford, demands to know why Democrats won't trust her to spend her own money and so oppose a tax cut.
Video (1 minute) is of the scene described below:
Donna, played by Janel Moloney, as she and Josh walk down a hallway: "We have a $32 billion budget surplus for the first time in three decades. The Republicans in Congress want to use this money for tax relief, right?"
Donna: "Essentially what they're saying is we want to give back the money. Why don't we want to give back the money?"
Josh: "Because we're Democrats."
Donna: "But it's not the government's money."
Josh: "Sure it is. It's right there in our bank accounts."
Donna: "That's only because we collected more money than we ended up needing."
Josh: "Isn't it great?"
Donna: "I want my money back."
Later, they pick up the argument:
Donna: "What's wrong with me getting my money back?"
Josh: "You won't spend it right."
Donna: "What do you mean?"
Josh: "Let's say your cut of the surplus is $700. I want to take your money, combine it with everybody else's money, and use it to pay down the debt and further endow Social Security. What do you want to do with it?"
Donna: "Buy a DVD player."
Donna: "But my $700 is helping employ the people who manufacture and sell DVD players, not to mention the people who manufacture and sell DVDs. It's the natural evolution of the market economy."
Josh: "The problem is the DVD player you buy might be manufactured in Japan."
Donna: "I'll buy an American one."
Josh: "We don't trust you."
Donna: "Why not?"
Josh: "We're Democrats."
Donna, exasperated: "I want my money back."
Josh, snickering: "You shouldn't have voted for us."