What better way to ponder (read: mourn) the current state of the union than with the 20th anniversary of Aaron Sorkin’s political drama The West Wing? PaleyFest New York, a two-week celebration of popular television, kicked off with a screening of the show’s season-two finale, “Two Cathedrals,” as well as a panel discussion where Sorkin explained his creative process, the history of The West Wing and the show’s continued relevance.
The pilot episode of The West Wing debuted in 1999 after the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and follows the senior staffers of the fictional Bartlet administration. The “Two Cathedrals” episode was released on May 16, 2001 and comes at the end of President Bartlet’s first term, when he’s being investigated for lying to voters about his multiple sclerosis diagnosis. Bartlet is expected to direct the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate him, all while making sure the investigation will be made up of people who were appointed by Republican presidents. Bartlet’s slip-up “now feels like a relatively minor crime,” Sorkin observed.
Bedford + Bowery collected some of the most evergreen (read: currently relevant) themes from “Two Cathedrals.”
The President Should NOT Run For Re-election
“I don’t like being the first one to say it, but I’m gonna; I think the president has got to strongly consider not running for re-election.”
Multiple White House officials advise that Bartlet not run for a second term; of course, he does anyway.
Crazy Tropical Storms
“Isn’t it strange to have a tropical storm in May? I’m pretty sure there’s a season and this isn’t it.”
President Bartlet continually asks when tropical storm season is and why there’s a strong storm coming off the coast of Florida in the off-season. He’s told that a storm of this magnitude hasn’t happened in over a century. At least Bartlet double and triple checked his storm facts. No sharpie-doctored, inaccurate hurricane map here.
Women’s Workplace Woes
“The women who work here, if they bring it up, they’re afraid for their jobs.”
President Bartlet has a flashback to his high-school days, where his father is the headmaster of a prestigious private school. The new secretary tells him that women who work there are getting paid less than men, and that women are afraid to speak up. #MeToo, anyone?
“3.8 million new jobs, that wasn’t good? Bailed out Mexico, increased foreign trade, 30 million new acres of land for conservation.”
Amid all the re-election controversy and his personal misfortunes, Bartlet briefly rants about all the good deeds he’s done in his first term as president. Maybe Trump took a page from Bartlet’s book of political benevolence, by boasting about the economy to distract from the impeachment inquiry.
“Are you out of your mind? I can’t possibly win re-election, I lied about a degenerative illness, I’m the target of a grand jury investigation and Congress is about to take me out to lunch.”
Staffers contemplate Bartlet’s place as commander in chief after being wrapped up in controversy after controversy. It’s looking like Congress may treat President Trump to a nice meal sometime soon, too.
Health Insurance Hiatus
“How many Americans don’t have health insurance?”
President Bartlet talks to his secretary about work that needs to be done in the next term. While the number of uninsured Americans has gone down since 2001, that number has been steadily increasing over the past year. Good to know that 20 years later, affordable healthcare is still a partisan issue!