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Tuesday 22 September 2009

Let Obama Be Bartlet.

Isn't President Obama great? I'm not a political person, and I'm not even American. But I find the way Obama is running things pretty inspiring. In fact, like many people, I only really got interested in American Politics due to the pretend version; namely; 'The West Wing.'

And I've been obsessively watching it again recently. I'm currently watching Season 4. And a big part of it is President Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) campaign for re-election. His aides get into heated debates about how Bartlet should run his campaign. Toby Zeigler (Richard Schiff) wants it to be about smart. The idea that there's nothing wrong with being the smartest kid in the class. Even though, as Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) tells him, nobody liked the smartest kid in the class back in school.

The episodes in this early part of Season 4 were really inspiring. They were, quite simply, about reaching potential - they were about Bartlet being Bartlet. If he was going to be seen as arrogant and elitist anyway, then he might as well go out there and prove he knows what he's talking about. Prove that he knows how to read, rather than hiding it.

I'm up to the point now where Bartlet has just had his Presidential Debate with Governor Richie, the Republican Nominee for President. It's riveting stuff--- watch this. Amazing.

What made The West Wing exciting for me, was the idea that leaders could actually be, not only engaged in what they were working towards, but human, too-- people who were passionate and exciting. And most of all, that they could inspire change in other people. We don't have that in the U.K. We've not had that in my life time. I mean, look at the fella..

Anyways, this blog was meant to be focusing on America and I got a little off track. Bartlet made us believe, not only that the world could be better, but that we could be inspired to care about it. And that's part of the problem. I like to think of myself as an independent thinker, but I'm not as much as I would like to think. I need the leaders of the world to inspire me if I'm going to want to walk to the end of my road to vote when needed. If I'm going to care about climate change, crime, education, etc... well, I kind of need the leaders to take me there. Don't get me wrong, I care about climate change. If we do nothing, we all die soon, I get it. But despite knowing this, I just sat here with all the lights on eating a biscuit. It takes someone inspiring to make me want to change the way I live.

Bartlet was that guy. But he was a million miles away from what real people are like. It was actually quite depressing; when an episode of 'The West Wing' would finish, I'd flick over to the news channel to see them wheel out George Bush for one of his depressingly hilarious speeches, the likes of which, I don't need to repeat again. Okay, maybe I will.

And then, Obama came along. I was lucky enough to be in New York on election day last year. The energy was incredible. Everyone was out to vote and there was a palpable change in the way people were talking to each other, the way people were feeling about their country. It was inspiring.

Now, as I said. I don't really follow politics, so I am kind of full of crap, I admit. But I'm still excited. Excited by Obama. Whether you agree with his policies or not. Whether you think public healthcare is good, or whether you think he's secretly a Communist-Nazi creating death panels (seriously guys?), it's still exciting. Exciting because, he's getting people talking. I mean, he's even getting the Israeli's and Palestinians talking.

I like the transparency of it. I like that the Whitehouse have a YouTube channel. I like that by looking at it you can see what President Obama is doing every single day. I like that they haven't disabled comments. So whether you want to say "I love you Obama!" or "you're a dumb [insert idiotic racist phrase]!" you have the chance to. I like that. I like that people aren't getting marginalized-- they're getting a voice.

But most of all - I like that the dream of President Bartlet is truly alive. I like that we have (well, you have, I still have Gordon Brown) a President who is engaged. That it's a President who stands up for the smartest kid in the class..

"When the president's got an embassy surrounded in Haiti or a keyhole photograph of a heavy water reactor or any of the fifty life-and-death matters that walk across his desk every day, I don't know if he's thinking about Immanuel Kant or not. I doubt it. But, if he does, I am comforted, at least, in my certainty, that he is doing his best to reach for all of it and not just the McNuggets. Is it possible we would be willing to require any less of the person sitting in that chair? The low road? I don't think it is."
-Josh Lyman

People have always hated blacks, been scared by Muslims, blamed Jews, wondered why white people rap, etc etc-- but what I like is that, even though, they still do hate blacks, run away from Muslims and blame the Jews-- at least now, because of this man called Obama, they are beginning to ask themselves why. And by asking why, you begin to grow, you begin to learn about yourself and about other people. You begin to see everybody else for exactly what they are -- which is just like you.

So, yeah. I don't even follow politics. But, I can't help but do something I never did before-- which is occasionally read up on what he's doing, read one of his speeches, watch the WhiteHouse YouTube channel, etc. Finally-- there is someone on the world stage who cares about things. It's just like TV.

"I was watching a television program before, with a kind of roving moderator who spoke to a seated panel of young women who were having some sort of problem with their boyfriends - apparently, because the boyfriends had all slept with the girlfriends' mothers. And they brought the boyfriends out, and they fought, right there on television. Toby, tell me: these people don't vote, do they?"

-President Bartlet.


  1. Hear, hear! Thanks for this blog. And greetings from another West Wing junkie (I actually check Twitter twice a week on the keyword BARTLET. That's how I found you. I've seen the WW twice (all seasons) and I still can't let go. :) )

  2. Thanks HJP. I must admit, y'know, I don't really know what I'm talking about. But, over in the US, people seem quick to jump to conclusions. Like, I was just reading about how Obama is rethinking foreign policy for Afghanistan. And everyone is saying one of two things; one that he's a "wuss" and the other that he's disrespecting the soldiers who are out there, and the soldiers who have given their lives.

    But for me, it just seems like it is what he is. He's just rethinking. Just because back in March he had a plan, maybe that's not the right plan for right now in September, or in a few months time in December. People are allowed to think, surely.

    It's all very interesting, anyway- and I think, out of all the options, Obama is such a great man for your country!

  3. The 'Two Bartlets' syndrome is a great running thread through the show. From the 'Let Bartlet Be Bartlet' scene towards the end of season 1 ('We're gonna raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy.') to turning into 'Mr Fluffy' again in season 3 then going to back to ass-kicking in season 4. 'It's not our job to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It's our job to raise it.' That's the stuff.

    I'm not American either, but I'll listen to most things President Obama says. It's refreshing to finally have someone to respect at the top of the tree.