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Friday, January 27, 2006

Bartlet for (Vice) President

I'll admit it -- I'm the worst kind of West Wing junkie. I almost bought a "Jed Bartlet is My President" bumpersticker (almost), and have long named my fantasy baseball team "Bartlet for America." I love that Josh is a Mets fan, that Toby is a Yankees fan, that Akhil Amar was once used as a throwaway line in a debate about North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights, and so much more. So, it was with a heavy heart that I read earlier this week of NBC's decision to cancel the show at the end of this, its seventh, season.

Rumors abound about how the show will bring things to a close, especially given the real-life loss of John Spencer, whose character, Leo McGarry, was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. (Prompting the show to ask some complicated legal questions about what happens in that situation.) The rumor getting the most currency right now is that Rob Lowe (Sam Seaborn) will come back for the final few episodes as the new VP nominee, prompting the even more longstanding question: Did Sam actually win the California 47th, way back when?

But before I totally digress, I'll get to my real point: If we want a fascinating ending to the show that's also a fun con law question, why not have President Bartlet stick around, and run on the ticket as Vice President? Put another way, to re-ask, for the 400th time, one of those good old quirky constitutional law questions, could a two-term President run for Vice President? If so, why not Jed? [Besides the whole MS thing, that is.]

In a great Findlaw column from August 2000, Michael Dorf persuasively explains why Bill Clinton could have run on Al Gore's ticket, and conducts all of the constitutional analysis that I would have conducted here. In short, Dorf's point is that (1) the Twenty-Second Amendment bars only a third _election_ of a President, along with a President serving more than 10 years in office; and (2) the Twelfth Amendment's proviso that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States" is immaterial, because a person is not "constitutionally ineliglble to the office of President" by virtue of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (he is just ineligible to be elected such).

So, as the West Wing's writers and editors figure out whom to replace Leo with, I wouldn't count out Bartlet himself, in addition to the Sam-for-VP rumors.

Meanwhile, and while I'm on topic, it would also be nice to see at least _some_ closure to the Donna-Josh situation (e.g., forcing Donna to answer the question Amy asked her right before Zoey was kidnapped); to find out whether the peacekeepers in Gaza actually accomplished something; to hear about the exploits of Chief Justice Lang one more time; to find out what the hell Kate Harper did in her former life; to meet Josh's mom, and, for the name of pete, to see Charlie and Zoey get together once and for all.

[Other thoughts for important points of closure on the way out?]

Not that I take this seriously, or anything...

Posted by Steve Vladeck on January 27, 2006 at 04:12 AM in Culture, Current Affairs, Steve Vladeck | Permalink


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With the focus of the last episode on CJ's job offers and what she is going to do, it seems almost obvious now that The West Wing is going to leave us with a woman vice-president elect. Assuming of course that Santos wins. It would be the obvious transition from one passing Chief of Staff to another. There has not been another character introduced or talked about who would fit the bill, and her popularity in the White House and among the media would support that immediate transition. Of course, the question is what procedure an elected Pres not yet sworn into office must undergo to confirm a new VP-elect.

Posted by: matsonian | Apr 5, 2006 4:02:50 PM

Lindsay:Other pressing questions: Who will win the election? And, most importantly, what ever happened to the babe GOP white house counsel, Ainsley Hayes?Perhaps the neatest way to resolve those pressing questions is simply to have Vinnick win the election at appoint Hayes as AG?

Posted by: Simon | Jan 27, 2006 12:49:54 PM

Other pressing questions: Who will win the election? And, most importantly, what ever happened to the babe GOP white house counsel, Ainsley Hayes? (and don't tell me she's solving crimes in miami)

Posted by: Lindsay | Jan 27, 2006 12:30:52 PM

I stopped watching when Sam left. But, I would tune into the finale if Josh and Donna would live happily ever after. And bring back Sam.

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Jan 27, 2006 11:55:41 AM

To add to previous comments: isn't the real, big, underlying problem, the elephant in the room, that The West Wing was never about policy? When it started, and throughout Sorkin's tenure, it seems to me, the show was about what life at the pinnacle of politics does to a person: it was about Josh, Toby, Sam and (to a lesser extent) CJ and Charlie, and how they tried to deal with the burdens of office. Certainly the backdrop meant that sometimes the show had to feature policy, but policy (as distinct from politics) featured in the early West Wing in the manner in which cars featured in Titus: sure, the cars were important to the lead character(s), but they were ultimately props in the human relationships, and it was the relationships that were the show.

The last couple of seasons have refocused the show - by the necessities of an election campaign - onto actual substantive policy, and the writers are chronically incapable of writing the kind of show that they want: they desparately want to have appealing characters advocating attractive liberal policies, but in the end, turned out to be incapable of writing either. We were one season away from it turning into Commander in Chief, IMHO.

Posted by: Simon | Jan 27, 2006 10:11:06 AM

While we're tying up plot threads, what about the international criminal investigation into Bartlet and McGarry over a political assassination? Josh and Amy? Charlie and the White House reporter? Toby and his ex-wife? Whatever happened to Elsie Snuffins? How CJ "served two full terms as press secretary" at the same time she spent a couple of years as a chief of staff? Who was the angel that interceded with the miracle that turned CJ from a political naif into a de facto president plus better chief of staff than Leo McGarry? Or was it simply the same zombie that sucked the political know-how out of Josh such that he's now incapable of making a correct decision (but, thankfully, he's overruled by Santos each and every time). Also, I want to hear about the medical advance that magically makes Bartlet's MS go away when there's a simultaneous crisis of a nuclear accident and potential World War III when just a few weeks before he was incapable of spending more than four hours a day working.

That first post-Sorkin season ruined the show: there's been no character-consistency, no concept of interweaving plot threads, no long-term thinking, and far too much use of deus ex machina and unthinking use of flash-forwards as gimmicks. I'm looking forward to "Studio 7" or whatever they rename it.

Posted by: Ted | Jan 27, 2006 9:51:22 AM

Personally, I think the network is doing the show a favor. The writing in the last two seasons has been excruciating; simply dropping in Janeane Garofalo and shortening Alison Janney's skirts to provide some eye candy isn't distracting from the hollow absurdities of the storyline. Until John Spencer's death, I had been wondering what ludicrous deus ex machina they would pull out to snatch a Santos victory from the jaws of a defeat they themselves engineered by creating so strong an opposition character; my working theory had been that they would tie the election and throw it into the House to prolong the agony / drama / civics lesson. However, I began to think that with Spencer's death, if the writers weren't willing to put the horse out to pasture, maybe the network would put it down, and I think it's absolutely for the best that they don't allow this once fine show to continue its terminal decline.

Posted by: Simon | Jan 27, 2006 9:28:27 AM

And I thought I was the only junkie. Well, at least I'm probably still the only junkie two years behind the main timeline. Charlie and Zoey: absolutely. Donna and Josh: it would almost be a shame at this point. And I think we all know the answer to the question, don't we? The question is what's Josh's answer. And Toby's almost more fun as the grumpy pain in the ass from the New Hampshire primaries, and that's hard to be happily married.

Posted by: Paul | Jan 27, 2006 9:07:49 AM

In what way does the amendment prohibit someone from serving as President for more than 10 years?

Also, what about Toby? We need some closure on that storyline, too.

Posted by: Mike | Jan 27, 2006 2:59:33 AM

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