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  • In a rare moment of Did Not Do the Research, the entire late Season Six/Season Seven subplot about the military Space Shuttle could have been avoided if someone had remembered that every space station ever launched, from Skylab to Salyut to Mir to the ISS, always had an Apollo or Soyuz ship docked to it whenever it was manned, for use as a lifeboat just in case something like the space station leak ever happened.
    • It is possible that the problem with the station extended to the docked Apollo/Soyuz, or in some other way prevented the use of it. Or, due to differences with our universe from the time of Nixon's resignation onwards, such precautions aren't being taken.
  • Unless you're one of the very senior staff (by which I mean basically Leo, Toby or the President), the west wing of the White House seems to be a horrible place to work - particularly the Communications Department. I mean look:
    • On Ainsley Hayes' first day as Associate White House Counsel, two members of the Communications department leave a dead plant on her desk along with a note reading "BITCH".
      • This is acknowledged as workplace harassment and the guys responsible were immediately fired.
    • In his first couple of weeks as Deputy Communications Director, Will Bailey's office is used by junior members of his department as a makeshift bikeshed. But this was no amiable hazing, because after this they all quit, the day before the President was due to unveil his budget. That's right, this group of dedicated public servants quit the day before the President - their President - was about to unveil his budget, and needed their help to do so. They quit jobs working in the very heart of government, because they were annoyed that the job went to an external candidate.
      • Did you miss the part where Toby told him it was a test to see how he (Will) handled it?
        • Apparently. I thought the test was the President disagreeing with him to see how he handled telling the truth to power. Not the staff all leaving.
      • I hadn't noticed that, but it actually does make sense that the speechwriting staff didn't actually quit. First of all, one cannot simply quit such a job - you have to give notice. Second, the makeshift staff (the four interns) don't remain active members of the staff afterwards - given that they had been given airtime, and the fact that Will manages to work effectively with them at the end of the relevant episode, it is likely that Will would have offered them permanent staff positions if they had to rebuild the staff, and they would have made reappearances. That this didn't happen implies that the speechwriting staff came back, and thus didn't actually quit.
    • Rena, Toby's assistant in the fifth season, is seen crying because none of the other Assistants will talk to her, something which Donna seems to tacitly confirm.
  • This actually fits in with the above: The sexual harassment subplot in "Night Five." A temp worker named Celia witnesses some unreciprocated mock-flirting from Sam to Ainsley and tells him he's being sexist; Sam plays the role of "hurt, hapless Y-chromosome who can't imagine what he did wrong"; Ainsley appears at the end to explain that she finds it empowering to use her sexuality in her work relationships (which is fine, until it starts making your coworkers uncomfortable), that men teasing her about it is "an inadvertant show of respect that I'm on the team" (...yeah, okay), that the whole thing is a "nonsense issue" and not to be confused with "honest-to-God sexual harassment" (which would consist of what, exactly? Ass-grabbing or it didn't happen?), and that Celia was wrong to object (she should have psychically known that Ainsley felt this way and let her own feelings about listening to innuendo-laden conversations in her workplace go unexpressed, apparently). And throughout, there are unaddressed moments that seem like they were purposely put in to break the aesop: Sam claims that Ainsley "started it" when all she did was walk through the door wearing a little black dress (in fact, not only did she not start the flirting, she didn't even participate in it); Sam defends himself by saying, "I was complimenting her!" (the oldest response in the book, for Christ's sake -- it's like trying to assure the audience that your character isn't a racist by having him say, "I have black friends!"); Charlie contributes comic relief in the form of Double Standard cliches such as saying that he's fine with Sam's behavior in theory but if it had been his little sister he'd beat him up (helpful); and most irritatingly of all, in the course of telling Celia off, Ainsley says, "If somebody says something that offends you, tell them, but all women don't have to think alike," to which Celia totally correctly replies, "I didn't say they did, and when somebody said something that offended me, I did say so" -- and Ainsley just plows right on ahead with her "The Reason You Suck" Speech as if that wasn't the most reasonable thing anybody had said in the whole damn episode. God almighty.
    • Well, what Celia actually said to Sam wasn't "What you said offended me," it was more "What you're saying is offensive," period. And it isn't like Celia didn't apply her own worldview to Ainsley. "I'm surprised you're willing to allow your sexuality diminish your power," she said. She took how she felt on the subject and decided Ainsley was behaving in a certain, wrong way. It's pretty clear from the context, and from the way Sam and Ainsley interact with each other in general, that Sam was complimenting her. If it had been some random guy, sure, it'd have been something to look at, but we know Sam and Ainsley knows Sam. Celia doesn't know Sam. She reacted in a natural way, because it does sound bad if you're an outsider, but when Ainsley said it didn't bother her Celia protested that it should have. That's what got Ainsley riled up. And Celia keeps going, saying that Sam wouldn't have been able to interact with a woman in any other way than to be sexual, which is just applying her mental view of men onto Sam. I think "honest to God sexual harassment" would mean, you know, harassment, instead of merely playing around, which is clearly how Ainsley views it (because she says as much).
    • Furthermore, Celia's unaware of the pre-existing social relationship between Ainsley and Sam. Without this information, she cannot claim to interpret the interaction accurately, or have the authority to continue intervening even after both primary parties have told her it's a personal matter.
    • The initial criticism that Celia put forward wasn't a problem. Had she simply stopped there, or quietly taken one of them aside to further discuss it, that would have been fine, too. What she did, instead, was continue to berate both of them over it, when clearly neither one considered it a problem. I'd suggest that Celia is actually representing second-wave feminism, while Ainsley is representing third-wave feminism (of which the term "Lipstick feminism", a form found within the third wave, is specifically mentioned). One says "women shouldn't allow themselves to be treated that way", the other says "women should be able to choose for themselves how they are treated".
  • They failed Political Science forever. The last non-incumbent Democrat to succeed to the office of President of the United States was James Buchanan. In that same period of time, four non-incumbent Republicans became POTUS, Hayes, Garfield, Taft (formerly Secretary of War), and Hoover (formerly Secretary of Commerce).
    As far as incumbents, two Democrats (Truman and LBJ) were Vice President or President before they succeeded to the office of President through national election, while 2 Republicans (Coolidge and H. Bush) did the same feat. Health problems prevented Arthur from running for a second term, TR at first decided not to run for a second term, but then changed his mind, tried, and lost, and Ford failed to secure a second term.
    • You Did Not Do the Research. About the show, not about the politics. 1. The West Wing operates on a pretty clear alternate timeline, since there are at least 4 presidents that don't exist in our world going back a couple decades. I'm pretty sure Lassiter was a Democrat, too, which makes the succession like Democrat Republican Democrat Democrat -- the political trends are very different. 2. Santos was originally going to lose the election. Then John Spencer died and the producers/writers decided it'd be way too depressing for show fans if Leo died and Santos lost the election; it would have been a complete Downer Ending. 3. The only reason in-show that Santos won, as cited time and time again, is because of the San Andreo accident and the fact that Vinick supported the building of the plant way the hell back in the 70's. Many, many characters on both sides say that without that one-in-a-million freak accident, Vinick would've won the election pretty well. So, it's less hubris and more the laws of making your audience not want to kill themselves.
    • Actually, I did do my research. Originally Aaron Sorkin wanted the series centered on the Presidents Staff, not the President. The only time we should see the President is coming and going, and ideally without even seeing his face. However, over time, Martin Sheen’s part got bigger and bigger. Yes, the West Wing was an alternate timeline, starting right after the Nixon administration.
    • The earliest president depicted in the series was D. Wire Newman, a one term liberal democrat who was prone to criticizing other presidents, specifically Walken. In the real world you have Jimmy Carter, a one term liberal democrat who was prone to criticizing other presidents, nobody specifically but all in general. He was defeated by a two term Republican. They didn’t come out and say that Republican Lassiter, but with the exception of Walken, he is the only Republican President mentioned. In series timeline Owen Lassiter is a Republican from California who towards the end of his life was infirm and tended to make rambling phone calls to the sitting President, in real life Ronald Reagan was a Republican from California who suffered from Alzheimer’s in his final years. In series time line we have Josiah Bartlett a middle path Democrat who served two terms, in real life we have Bill Clinton a middle path Democrat who served two terms. Yes that last is thin, but backed up by admissions from Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, and Martin Sheen that Bartlett was based on a revisionist version of Bill Clinton. Yes, John Spencer did pass away with his death written into the series with Leo Mc Gary passing away under similar circumstances. How much this effected the Santos vs Vinick election is both debatable and subjective. But more importantly it was also irrelevant, because that was in the planning stage. In the planning stages of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tom Selleck was suppose to play Indiana Jones, but that didn’t happen either. In the end, Democratic President Bartlett was succeeded by Democratic Texas Congressman Matt Santos, who according to Producer Eli Attie was based on Barack Obama; or like I stated in my previous posting, a Democrat succeeded by a non-incumbent Democrat, which had not happened since Buchanan. Yes, it was supposed to be an alternate timeline, but not a vacuum as well.
      • And there hasn't been two consecutive two term presidents since 1824, but we just had two terms of Clinton and two terms of Bush. Just because a trend exists doesn't mean it can't be broken.
      • Also, none of them said that Bartlett was based on a "revisionist version of Bill Clinton". What they said was that Bartlett was what people wanted Clinton to be. In other words, Bartlett is intended to demonstrate what, in the writers' opinions, a president should be like, and none of the American presidents in recent history have lived up to that standard. And it is my opinion that they attempted to do something similar with Walken with his short stay, and would have done something similar with Vinick had he won (as they had intended).
    • There's a missing 2 years (between the Lassiter/Reagan and Bartlet/Clinton parallels), since the timeline of The West Wing had elections in 2002 and 2006, and Bartlet's first election would have been in 1998 (real-world presidential elections are in '96, 2000, '04, and '08). So there's basically no analogue to the first president Bush, at least not one mentioned in the show.
  • The first time we hear about the Republic of Equatorial Kundu, its president is at the White House, and Toby and Josh try to help him negotiate with drug companies to get free or discounted HIV medication for Kundunese citizens. Later, he talks to Bartlet in the Oval Office, and Bartlet tells him that a coup d'etat has occurred in his country. Bartlet tries to convince the Kundunese president to stay in America where he's safe, but he insists on going home-- and is summarily executed in the airport's parking lot upon arrival, as Bartlet warned him he would be. Later in the series, Kundu undergoes a Rwanda-like genocidal civil war, and Bartlet says, "What's this about Kundu? I was told about uprisings in the Republic of Equatorial Kundu, and I had to go look at a map!" He's implying that he's never heard of Kundu before, but how the hell could he have forgotten that meeting?!
    • It's a sad but very deliberate Shout-Out.
    • Bartlet probably hasn't forgotten the meeting, but that doesn't mean he's an expert on African geography or political relations. Meeting the leader of a country -- even under such traumatic circumstances -- doesn't necessarily mean being able to pinpoint that country on a map; there's lots of countries in the world, there's lots of countries in Africa, Bartlet's no doubt met a lot of world leaders and he can't reasonably be expected to geographically place all of them. Especially when, in circumstances such as a crippling civil war-slash-ethnic cleansing, national borders tend to get a bit hazy; for all he knows, Equatorial Kundu has moved 100km up the map since he last heard about it. Furthermore IIRC, the plot of that particular episode involves Bartlet being deliberately stymied and denied information by certain parties involved in the situation in order to prevent him or his administration from acting on what's happening in Kundu (for whatever reason -- it's been a while since I've seen it). I think Bartlet might also just be expressing his frustration about not being informed anything of substance by his aides and having to find out what he does know himself -- "I had to look at a map!", in this case, is shorthand for "I basically had to find out everything I currently know about this situation all by myself because everyone else has told me precisely dick-all about it." Plus, he's the President of the United States; he's got a fair bit on his plate, which means he can probably be excused from not having complete recall about every single situation he's ever been in.
  • How the heck did a black man end up with the name Percival Fitzwallace?
    • You write a script before you cast the actor.
    • Adoption.
    • Most black Americans have surnames that are white/European in origin -- English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, French, Spanish, Portuguese. Unless you've never heard of colonization or the slave trade, I don't know why this would confuse you.
    • How do you think Shaquille O'Neal got his name? Is it the "Percival" part that mystifies you?
  • Yes, it was funny, but how in the world could Lionel Tribbey get anywhere near the Oval Office while brandishing a cricket bat?!
    • The Secret Service no doubt recognise him -- he is the White House Counsel after all -- and are aware that he does not actually intend to bash the President's brains in or anything.
  • The first season Laurie plot always bugged me because prostitution is in fact illegal in Washington, D.C. They continually treat Laurie like a huge victim in the entire affair when she's the one knowingly and repeatedly breaking the law with the non-judgemental acknowledgement of everyone around her. Now, it may be reasonable to assume that the staff and even the local law enforcement choose not to enforce that law against the women of the trade...but when the President finally gets wind of it: he goes out of his way to apologize (again) for the dreadful inconvenience the press has caused her, which is of course entirely Sam's fault; he pledges to throw the weight of the Attorney General's office behind get ting her admitted to the bar after passing her exam, to avoid any complications caused by this unfortunate past, of which she is the victim; and he offers her his personal congratulations while brimming with pride at the obstacles this young woman has overcome. I'm not saying she should've been vilified, or that it wasn't reasonable for Sam to see her as a person rather than a hooker, but...really?
    • Because she is a victim, kind of; okay, yes, she knowingly and willingly working as a prostitute, but her relationship / friendship with Sam was completely innocent and almost totally divorced from that. In any case, just because she's a prostitute doesn't mean she deserves to have her past and livelihood smeared all over the front pages due to the betrayal of a supposed 'friend', all for what seems to be little reason than to cause some temporary embarrassment to the current administration and thus enable the opposition to score some cheap political points at their -- and especially her -- expense. The President's and everyone's reactions might have been a little over the top, but it's acknowledging that in this case she really wasn't to blame.
  • One thing that bothered me for a long time was the odd absence of several key figures in a presidential administration. Shouldn't the Secretary of State have been a major character? Look at pictures of real life presidents, you'll notice they tend to appear a LOT. Seems like an odd omission, especially since the show often deals with foreign policy.
    • There's good reason for this - the Secretary of State is primarily a political position, in that they act as the face of the government on certain issues. However, it is likely that much of the real interactions between president and secretary of state would be done by their chiefs of staff, with the Secretary being seen with the President during photo ops, etc. Note that the remaining interactions between them would occur during Cabinet meetings, of which we only saw a few during the series.
  • The whole character of Josh Lyman. More often than not, he's causing trouble for the Bartlet Administration, is overly confidant of how good he is, and doesn't ever seem capable at his job. If he didn't have his support staff helping him, he would keep on ruining things. And to top it all off, he acts as if he's some god among men, able to do things and get things done, when it's someone else who saves his bacon or calls in a favor to get the job done.
    • Josh may make a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day, his primary jobs are to staff the president, organise the white house staff's activities (Leo's job was more about handling the higher-level people, like Cabinet members, Senior Staff, etc), and beyond that, to liaise with congress. He was outstanding in the first two roles, and did a good job most of the time with the liaising (the primary exception being when he screwed up early in Season 5). Furthermore, Josh has shown himself to be incredibly politically astute... just as long as you never let him be seen in public. Most of his screwups were in side efforts (like meeting with certain people), and the real question isn't why he was kept on, but why he wasn't kept from those particular sorts of efforts. It's not like there weren't alternatives within the West Wing for those sorts of jobs.
    • OP here:I remember this bit with this rich kid intern in season 5 or 6 who Josh Lyman constantly berated, and thought he was teaching things, but it ended up that the kid was the one doing Josh's job behind his back, and Josh Lyman just praises himself to the kid about how he, Josh Lyman, did that. It seems that talking to anyone he disagreed with, at all, whether in private or in public, would end badly, and someone else would have to do the dirty work for him. As for staffing, remember the Star Trek fan? And Josh Lyman's Did Not Do the Research about Star Trek with the moral speech on not bringing your personal affiliations, even non-political ones to the White House? And how in the same episode someone else in the staff was proud of their sports baseball cap? So that's two out of the three, I guess he at least organized the White House's activities.
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