The aforementioned quote by Aaron Sorkin led me to conceive of the best way to formulate my problem with the otherwise great show The West Wing.
President Bartlet is obviously too likable and one-sidedly good to be anything like a realistic president—the same which can be said about everyone around him, all of whom are in line with Sorkin’ melodramatic atmosphere and cadenced dialogue replete with orchestral fanfare.
The fundamental problem harks back to the maxim attributed to Mario Cuomo: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” Sorkin’s world is at odds with the gritty reality of prose, and the presidential term of Bartlet is governed by as much poetry as his presidential re-election campaign.
Even if people weren’t familiar with Cuomo’s maxim, many will still understand the meaning of it today in the wake of Barack Obama’s campaign and painfully pragmatic presidency—regardless of where you find yourself in the political spectrum.
Politics is about killing your darlings, forging tenuous alliances and getting people to like you—not because of who you are, but in spite of.
Bartlet is infallible. No real person is—least of all an accomplished president.