Thursday, July 13, 2006

Make it about engaged, and not...qualified, and not

Apropos of nothing much, I wanted to share a little West Wing / Aaron Sorkin wisdom that I think relates to politics in Canada today and that we Liberals may want to consider.

The first selection (more context here) is from the season three episode Heartsfield’s Landing. I think it has some resonance to political discourse today, and the direction we need to take. I’ll leave it to your imagination which leadership candidate I feel can best take such a tact. :)

The scene is the Oval Office, the staff is just back from a day on the campaign trail against Republican presidential candidate Rob Ritchie and staffer Toby Ziegler is playing a game of chess with President Bartlet. Bartlet has been downplaying his academic intellectual background in favour of emulating Ritchie’s “plain folks” routine, and because, as Jeb said, “nobody likes the smart kid in class.”

Toby has had enough of this BS, and he calls the president on it.


[approaches to sit across from him] What’s your point?


You’re a good father, you don’t have to act like it. You’re the President, you don’t have
to act like it. You’re a good man, you don’t have to act like it. You’re not just folks, you’re not plain-spoken... Do not – do not – do not act like it!

I don’t want to be killed.

Then make this election about smart. And not. Make it about engaged. And not. Qualified and not. Make it about heavyweight. You're a heavyweight.

Also relevant , I think, is this section from the season four episode “Game On” where Ritche and Bartlet debate. Plain-folks Ritche has been employing a strategy of ten word answers, and Bartlet soundly smacks him down.

I think this quote speaks so well to the simplistic “five priorities” strategy that the Conservatives have employed.

Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is the centrepiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes?

You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason - the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.

Mr. President, your rebuttal.

There it is. That's the ten word answer my staff's been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They're the tip of the sword. Here's my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I'll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while... every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that's way too big for ten words. I'm the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.

Oh, if only Jeb Bartlett was a) a real person, and b) Canadian. Bartlett for Prime Minister!

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