NBC’s West Wing Fantasy: Pro-Choice Repub Soars Without Right Wing Baggage

November 6th, 2005 3:48 PM

Hollywood's fantasy that Republicans could sweep the nation if they only put up a "pro-choice" candidate animated last Sunday's episode -- and Janeane Garofalo got in a blast at conservatives. NBC is promising an "unprecedented West Wing event" in tonight’s sweeps stunt of a live debate between liberal presidential candidate "Matt Santos," played by Jimmy Smits, and the anti-religious right Republican "Arnie Vinick," played by Alan Alda. Last Sunday, Vinick was angered by an independent ad which attacked Santos for opposing parental notification and a ban on partial-birth abortions, policies the otherwise pro-choice Vinick backs: "Who told them to drag abortion into my campaign?" Demanding the ad be pulled, Vinick asserted: "Do you realize how many states my pro-choice position puts on the table?" Later, Santos remarked: "Vinick's appeal is that he's a different kind of Republican, moderate, reasonable, pro-choice."

In one scene on the October 30 episode, Santos' media chief, "Louise Thornton," played by Janeane Garofalo, sounded just like the real-life Garofalo when she argued that the campaign must go negative against Vinick, and she cited the good being done by a Senator she got elected by going negative against his opponent: "I'm proud that he votes against every reckless Republican tax cut. We're the blue team and there's a real war going on. Josh, do you want the right wing to get their judges?"

Friday night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, West Wing star Bradley Whitford trashed Bush as “a radical right-wing President who now seems to be incompetent.” A Zogby International poll of West Wing viewers found they tilt to the left, with 59 percent saying they’d vote for Democrat Smits/Santos compared to just 29 percent for Alda/Vinick, Lisa de Moraes reported in Saturday’s Washington Post. But the viewers recognize the show’s bias: “A full 77 percent of respondents said The West Wing has a liberal bias.”

Some quotes from the characters on the October 30 episode, starting after the "Committee for the Integrity of Human Life" produces an anti-Santos ad (NBC's page for The West Wing):

# Vinick goes to the RNC Chairman to ask that he get the ads pulled. The RNC guy points outs corporate conservatives and libertarians like Vinick, but Vinick doesn't speak to social conservative issues.


Vinick to RNC Chairman: "If this were Europe, the Republican Party would be three parties.

RNC guy: "Thank goodness they don't have to sleep together. They just have to show up on the same day and vote Republican."

Vinick, leaning forward at table: "Do you realize how many states my pro-choice position puts on the table? Do you realize how we can grow this party if we're willing to reach out?"

RNC guy: "I guess I'd like to see you unite the party that we have now. I'm not denouncing that ad. And I don't think you want to either, Arnie."


# VP candidate Leo McGarry, played by John Spencer, as Santos campaign haggles over how to respond to the ad: "We are the pro-choice party, there's no denying it. I'm not sure we don't stand up and say 'damn right, I'm pro-choice, so's 60 percent of the country.'"

Santos soon notes: "Vinick's appeal is that he's a different kind of Republican, moderate, reasonable, pro-choice."

# The Santos campaign decides to hit back so as to not lose "values voters."




Campaign Manager "Josh Lyman," played by Bradley Whitford, needles his deputy, "Louise Thornton," played by Janeane Garofalo, on how happy she is about the campaign going negative. She recalls how one of her past Senate candidates "had weird financial business dealings with Taiwanese businessmen," yet beat a Republican who was "clean as a bar of soap" because they hit the Republican "with everything we could find. By the time he hit back, the voters thought it was just another ugly campaign, a pox on both their houses."

Lyman: "You're proud of that?"

"Thornton"/Garofalo: "I'm proud that Marion Hoff [the Democratic Senate candidate who won] defends Medicare and Medicaid in the Senate. I'm proud that he votes against every reckless Republican tax cut. We're the blue team and there's a real war going on. Josh, do you want the right wing to get their judges?"


# The "Women's Alliance for Choice" threatens to endorse Vinick because, as a woman named "Becca," who runs the group, tells McGarry: He's "pro-choice and he's probably going to win."




McGarry charges: "Vinick's the one who won't criticize his party on this -- partial-birth, parental notification. He's bowing to the far-right fringes."

Becca: "But if he wins they really will be the fringes won't they? And then both parties will be where the country is: pro-choice, down the line."

McGarry: "Becca, if you help a Republican get elected President you'll destroy the-"

Becca dreams: "Think how many more Republicans would have the courage to stand up for a woman's right to choose."


# As they walk through a factory, Vinick campaign strategist "Bruno Gianelli," played by Ron Silver, informs Vinick: "The Women's Alliance for Choice wants to endorse you."




Vinick: "You're kidding?"

Gianelli claims: "The heart of the Democratic base wants to support you. Santos would be doomed, we'd win 53 states, a couple of desert islands."


# The episode ends with both candidates going to the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan for the Al Smith dinner. Santos shocks McGarry by telling him that despite his pro-choice votes, he
believes "life begins at conception."

In a hallway, Vinick lectures the RNC guy about why he's pro-choice: "I joined this party because the liberals were the ones who always wanted something from the government and we just wanted government to leave us alone, especially when there's no consensus otherwise. I'm trying to lead the majority who agrees on that, not the minority who wants to enact their version of Leviticus into law."

Recent NewsBusters/CyberAlert articles about The West Wing:

# October 17 NewsBusters: On this past weekend's Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, comedian Bill Maher pointed to the liberal scriptwriters of NBC's West Wing for political guidance. Maher touted how "Alan Alda plays a Republican Senator who tells the Christian Right to go screw." Maher yearned: "Why can't we have that in real life?" Last Tuesday (October 11) on MSNBC's Hardball, the Chicago Tribune's Jim Warren had also held up how the Alda character "confronts a top Christian Right official who insists on a public pledge that Alan Alda, if elected President, will only pick anti-abortion judges to the federal court. And Alan Alda, seeing the world as much more complicated, declines to do that." Maher proceeded to wonder: "Why can't we have a real Alan Alda character who says to the Christian Right what the Democrats basically say to the black people, which is, 'you know what? Where else are you going to go?'"

# October 10 NewsBusters: Only on fantasy television would anyone predict the New York Times would endorse a Republican presidential candidate, but that's what occurred on Sunday's episode of NBC's drama, The West Wing. On the October 9 show, the GOP nominee, California Senator "Arnie Vinick" (played by Alan Alda), lays out a series of proposals on immigration (such as doubling the border patrol), aimed to put his Hispanic Democratic opponent, Congressman "Matt Santos" (played by Jimmy Smits), in a box. In one scene, "Vinick" campaign advisor "Bruno Gianelli" (played by Ron Silver), a former campaign adviser to Democrats including the show's "President Bartlet," walks into a meeting and declares: "The New York Times loves your guest worker program. Think we might have a shot at an endorsement." At least another campaign staffer points out the naivete of the Democratic operative who has switched sides: "Kiss of death for a conservative." Sunday's episode also featured "Vinick," who is Hollywood's dream of an un-conservative Republican, going on a rant against the head of the "American Christian Assembly."

# April 6 CyberAlert: Hollywood' ideal Republican President, as brought to life two weeks ago by NBC's The West Wing, which has its season finale tonight (Wednesday), is "pro-choice," "pro-environment," will save the party from the "right wing," engineers a deal to raise the minimum wage and lectures about keeping religion out of politics. On the March 23 episode, a Democratic consultant told Republican presidential candidate, "Senator Arnold Vinick," played by Alan Alda, that he can win in a landslide because he's "moving the Republicans away from the right wing. You're not saying Democrats are not patriotic." After a pro-life Republican, who is so intolerant that he rejects Vinick's offer of the vice presidency, invites Vinick to join him in church, Vinick lectures a gaggle of reporters: "I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government."






Some of the cast appeared Friday night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country. One exchange:




Joe Scarborough: "I remember in 1994 when I ran, Bradley, for Congress, Democrats were saying that they were going to put anti-aircraft weapons on borders if Bill Clinton tried to come into their states to campaign for them. Republicans have to be feeling the same way about George W. Bush right now in most parts of America because he's not seen as a conservative by a lot of conservatives out there."
Bradley Whitford, who plays “Josh Lyman,” the “Santos” campaign manager: "No, I think, I think he, you know, from my point-of-view, has, has always seemed to me to be not a conservative, a radical right-wing president who now seems to be incompetent. And I just want to say something to what Ron Silver was saying, which is that this guy is not guided by polls. I think that's the most absurd statement I've ever heard. This guy has a political nanny who everybody, even his supporters, Karl Rove, acknowledge that George Bush would be nowhere without this guy. He does operate by polls. Look at, look at the Supreme Court decision and withdrawing that nomination. And the, what they've done is manipulate to get poll numbers so that he can go in and, based on misinformation, go to war, tell us that these tax cuts aren't going to result in a deficit. I think it's always been a horse race between political acumen and bankrupt policies. Attacking Iraq was not the right answer for 9/11. And these economic policies are going to leave us bankrupt."