What "The West Wing" reveals about Joe Biden - Lebanon news - أخبار لبنان

What “The West Wing” reveals about Joe Biden

What “The West Wing” reveals about Joe Biden

Elie Mystal is the executive editor of Above the Law and a contributor at The Nation. The views expressed here are his. Read more opinion on CNN. (CNN)For loyal fans of the Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing,” former Vice President Joe Biden seems almost familiar. Biden is a Democrat, to be sure, but not one of those progressives who wants to change things all at once. He’s guided by a strong Irish Catholic faith but doesn’t seem particularly inclined to impose his faith on others. He’s compassionate. Biden definitely seems like the kind of guy who would offer to skip a speech to console a staffer after that staffer’s father died suddenly. His wife’s a doctor (of education) and a strong independent force in her own right. He’s a family man who loves his children. If you are looking for a doppelganger for TV president Josiah Bartlet, you could do a lot worse than Joe Biden.That’s not entirely a compliment. Bartlet, for all his positive qualities, is not real. He’s a fantasy invented to tell stories and drive ratings. I for one (and I don’t think I’m alone) have to remind myself that we don’t need another TV show president. We need a real one. Like a TV character, Biden seems susceptible to magical thinking. He repeatedly argues that, if elected, he will be able to work with Republicans, as if all Mitch McConnell needs is a commercial break to access the better angels of his nature. This week, Biden announced that, if elected, he would cure cancer. We know this is an understandably personal topic for Biden, who lost his son to the disease, but the moment also felt lifted directly from the “100,000 Airplanes” episode on the West Wing, in which Bartlet decides he wants to make an announcement he will cure cancer within a decade the linchpin of his State of the Union address.Ultimately, Bartlet doesn’t include the line, because his staff tells him that he needs to have an actual plan to cure cancer before he promises the nation he will do it. Would that Biden had Josh Lyman and Toby Ziegler working for him. Biden’s pledge to cure cancer isn’t really the problem. The deeper worry with Biden is not that he acts too much like President Bartlet, it’s that he acts too much like Bartlet’s evil twin, Uncle Fluffy. On the show, “Uncle Fluffy” is how the characters refer to President Bartlet’s chronic and cloying desire to be liked and appear affable in public. It’s a neat dramatic device, as it shows the internal political conflict between wanting to do the right thing and wanting to do the electable thing. We imagine all politicians must battle their inner Uncle Fluffies at some level.It’s a battle that Joe Biden’s Uncle Fluffy — call him “Uncle Joe” — seems too often to be losing. It’s not just the “aw shucks” gaffes or occasional handsiness or protective-father-figure-on-steroids quips. One reading of the Anita Hill fiasco is that Biden’s desperate desire to be “well liked” and appear “fair” to “all sides,” led him to getting absolutely rolled by Republicans during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.Biden’s flip-flop on the Hyde Amendment, and his thrown together plan on climate change, don’t always read like principled pragmatism — they read like a guy sticking his finger in the wind and going along for the ride.Bartlet famously overcomes his Fluffiness in the episode “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet” (with a reprise in “Game On,” the mother of all debate episodes). I hope Biden can get there, too. He certainly has the experience and capacity for it. As fictitious chief of staff Leo McGarry would say: The Democrats shouldn’t be threatened by issues, they should put them front and center. And let that be their legacy.
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