Monday, June 14, 2004


Just an Idea...

POOR DEMOCRATS. After weeks of media masochism anent Abu Ghraib, it was curiously healing to watch the many ceremonies of the Reagan funeral. We got to see the military at its best, crisp, upright, and dignified. We got to witness the American people at their best, filled with compassion, admiration, and patriotism. We got to see Washington, DC, at its best, graceful and grand and beautiful. Many of us drew strength from the elegant rituals of last week, but there's a constituency who were deprived of the catharsis such events should engender. I refer, of course, to the significant percentage of Democrats who loathed, despised, and hated Ronald Reagan. For them, there was only bitterness in the proceedings. Is there anything we can do to give them an equivalent experience? You think not? Well, I have an idea. Let's kill Jed Bartlet.

The West Wing has pretty much run out of ways to slyly critique a Republican President in a world where the news is writ large by leaders and nations who can't be plausibly fictionalized. Toby and Josh and Leo and CJ have gotten Bartlet reelected, his MS is worn out as a plot device, and Zoey's big interracial fling also appears to have exhausted itself. People have begun to stop watching. Who gives a damn about a big senate fight over school vouchers when Bush and Kerry are climbing into the ring for the knockdown drag out political brawl of the century? So, as I said, let's kill Jed Bartlet.

A sudden brain aneurism would be good. It could happen right at the end, before the black screen showing the names of the producers. From there it would proceed to a riveting, high-impact miniseries in which Abby dolefully plans and carries out the biggest state funeral since... well, since Ronald Reagan's, I guess. They could haul out the big caisson, and I suppose they could round up a handsome black pony that wouldn't overpower Jed's little backward-facing boots. They could do a whole show on just the procession to the capitol, with thousands of extras lining the streets to weep for poor President Bartlet. And the regulars could do their histrionic bit in the limos along the way -- flashbacks, self-pity, liberal pontificating -- you know, the usual. Josh could think back to when he was shot. Donna could think back to when she was blown up. CJ could think back to when she was being stalked by an assassin. Toby could think back to when he had hair and a personality. (Perhaps not). Then they could all realize that it's really the President who is dead, and what a relief, only not really. You see?

They could do another whole hour with Jed lying in state in the Capitol building. Foreign leaders from past shows could arrive and remember Bartlet beside the casket. That drunken Brit who keeps trying to grab Abby's breasts would be great, because Brits don't get that worked up about death, only this time it's different. A little different anyway. No chance of copping a feel with Abby this time. And aren't there some fictional middle eastern types they've used before, who could show up in their white robes and burnooses while the ordinary Americans are filing past, weeping quietly? I can't remember any other world leaders from the show because President Bartlet didn't actually have a foreign policy, just a war room. But if there are any, they should be invited. They're probably as crushed as anyone about the loss of such a great president. After all the leaders have done their thing, what's-his-name the intern could have a solemn moment there, demonstrating the greatness of American democracy, because the president belongs to both the great and the small (unless Abby says no).

The funeral itself would be a casting challenge, but there's a certain ex-president who's reportedly miffed at not being asked to speak at Reagan's funeral. I'll bet he could be induced (couldn't that black-haired bitch ex-girlfriend of Josh's return for a cameo?) to give the eulogy. If he could stay awake long enough.

Then the great trek to New Hampshire, which should probably be accomplished by motorcade, so that more thousands of adoring people could stand at the side of the road remembering how great it was to have a president who quoted Latin in his speeches and could level any devout Christian with batteries of obscure Bible verses. The regulars could remember happier road trips past, like the time Toby and Sam drove to Connecticut to bail the Hispanic supreme court nominee out of jail, or the time Josh and Toby had to hitchhike home from New Hampshire after the big campaign to-do at the Bartlet family farm. But now the President is dead, and life is going to be hollow from here on in, with only reruns and residuals to look forward to.

All of this, however, is merely prelude to the big send-off under the Democratic New Hampshire sky. Every celebrity in Hollywood will be there, all of them prostrate with grief over the death of a President who didn't starve the poor and conspire to kill the sufferers of AIDS. Think of the resonance and the ratings of a final episode featuring Streisand, Spielberg, Sarandon, Stone, Penn, Madonna, all of them eloquent and restrained in their sorrow but overwhelmingly sensitive and well dressed. And the sun sets over the apple orchard as U2 plays God Bless America and Abby and the kids tear themselves away from the coffin for the last time to sign book deals, while George Clooney folds up the flag with those impeccable white gloves and presents it to the first lady with the kind of salute you only see in the U.S. military or in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Properly done, the thing could be stretched out to weeks of really pure Democrat-style suffering. Wouldn't that be great? You bet it would.

Requiescat in pace

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