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Here's everything false about this White House

Here’s everything false about this White House. A blond Poet Laureate named Tabitha? Bruce Fretts takes creator Aaron Sorkin to task for the implausibility of this week’s episode

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Laura Dern, Richard Schiff, ...
The West Wing: Chris Haston/NBC

Here’s everything false about this White House

”An artist’s job is to captivate for however long we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky.” No, that wasn’t Ron Howard defending his Oscar-winner ”A Beautiful Mind” against charges of distorting reality, but U.S. Poet Laureate Tabitha Fordis (Laura Dern) in the Mar. 27 episode of ”The West Wing.” Or maybe it was Aaron Sorkin launching a preemptive strike against critics who might point out that his latest script lacked the ring of truth.

First of all, who ever heard of a poet laureate named Tabitha? Dern played her as overgrown, hyperemotional schoolgirl, flirting with Toby (”You’re cute, and I love the way you write” — this is a poet speaking?), then having a meltdown when she couldn’t remember all the words to Allen Ginsberg’s ”Howl.”

Ostensibly, she was upset about the U.S. government’s refusal to sign a treaty banning land mines, but she agreed not to make a public stink about it after Toby turned on his droopy charm. Seriously, can you imagine a blonde bombshell like Dern falling for a balding schlub like Richard Schiff? Then again, she did date Billy Bob Thornton, so anything’s possible.

Even sillier was a subplot about White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) becoming obsessed with a fansite devoted to him, LemonLyman. com. Don’t bother looking it up — it doesn’t exist (yet). But why would people who worship Josh refer to him as a ”Lemon”? And would press secretary C.J. (Allison Janney) really rip Josh a new one for posting on the site, especially since, as he pointed out, he outranks her?

Then there’s Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter). The underused Republican counsel returned from a vacation in Hilton Head, S.C., to defend the President against charges of elitism — even though she believes he is an elitist. Ainsley’s an intriguing character, but she stopped making sense a long time ago. Why does she continue to work for an administration she opposes? No wonder Procter will soon split ”West Wing” for a new series, the CBS spinoff ”CSI: Miami.”

The elitism charges surfaced after President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) committed a gaffe by making derisive remarks about his Dubya-like opponent’s intelligence to a Philadelphia local-news anchorwoman (Beth Littleford, late of ”The Daily Show”): ”I think we may be talking about a 22-caliber mind in a .357 Magnum world,” said Jed, allegedly thinking he was off the air. Such a politically savvy President would never be so loose-lipped in front of a live microphone, but it took C.J. several days to figure out that the Chief Exec had planned the whole thing. The rest of the staff remained clueless; there’s nothing beautiful about these minds.

Do you think ”The West Wing” rings true?

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