While watching Barack Obama’s halting, pause-filled performance in last Wednesday’s debate, liberals across the country found themselves wishing that the president had been prepped by someone more focused, someone more aggressive, someone like, say, snappy dialogue writer extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin. Unfortunately for them, there’s no way to grant this wish short of stealing Professor Frink’s time machine. But at least those folks can take solace in Sunday’s New York Times, which contains the next best thing to a Sorkin-penned debate: a Sorkin-penned dialogue between President Obama and imaginary ex-president Josiah “Jed” Bartlet, last seen thinking about “tomorrow” on The West Wing‘s series finale.
Sorkin pal Maureen Dowd invited her famous friend to imagine a post-debate conversation between the real commander-in-chief and the one Sorkin made up. Sorkin obliged, just like he did in 2008 when Dowd first asked him to write Obama/Bartlet fan fiction. The final product features vintage Sorkinese, cigarettes, a barrage of statistics, and cameos from Jim Lehrer and The Newsroom‘s Will McAvoy. Here’s the real meat of the conversation:
BARTLET They told you to make sure you didn’t seem condescending, right? They told you, “First, do no harm,” and in your case that means don’t appear condescending, and you bought it. ’Cause for the American right, condescension is the worst crime you can commit.
OBAMA What’s your suggestion?
BARTLET Appear condescending.
BARTLET Mr. President, your prep for the next debate need not consist of anything more than learning to pronounce three words: “Governor, you’re lying.”
The column should be a stirring read for anyone who misses the Bartlet White House, as well as anyone who was disappointed in Obama last week. (Now there’s a Venn diagram with a large overlap.) It also does double duty as ammunition for anyone who thinks Sorkin’s too preachy and, er, condescending — in the Newsroom creator’s mind, that’s apparently a good thing.