Alan Alda, The West Wing
Credit: The West Wing: Mitchell Haddad

Ladies and gentlemen: Tonight, we are privileged to bear witness to one of this country’s great political traditions, the Fake Presidential Debate — between Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits, far left) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda, near left). I’ll be live-blogging the East Coast feed for you, direct from EW Fake Presidential Campaign Coverage Headquarters here in New York, and I shan’t lie to you, ducklings: Like all great political journalists, your Aunt Whitney is completely biased toward one of the candidates. But for your benefit (and for the benefit of my employer, the giant multinational corporation), I will try and keep it in check. After all, there will be plenty of time for partisan anger and resentment later. Right now, let us sit back, pop open a cold one, and drink in the cool, crisp flavor of Politics, As Originally Imagined by Aaron Sorkin, Who, As We All Know, Used to Do Drugs, Which Explains the Optimism.

0:26 Ellen DeGeneres is hosting? She’s, like, gay. That would never happen at a real debate.

0:45 Previously on The West Wing: Men stared at each other across a kitchen…and a sweeps stunt was born!

1:23 They’ve been talking about adopting this debate format in real life—allowing direct rebuttals and so forth—if it goes well here in TeeVee Land. I hope they throw in these backstage shots, too. Imagine! John McCain straightening his tie! Rahm Emanuel whispering things in Barack Obama’s ear as they walk down dark corridors! Oh, the drama of it all!

2:09 Is this part live, with Bruno explaining the rules to Alda? I don’t think this part is live.

2:33 I’m glad Janeane dyed her hair back to brown.

3:14 See, now, this part after the introductions looks live. Ooh! Santos goes in for the handshake! Brilliant move, sir!

3:27 Forrest Sawyer? What, they couldn’t get Brokaw?

3:53 Laughing at the moderator isn’t gonna get you anywhere, Alda. Oh. Sorry. I mean, Vinick.

4:44 Vinick’s opening statement and…whoa. Did he just have a stroke? Oh. No. He’s just had an attack of the Fake Political Candidate Conscience!

5:59 Vinick has just turned to Santos and said, “Let’s have a real debate.” And in order to get more exposition in and/or whack us over the head a couple times more about how These Two Guys Are Different!, Santos has to act like he doesn’t know what Alda means. “What, are you gonna filibuster me for a whole hour?” Lame. Let’s hope it’s not all this staged.

6:24 Also, from now on: All debates must have catchy, swirling theme songs.

6:51 Aw. I bet no John Spencer tonight.

7:21 Dear Ellen: Your part’s not live. You should be funnier.

8:35 Oh my God, is Ellen still talking?

9:22 My American Express card just started spontaneously bleeding.

9:43 And we’re back. “Written by Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr.”? What? Oh. Right. Whoops. Lost that line between TV and reality again. I’m fine. Really.

10:43 Vinick’s solution to illegal immigration is to double the border patrol.

11:01 “Why not triple the border patrol?” says Santos. Ooh, snap!

14:00 Forrest pipes up with a super-perceptive question: Is Vinick raising questions about immigration because he’s running against a Latino candidate? First of all: That was too staged again. And secondly: Duh, Forrest. They said that like four episodes ago.

14:44 Santos says illegal immigration is Mexico’s problem, not ours, and it won’t stop until they strengthen their economy. Ding ding ding. Santos, 1; Vinick, 0.

15:37 Okay, that line about cutting allowances wasn’t funny. I think this audience might be getting paid.

17:36 The boys are talking tax math now, and although every time hethrows out a percentage figure I die a little inside, I think Santos iswinning. Is Santos winning?

18:22 Vinick just wrapped up the tax-cuts discussion by sayingsomething I didn’t completely understand, and the audience made a noiselike one of those cows in a can. “Mwaghahgmgagggaaaah.”

20:26 “Head Start doesn’t work,” snaps Vinick, and the audience makesthat canned-cow noise again. Nice acting, audience. Nice acting.

21:19 “That’s a lie!” says Vinick (referring to Santos’ educationblather). “You’re a liar!” yells some dude with a goatee in theaudience, who is immediately escorted out. This provokes yet anotherawkward audience acting moment. “Boooooooo!” they moo. “Booooo!”

21:49 Your search— “we’re going to be number one in ten years”— did not match any documents.

22:22 Wait — airline mechanics don’t have to go to college?

23:48 Okay, Matt Santos. If the West Wing is on TV in four years, andyou haven’t improved fake education, I will not vote for you.Education discussion ends in a draw. Santos, 1; Vinick, 0.

25:40 Vinick shoots down Santos’ health care plan. Santos pauses andsays, “Tell ya the truth? I’m not crazy about my health care plan,either.” How much money would you pay to have George Bush walk out intothe Rose Garden tomorrow morning…?

26:00 Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord. Santos escaped the podium! He’s gone rogue!

28:07 Oh, God! They’re both out! Someone call security!

28:10 Forrest says, “You gentlemen aren’t going to go out in theaudience, are you?” No, Forrest. That would require the audience to beable to act.

29:16 “Given? To the world? I guess you haven’t seen the price listlately, sir,” says Santos, in response to Vinick’s statement thatAmerica gives the best prescription drugs to the world. Ooh. Threesnaps and you’re out, Arnie.

29:58 Okay, Vinick is right: $1 a day for a pill is cheaper than$30,000 for surgery. But if you have health insurance, you won’t haveto pay the $30,000 for the surgery, right? Right?

31:12 Okay, we seem to have veered into debt relief. I’m giving thehealth-care argument to Santos, just because Vinick has no plan, andreally seems to hate Canada a lot. Santos, 2; Vinick, 0.

32:27 Whitney Might Be a Democrat, Pt. 1: Oh, poor giant company Nike!The taxes are too high for you to put a big factory in Africa andexploit their dirt-cheap wages? Poor baby!

33:31 Well, dang. Okay, Vinick gets a point on Africa. Granted, that’snot actually located in the country he wishes to be president of, butstill. Santos, 2; Vinick, 1.

33:36 In fact, Vinick’s argument on Africa was so good they needed to take a commercial to towel off!

38:02 Vinick says he would create no jobs in his first term, and man, Iam really starting to think this audience is made up of like the peoplewho couldn’t get into The Price Is Right today or something.

38:38 Okay, Arnie just totally invaded Santos’ dance space.

40:04 Liberals rule! Santos lists all the things that “liberals” havedone: end slavery, give women and African Americans the right to vote,etc. I liked that speech. Santos, 3; Vinick, 1.

41:06 Whitney Might Be a Democrat, Pt. 2: Santos is against the death penalty. Vinick is for it. Santos, 4; Vinick, 1.

41:27 Santos just used the “Guns don’t kill people; bullets killpeople” argument. The score now stands Santos, 3; Vinick, 1. No one whouses slogans that appear on T-shirts at Urban Outfitters will ever bemy Fake President.

43:27 Simmer down there, boys! Don’t make Forrest come up there!

45:35 Whitney Is Definitely a Democrat, Period: The point is not thatpeople want to go to ANWR, Arnie; the point is that we can’t just keepscrewing up the earth! You get a half point for the vehemence of yourargument, but I don’t like you anymore. Santos, 3; Vinick, 1.5.

49:14 Santos will never go to war for oil. Oh, TeeVee Land, you’re so shiny.

49:29 Forrest just bitch-slapped the audience. They can’t even clap convincingly.

49:55 Wait — our biggest supplier of foreign oil is Canada?

50:33 Vinick will not join Santos in the pledge! He could not, would not, on a ledge! He could not, would not, through a hedge!

50:51 No, really. Stop saying pledge.

51:56 “When you go to work tomorrow, and you’re talking about thisdebate,” says Santos, “talk about the qualities you want in apresident.” And then weep, endlessly, because both of these men areactors, and this will never, ever happen in real life.

52:22 I’m ready to give Matt Santos the presidency of the United Statesas soon as Matt Santos stops talking about himself in the third person.

54:26 Vinick wants to be president so he can streamline the government,downsize it, cut back on employees and those meddling social programs,really get government under control. That’s like me asking to be theeditor of Entertainment Weekly and then turning it into a pamphlet.

55:30 When the Founding Fathers promised me government, Arnie, I wasn’talive yet. Oh, and there were 13 states. Oh, and slaves. That’s justridiculous.

Final score: Santos, 4; Vinick, 1.5.

While both men did an excellent job of getting across their FakePolitical Platforms, Santos’ platform seemed more complete, morecompassionate, and, hey, let’s face it, he’s hot. Vinick would make anexcellent president if this show were called Tight-Wad Republican Wing,but it ain’t. My Fake Political Blogger prediction? Four more years ofwhacked-out liberal elitism in Hollywood. And there it is, the big FakeDebate for 2005. Your crazy liberal Aunt Whitney really tried to keepit together as long as she could.

Didn’t like what I had to say? Look! Down there! Space for rebuttal! I, too, love freedom! Yay, America! Yay!

addCredit(“The West Wing: Mitchell Haddad”)