Episode 51: How ‘The West Wing’ Poisoned the Liberal Mind

Citations Needed | September 26, 2018 | Transcript

Citations Needed
43 min readSep 26, 2018


Intro: This is Citations Needed with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

Nima Shirazi: Welcome to Citations Needed a podcast on the media, power, PR and the history of bullshit. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow the show on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed and become a supporter of the show, help us out through Patreon/CitationsNeededPodcast with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson. All your help is so appreciated that way. It keeps the show moving along, makes it possible for us to keep the show going and to give you the content that you crave and no more so than, I think, today’s episode. Wouldn’t you say, Adam?

Adam: Yes. Quite a bit of popular demand for this episode and I’ve been wanting to do it for very long time because, well, frankly I think it’s kind of funny and I think it’s actually one of those things that people sort of talk around but don’t talk a lot about specifically as we talk about on in the show often, you know, pop culture is a huge conduit for propaganda and I really think that post Cold War liberal chauvinism really knew no better propaganda conduit then the NBC series from the 2000s, The West Wing.

[The West Wing Theme Music]

Adam: Thank you for that.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: (Hums)

Nima: (Laughs)

Adam: On the show, foreign policy was sort of unabashedly imperial, if not benevolent. The staffers were self satisfied and the serious Democrats were constantly fending off radical leftists and punching the leftists of their own party and making — capital ‘T’, capital ‘C’ — Tough Choices needed to run a benevolent superpower.

Nima: So The West Wing heavily influenced the politics of dozens of high-status, high-profile Obama era liberals, by their own admission. We know it had super fans among the likes of Obama speechwriter Sam Graham-Felsen, Obama aid Eric Lesser, the two founders of your favorite explainer site Vox, both Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias, The New Statesman’s Helen Lewis, Democratic Party operatives Meredith Shiner and Micah Lasher. All said they loved the show and, of course, Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC host now, was a producer on the show and also a writer of a number of episodes. So the kind of liberal love of this show was not only purely in the ratings, but also really wound up manifesting itself in actual politics. It really jumped from the screen to the actual Capitol in a way that, I think, is kind of unprecedented.

Adam: Yeah, we don’t want to overstate the case, but you really don’t want to understate it either. And I think that I think oftentimes we sort of poo poo things. ‘Oh, that’s just a TV show’ or ‘That’s just a movie.’ It’s kind of this, I think glib way of not reconciling how pop culture does sort of shape ideology. It’s fair to say that anyone under 40 who came up through the murky ranks of liberal public relations and, uh, the Democratic Party world during the Obama years was either directly impacted by The West Wing, ideologically or indirectly by those under it’s kind of comforting Starbucks color palette spell.

Nima: So today we are going to talk about that exact kind of spell and the worldview that it espoused, so how it both informed and reflected prevailing thought in the Democratic Party during those Bush years and also promoted this kind of smugness as the highest political virtue. Also, how ideology is spread through seemingly benign cultural products like, I don’t know, schlocky TV dramas on NBC and so to do all that we are going to be joined by none other than friend of the show writer Luke Savage.

[Begin Clip]

Luke Savage: Because the people who made the show and the people that watch it seem to think it’s a documentary, like there is this kind of weird breaking of the fourth wall of, of politics that happens in it. And that’s not helped by the fact that the actors on the show are mostly or all seem to be, I don’t know, New York Times like coastal liberals in real life. Like The West Wing cast will endorse, you know, Democratic presidential candidates.

[End Clip]

Adam: So just to start off with full disclaimer, I unironically like the show The West Wing. I think it’s a very good show with a full understanding that the politics are god awful. And I think the fact that it’s a good show, or at least it’s an, it’s an effective show, good will sort of set that aside as being overly normative.

Nima: And I will chime in by saying that I really like the show Sports Night. And so, uh, that’s where I come to Aaron Sorkin and actually — full disclosure for myself — I did not watch The West Wing when it was airing. I was in college and was not watching TV. TV was not like something that I tuned into on a weekly basis.

Adam: He didn’t have a TV guys. Did you hear that?

Nima: In college I didn’t have a TV.

Adam: He was, he was too busy reading and having lots of sex and painting a self-portrait. He wasn’t like us where we watch TV anyway, go ahead.

Nima: Adam, I wasn’t painting a self-portrait. I was in a band for chrissakes. (Laughs)

Adam: Oh sorry he was too busy being a rock star to watch TV.

Nima: Anyway, so, um, but uh, but the pop culture ubiquity of The West Wing certainly has infused itself into my kind of cultural awareness even at that time and I have since kind of dipped in and out of certain episodes and certainly knowing that we were going to do this episode, Adam put me on a very strict, a West Wing regimen. And so now I am, you know, I’m all about Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill. Fuckin’ let’s do it. Let’s do this shit, Adam.

Adam: Yeah, there’s a, there’s a preparation montage with this episode where Nima is like doing sit-ups while watching —

Nima: Yeah, where like Burgess Meredith is like making me watch episode after…like, ‘Now Shibboleth!’ So, like, okay. So I think we’re going to do this. Let’s go for it. Let’s jump on in.

Adam: So let’s, let’s get this going. You know, we don’t want to, he literally wrote the seminal article on it. Let’s get Luke in here to talk about The West Wing. Something I know that that he cares deeply in his heart. We’ll have it in our show notes, but you can also check it out online. He wrote an article in June of last year “How Liberals Fell In Love With The West Wing,” which is a good breakdown. I’m excited to have him on.

Nima: So we will be joined by Luke Savage, writer and West Wing aficionado who will join us in just a sec. Stay with us.


Nima: We are joined now by Toronto based writer and co-host of the Michael and Us podcast, friend of the show Luke Savage. So great to have you back on Citations Needed Luke. Hi.

Luke Savage: Hi, it’s great to be back and this time for my favorite topic ever. So thanks for inviting me.

Nima: Well, we couldn’t imagine doing this show without you.

Adam: Can’t do it without you. You wrote the, uh, I would argue the seminal piece on liberals love of The West Wing and it’s something that I think a lot of people on the left for several years, have sort of talked around or used as a punchline, but I think it’s actually worthy of deeper analysis. First thing we want to do is we want to establish the stakes, which we did earlier in the show and I want to reestablish them with you, which is, this isn’t just a kind of theoretical conversation or a lot of supposition, although there’s some supposition involved, that there are lots of people who are high status within the Democratic Party and within liberal punditry who will tell you that they’re super fans of The West Wing and that The West Wing helped shape their worldview. So just before we start, we wanted to sort of establish that many people within the Obama administration and within their orbit will openly tell you that The West Wing was a huge influence in their lives in a way that is kind of fucking scary.

Luke Savage: Yeah. I think one of the challenges in thinking about The West Wing is it’s hard to tell to what extent it reflects politics that beltway people, liberals, various Washington institutionalists, the extent to which it reflects the politics that they already had versus the extent to which it’s actually played an active role in shaping those politics. And when I was writing the piece, I guess I was partly more on the side of like, well, this reflects politics and it channels them and it’s only had a minimal influence on people’s politics, but, you know, the further we go along, um, and you know, the more tweets I see from #Resistance people, the more it really does seem like people with a tremendous amount of power in some ways, this show was actually formative for their politics. And so I really think however you come down on that, however much weight you give it, it is actually a worthy topic of discussion. This isn’t, it isn’t just kind of a like, let’s have fun punching this kind of, you know, sanctimonious liberal drama from ten years ago or whatever. Although it is that too.

Nima: So Luke, let’s start off by, uh, you know, let’s pretend there are people who, um, don’t know this show all that well. Um, maybe named Shnima Shmirazi. Um, what makes The West Wing different than other kinds of big budget glossy as, as, as you say, glossy political dramas, like, say House of Cards or Scandal? Like what is it about The West Wing that makes it necessary to kind of really talk about in this way and kind of dissect the influence that it has?

Luke Savage: Well, it’s, you know, you brought up House of Cards and it’s interesting to compare the two because House of Cards is a show that, you know, also very high production values, it depicts Washington in a very particular way with the kind of usual grandness and the aura of institutional power, which you’re meant to find very seductive. But you know, basically House of Cards has very few politics. I mean it’s essentially a kind of personal drama. It’s politics are that, uh, are that politics is shaped by a handful of people in powerful positions that have powerful personalities. And even a lot of the other people in the powerful positions are just total rubes and could be steamrolled with kind of Shakespearean flourishes uttered in a southern twang or whatever. And The West Wing is a little different than that because I think it’s more ideologically specific and it is altogether more coherent. Particularly in the first few seasons when Aaron Sorkin was still actively involved in it. It really is a liberal show and I think that it also has to be seen in the context of the, well in the American political context from which it emerged, which I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that you can read parts of it, especially in the early seasons, as a sort of revisionist history of the Clinton presidency. As kind of the Clinton presidency without the impeachment trial. As kind of an idealized version of what liberals in the very early nineties thought the Clinton presidency was going to be. This great high minded thing that yes, we were going to embrace the, you know, Reaganite consensus because that’s the only thing that grown adults can do but we’re also going to have all these kind of great sweeping flourishes and we’re going to reclaim the language of the American empire, but for liberalism and we’re going to get serious about Social Security modernization and all the rest of it. So I think the show has a lot more specificity to it then other things in the sort of middle brow, in the cosmos of sort of middle brow, you know, political dramas based in Washington.

Adam: So let’s talk about how the shitty politics and let’s get specific here with what we mean by that. There’s kind of two main modes of bad politics in the show. The first one is this sort of constant berating, for the record, I mentioned at the beginning of show that I, I think objectively it’s a good show. I’m not someone who’s going to sit here and act like, I think it’s bad. It’s a well written show, uh, which of course is what makes it effective propaganda. There’s this constant sort of reimagining of liberal patriotism, right? That liberals are real patriots. And this dovetails with a very bellicose imperial foreign policy, obviously embraces, yeah, the sort of, I wouldn’t even say the Clinton wing, I would say more like the Joe Lieberman wing. A very kind of militant and then post 9/11, uh, there’s actually digital assassinations that are justified. A lot of liberal interventionism is a huge part of the show. And the second mode is contempt for left-wing criticisms of capitalism. It’s outward embrace of world trade. This sort of lineal liberal consensus around trade that of course two years after the show went off the air kind of blew up in everyone’s face. It’s always sort of super condescending that, that this is just, you’re right. Like you said, we’ve, we’ve reached the end of history. It’s all over in this manifest. Also, this idea of the grand bargain which really poisoned the minds of a lot of Obama administration officials as, as we talked about this idea of privatizing, gutting Social Security to save it, the sort of no labels politics. Can we start going down and talking about some examples of either of those modes and how that kind of began to creep in and affect the way liberals thought? And again, it’s difficult to know the extent to which they influenced it versus reflected it but the ways in which that kind of really manifested in during the Obama years?

Luke Savage: Well, I, I really like, I mean, one of the episodes I revisited was this one, “Slow News Day,” which is, you know, kind of colloquially referred to as the Social Security episode and this is one where Toby Ziegler, who I guess at this point is the White House communications director, he sort of wakes up in a cold sweat one night, this sort of cold open, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but he, and he’s like, ‘Eureka! I know how to save Social Security’ and he, he does the president’s wake up call. And his brilliant idea is basically he thinks that there’s this sort of centrist, you know, quote unquote “moderate” Republican who is not running again based on his fundraising numbers and so we can actually get this guy who’s been a leader on Social Security.

Adam: Yeah, whatever that means.

Luke Savage: Whatever that means. Um, he has given innumerable speeches that if you search the key words, as in fact Toby has one of his interns or staff do, just look at all the, ‘give me a word count for the number of times that he’s talked about Social Security.’ Anyway, so yeah, he’s a leader on the subject. He’s not running again, so what we can do is we can quietly tap him on the shoulder and we can have a grand bargain of some kind on Social Security and his kind of main rival in this and the kind of, I guess, his meta political counterpoint is Josh Lyman, who is the sort of character vaguely based on I guess vaguely based on an idealized version of like ‘90s Rahm Emanuel.

Adam: Yeah, Rahm Emanuel.

Luke Savage: Who’s like a bit of a who’s just kind of a, you know, put on a suit and tie to talk about politics, but you know, he’s not afraid of the dark arts, you know? That’s kinda the, that’s kind of the stick around him.

Nima: That’s the, that’s the, that’s the Bradley Whitford character as opposed to the Richard Schiff/Toby Ziegler character.

Luke Savage: Yeah exactly. Exactly. And so Josh Lyman, the Bradley Whitford character, wants to use Social Security ahead of it. You know, his, his mind is in politics, like partisan politics, which is like the worst thing that can exist on The West Wing. And Toby has to keep this all a secret from him because he doesn’t want Josh to go crazy on these moderate Republicans because then they won’t be able to do the deal. So the show essentially presents the two alternatives are you have closed door sessions between, well, you know, we can only assume are two basically sort of corporatist, like middle of the road US senators, one a Democrat and one Republican. You can either do that and you can save Social Security by basically making big cuts to it. They actually talk about some of the quote unquote “sticking points” which are sort of presented as like just these things that we have to overcome. They’re not actually things that you could have an ideological objection to, like whether you channel chunks of Social Security to uh, you know, to private investment or whatever. Um, and it’s like at one point Toby says, you know, ‘we’ve had years to, we have blue ribbon commissions, we know how to fix this. It just takes the, you know, the political will.’ So I was thinking and revisiting this episode of, you guys probably talked about it already on previous episodes, but the particular kind of connotation that the word “maverick” accrued in relation to someone like John McCain, where the maverick thing is always like the thing that’s just bipartisan and like the obstruction always comes from people’s ideological convictions and their deep philosophical commitments. So all you have to do is you have to remove kind of popular accountability and stuff and then you have to get the adults in a room.

Adam: Just to edify our listeners, the whole premise of the show is that he wants to create a secret panel and they do this.

Luke Savage: Yeah.

Adam: He does this whole shtick in season two as well. Uh, where he wants to create a secret panel where they can talk about Social Security. The idea being is that like democracy is or you know demagoguery is sort of, populism is somehow bad. That serious capitalist, serious people need to meet in secret to plot how to, you know, the key phrase here is “saving Social Security.” But the people who wanted to gut Social Security for fifty years, have always framed it as saving that’s bankrupt and the whole thing is completely bullshit. It’s ideological vomit.

Luke Savage: And yet when Toby approaches the Republican senator whose name I’ve forgotten, um, generic Republican senator guy name —

Nima: It’s Senator Steve Gaines. (Laughing) It’s just like, alright. Got it. Super, super generic.

Luke Savage: (Laughs) ‘He’s been a leader on Social Security, folks!’ Like, the way he pitches it to him is like, ‘if you help us do this, it’s going to be great because then we’re going to avoid, you know, these big tax increases that would be necessary to save Social Security.’ And he promises him, I think it’s a very instructive phrase, he says, you know, the guy is saying, ‘oh, you’re just gonna like attack me in public when I come to this meeting.’ And Toby says, ‘this will be a day without politics.’ So, so, so without politics in the political cosmology of The West Wing is two people, democratically elected, meeting behind closed doors with no public accountability, no formal process, no minutes and deciding on the future of one of the most important social programs in American history. And Toby also, he kind of manages to left punch on Social Security. He’s lecturing somebody at one point about how, you know, the far left they hated, they actually hated FDR because they saw Social Security as a cop out. So the show is really giving us just the only thing that is reasonable and without politics is the middle of the middle of the middle. If we could take, if we can take, if we take the aggregate position between a middle of the road, blue dog Democrat and a middle of the road, sort of, you know, Republican senator, that’s where —

Nima: That’s where the politics happened.

Luke Savage: That’s the aspiration all the time. Yeah.

Adam: Which is a very common misconception. It’s a very common idea that people talk, we talk about politics like, you know, like it’s a football field and you can’t throw the ball from the 10 to 9 yard line. You have to move it from the 48 to the 52 yard line, you know, sort of turn-of-the-century football, right? There is no, there’s no passing, there’s no bold transformative politics and it’s all very linear. And there’s this idea that the goal is to sort of meet at the 50 yard line and that’s the highest virtue and it’s one we talk about a lot on the show because it’s sort of taken for granted, but I do think it was probably the most popular ideological reinforcements of this idea. And you see this with the Ainsley Hayes character. You see this throughout the whole show, right? There is this idea of the grand bargain, the compromise.

Nima: You know, something that I was struck with in kind of prepping for this episode and uh, you know, I mentioned earlier that I was not actually a West Wing watcher when it was on and have kind of been, I will say, begrudgingly forced to watch this show by Adam in order to do this episode. But in so doing discovered that it is incredibly watchable. It is Sorkin at his most Sorkin-y, um, you know, really kind of drafting off obviously American President and then you know, having that same tone as A Few Good Men. It’s, you know, very, very noble and striving to be the best of ourselves and kind of like this idea that I think, as opposed to House of Cards, which shows everyone in Washington as being like super venal and gross and underhanded, West Wing has this thing going on where literally everyone has the best of intentions all of the time. That, not only is obviously in the Sorkin-y world, everyone’s like a font of trivia and parables and that like the president, like our noble nation is a, is a reluctant worrier at all times and you know, trying to keep peace with strength but live up to the highest ideals of scripture in the Constitution. But like nothing is ever dismissed as unimportant. No one’s ever unprepared for anything. Everyone always has the right analogy or historical context. And granted, that’s TV, that’s like good writing on TV. Sure. But the guiding ethos that I was really noticing watching now is that even in the hardest times, every character is depicted as being fundamentally better people than they’re allowed to be by politics. And I think this speaks so much to the Obama age and what led into the Obama administration as, you know, as we’ve said, like you know, a lot of people were acolytes of this show going into that administration, whether they were commenting on it or working within it. And you know, the idea that sometimes, look, you got to make hard choices. Sometimes you gotta send in those drones or send in those troops or try to extract the DEA agents from Colombia. But at the end of the day, like they’re all Nobel laureate, economist, brilliant thinkers who are able to articulate these things that, you know, look, it just comes down to making the hard choices sometimes.

Luke Savage: It’s important to talk about the, I guess the overall aesthetic of the show because I think that’s operating on an ideological level as well, like quite apart from any particular policy commitments that the fictionalized Bartlet administration takes. So the fact that there are so many shots of people walking through hallways having these very like, nerdy conversations, the fact that one of the episodes I watched, I can’t remember which one, begins with, you know, Toby Ziegler working late in the office, you know, burning the midnight oil. There’s constant kind of references to how like people haven’t gone home for days. They’re just, you know, it’s 2:00 AM.

Adam: Well, they’re so goddamned passionate. They love their country so much.

Luke Savage: They’re so passionate about the recess appointments that they just can’t stop doing the discourse. They’re just, they won’t leave the office. And this reminded me, I watched for my podcast recently, Michael and Us — check us out on Patreon — we watched this documentary, Obama: The Final Year. It’s a Netflix documentary, Netflix original, and there’s a scene where, uh, one of Obama’s speech writers is writing a speech and the sort of establishing shot in the scene is it pans to his garbage can where you just see all the empty Starbucks coffee piled up. Just to let you know, like this guy has really been putting in the hours.

Nima: Putting in the work.

Luke Savage: If there’s an analogy for the overall aesthetic of the show, it’s a garbage can full of empty Starbucks coffee cups.

Adam: That documentary completely like, yeah, was very West Wing and in that it completely revised the level of Obama involvement in Syria.

Luke Savage: That’s right. Absolutely. And the whole point of the show is just about how we, we believed in all of the, like, all of the liturgy of the American empire and its inherent benevolence and stuff, but like we attach kind of liberal humanitarian language to it which makes it like truly august and like it’s realizing its full potential and so much about The West Wing is actually not really about the specific policy details. It’s about a particular aesthetic of political institutions and how it makes us feel to have the, you know, the noble experience of, you know, partaking in them. And it’s important to mention that, you know, this is a liberal show. This is liberals’ ultimate wet dream about, you know, this is, they had their chance to design their own administration and yet at the end of two terms, they have not like, there is no sweeping policy legacy that you can really, I mean, compromising Social Security in some way, like they don’t do universal health care, you know, they don’t reform Wall Street. There is no kind of big sweeping gestures.

Adam: And it’s fictional. They could do it.

Luke Savage: They could do it.

Nima: (Laughs) Right. Even in their fantasy, they’re just really underwhelming.

Adam: (Laughs)

Luke Savage: That’s right. Well, because and I think that is very revealing because the fantasy, I think you’ve seen this with the Obama administration, frankly, is that so much of it really, it really is about the liturgy of these institutions. It’s about seeking these kinds of Sorkinesque grand bargains and, or at least being confident that you tried and if you fail it’s because, uh, it’s because the world just wasn’t ready.

Adam: Or that the radicals just asked too much of you.

Luke Savage: That’s right. Yeah.

Nima: Speaking to that point, I want to mention the episode, “The War at Home.” And you actually mention it Luke in your piece and it was one of the ones that I watched recently and in it, Ed Begley Jr. guest stars as lefty Senator Seth Gillette. Can you kind of set a little bit of the scene for us in his discourse with the Richard Schiff, Toby Ziegler character, head of White House communications, and set up a clip for us that we will then play about really what the kind of guiding ideology behind the way that at least the Toby character operates. But I think it speaks to a larger ideology for the show.

Luke Savage: Yeah. Absolutely. So Toby Ziegler goes and he meets with this, uh, this Democratic senator who I think the only context we’re given is that he’s popular. He’s extremely popular on the left and he’s from, Toby derisively says something like, ‘he’s from, he’s a junior senator from North Dakota where no one lives. They don’t even have a professional sports franchise’ or something. So just a little coastal elitism uh, just for, you know, for good measure. Is that ironic? Not really. I don’t know. Um, but so he goes to, he goes to meet with him and um, basically Toby has admonished by this fellow because the administration has been kind of running to the right, they’ve been talking about Social Security reform, you know, with the Republicans, they’re bashing environmentalists, etcetera, etcetera. But the scene sets up this Democratic senator, he says, ‘I don’t want to compromise on basic democratic values. I’m not gonna sign cuts. I’m not going to ask people to work a day longer to get their retirement.’ Basically he has run of the mill social democratic commitments and is like I’m not going to compromise on them. The scene sets up this guy as the antagonist and it has Toby kind of own him with, uh, this flourish where he’s like, ‘don’t demonize people who are trying to govern responsibly.’ And it’s like, I’m going to own your ass if you come at us from the left because the guy ends up threatening to run a third party campaign, which is like the worst thing you can do in American politics.

Adam: Let’s play the clip.

[Begin Clip]

Senator Seth Gillette: You should’ve given me a heads up.

Toby Ziegler: It happened five minutes before the man walked into the House chamber. You’re a junior senator from North Dakota and you don’t get script approval on the State of the Union.

Senator Seth Gillette: Whatever language you may have couched it in, it was not an insignificant change.

Toby Ziegler: Seth —

Senator Seth Gillette: You started off with ‘We will not cut Social Security period’ and wound up with ‘We are announcing the formation of a bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission to study new options with regard to Social Security.’

Toby Ziegler: What exactly is the danger in studying new options?

Senator Seth Gillette: What’s the danger in the White House getting behind my reform bill?

Toby Ziegler: Diverting General Revenue into the trust funds is not reform.

Senator Seth Gillette: It’s the only Social Security reform bill supported by any Senate Democrats.

Toby Ziegler: How many votes did you get for it last year?

Senator Seth Gillette: If the White House —

Toby Ziegler: Eighteen.

Senator Seth Gillette: If the White House —

Toby Ziegler: Eighty-two US senators think your reform bill sucks. So unless you have a plan for picking up a majority, I don’t know what’s so wrong with saying we’re open to hearing new ideas?

Senator Seth Gillette: And compromise essential Democratic Party principles to cut a Social Security deal with the Republicans?

Toby Ziegler: It’s simply not what we’re doing.

Senator Seth Gillette: If your commission recommends raising the retirement age one day, reducing benefits one dollar, reducing COLAs, if your commission recommends partial privatization of Social Security-

Toby Ziegler: Are there cameras on someplace?

Senator Seth Gillette: I will condemn it as the act of a group intent on destroying Social Security.

Toby Ziegler: And ruling the galaxy.

Senator Seth Gillette: Oh, you think this is a joke? You think I won’t publicly condemn a member of my party?

Toby Ziegler: The President’s not a member of your party. He is the leader of your party. And if you think demonizing people who are trying to govern responsibly is the way to protect our liberal base, then speaking as a liberal, go to bed, would you please.

Senator Seth Gillette: You’re running to the right on the environment.

Toby Ziegler: We admonished environmental terrorism.

Senator Seth Gillette: Please.

Toby Ziegler: You in favor of it?

Senator Seth Gillette: It was a cheap shot and you lost a lot of friends that night.

Toby Ziegler: We made more than we lost.

Senator Seth Gillette: And then you go on TV this morning with this ridiculous defense of a cop who kicked the crap out of a black kid cause you guys don’t want to admit you screwed up on the vetting and he never should’ve been invited in the first place. Seniors, environmentalists, African Americans. You tell me which you think has a greater chance of happening, my reform bill getting passed or the President getting re elected without the three groups I just mentioned?

Toby Ziegler: You just named three groups that’ll never desert the President.

Senator Seth Gillette: Not unless I run as a third-party candidate, no. Oh, those eighteen votes are looking a little bigger now aren’t they you patronizing son of a bitch.

Toby Ziegler: I was just thinking about this cartoon I once saw. A bunch of tiny fish are swimming through the leaves of a plant but then one of the fish realizes it’s not a plant, it’s the tentacles of a predator and the fish says, ‘with friends like this, who needs anemones?’ Come at us from the left and I’m gonna own your ass.

[End Clip]

Nima: To me watching this recently, um, I was struck by how perfectly ‘Bernie’ the Ed Begley character seemed to be. It’s like, you know, everything is kind of caricatured. He is the angry, threatening one in the scene, right? Like, Toby has complete control. He’s the one who’s like, ‘Oh, get over yourself, that’s not how things work.’ You know, he says like ‘to protect our liberal base’ and he’s speaking as a liberal, you know, like he is the voice of reason who then threatens the guy that like wants fundamentally better things policy wise.

Luke Savage: Yeah. I mean, it’s extraordinary like, just this, you know, kind of throw away little scene instructs us that the really adult thing to do if you’re a Democrat in the White House is to cut deals with the Republicans so that old people have to work longer to get paltry checks before they get to retire it. That’s what governing seriously and protecting our liberal base, that’s what that means.

Adam: I want to segue to their treatment of, of um, global trade. Now the president in the show is of course a Nobel prize winning economist and I think the fact that they made the president an economist is perfect right?

Nima: Telling.

Adam: And it’s the fact that he’s an economist who also, by the way, is heavily versed in Latin, is a deeply moral, thoughtful person, otherwise known as an economist who doesn’t exist.

Luke Savage: Yeah, he has, he has a copy of, you know, this is like a piece of trivia that I’m really embarrassed to have noticed, but in the one of the final scenes of the show, I think, when they’re packing up his office, they’re taking some of his books down from the shelf and one of them is a collection of lectures by Michel Foucault called Society Must Be Defended and yeah, I mean, so the show, the show really wants us to know just how smart and well read he is.

Nima: These are all extremely, smarty-smart people.

Adam: Yeah. They read a lot. They’re all very deep, but of course they kind of just vomit out your boilerplate Washington Post editorial board positions. There was an episode called, “Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail.” Toby is forced by the president to meet with the or by Leo McGarry to meet with these total fucking anti globalization strong men-

Luke Savage: Dirty hippies!

Adam: Dirty, rich, white, suburban —

Nima: Anti-WTO —

Adam: Cosplay —

Nima: Patchouli smelling —

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: And so and what’s brilliant, in the show we never actually hear from them. Toby yells at them via this like person of color who’s a cop, who’s sort of the stand in and then there’s all this sort of really stark ideological agitprop and I want to play this clip.

[Begin Clip]

Toby Ziegler: It’s activist vacation is what it is. Spring break for anarchist wannabes. The black t-shirts, the gas masks as fashion accessories.

Officer Rhonda Sachs: These kids today, with the hair and the clothes.

Toby Ziegler: All right, that’s it, flatfoot.

Officer Rhonda Sachs: I got great feet.

Toby Ziegler: You want the benefits of free trade? Food is cheaper.

Officer Rhonda Sachs: Yes.

Toby Ziegler: Food is cheaper, clothes are cheaper, steel is cheaper, cars are cheaper, phone service is cheaper. You feel me building a rhythm here? That’s ‘cause I’m a speechwriter and I know how to make a point.

Officer Rhonda Sachs: Toby —

Toby Ziegler: It lowers prices, it raises income. You see what I did with ‘lowers’ and ‘raises’ there?

Officer Rhonda Sachs: Yes.

Toby Ziegler: It’s called the science of listener attention. We did repetition, we did floating opposites and now you end with the one that’s not like the others. Ready? Free trade stops wars. And that’s it. Free trade stops wars! And we figure out a way to fix the rest! One world, one peace. I’m sure I’ve seen that on a sign somewhere.

Officer Rhonda Sachs: God, Toby, wouldn’t it be great if there was someone around here with communication skills who could go in there and tell them that?

Toby Ziegler: Shut up.

[End Clip]

Adam: So this was free trade stops wars and six months later 9/11 happened. So that didn’t turn out very well. Uh, yeah. A lot of the same sort of I mean this is basically just a repurposed Thomas Friedman article, right Luke? I mean it’s sort of like, it’s a bunch of fucking mantras.

Luke Savage: We should point out the whole arc of the episode is, is incredibly like smug and elitist where there’s this and kind of like goofy in a very particular Sorkinesque way where basically it’s this day at the White House where —

Nima: The big block of cheese day.

Luke Savage: Yeah. The big block of cheese day as per some tradition that I assume is fictional, established fictionally in the show by Andrew Jackson, maybe it’s real, I don’t know. But basically it’s one day where the White House, you know, is open to everybody and so members of staff are sort of grudgingly, they’ve turned it into like an annual tradition that they have a meeting where they, you know, goofily or like, what did you get? Oh, I got like Cartographers for Social Justice or whatever. So basically the conceit is that the West Wing staff who, you know have better things to do, like privatize Social Security, they have to meet with the unwashed masses. These people with these Quixotic little causes. And what’s funny is they’re listing them off and they’re, you know, uh, some of them are just ridiculous things, but then it’s stuff like they just slide in Citizens for DC Statehood, which arguably a much more legitimate issue then like some of the other things they’re talking about. I mean, the show is like, it’s not just Toby Ziegler being smug directly to the protesters in this episode. The whole conceit of the episode is like, has smugness hardwired in.

Adam: Well, it’s also a way of, the whole thing is just pandering to like boomer liberal hypocrites, right? By saying that, like when we protested against capitalism, it was cool and important and now it’s just a bunch of posers.

Luke Savage: That’s right.

Adam: Uh, and it’s not done ironically. Its done pretty sincerely that they’re sort of unserious, they’re middle class white kids and it’s like, of course that’s a part of any social justice movement. But that was also true of Vietnam protestors.

Luke Savage: That talking point, you know, that like ‘back in my day we protested real things.’ I mean, I think that, I mean it’s part of the elaborate psychological architecture that some people who maybe did go to a few Vietnam protests or whatever in the Sixties, they’ve erected it to justify how they became sort of Republican voting suburbanites like two decades later, whatever, how they went from working at like People for the American Way or what was Ralph Nader’s? Like, the Nader’s Raiders, you know, there’s all these people that were like Nader’s Raiders and then, you know, fifteen years later, uh, you know, they, they took jobs as corporate lobbyists or whatever. And they were like, that’s because there’s nothing to protest. There’s only, we had real things like civil rights and Vietnam to protest and if you kids would just grow up you’d realize that Iraq is actually a really good thing and we should be cheering for it.

Adam: It’s amazing how we always reached the end of history like ten years prior.

Nima: What really struck me about that episode is that after the cop who’s like Toby’s handler for that particular meeting, she’s the one you hear in the clip saying like, ‘Well, hey, you know, there is someone here who has, who is a professional communicator who can actually tell these kids,’ you know, make the case that way. It then basically jump cuts to Toby coming back to The West Wing as like conquering hero and like Bradley Whitford being like, ‘Oh, you should’ve seen it. He was amazing.’ (Laughs) And it’s like, it’s like of all people like Aaron Sorkin couldn’t even like even in his like coked out, whatever, like couldn’t even figure out how to write that speech that Toby won over the room of WTO protestors. He just had to like do it outside in the way we heard it, to no one and give no evidence for what he’s saying and just pontificate that way. And then we just cut to after he convinced everyone and silenced the room and got everyone over to his side of like free trade stops wars. So like it’s pretty remarkable that even on a show that is built around constant talking and constant speechifying that even in that way that was like, and then he went back inside and he won over their hearts and minds, yadda, yadda, anyway, what’s next?

Luke Savage: One of the things about how sort of political knowledge works is that in the Sorkin universe there’s kind of a, I mean it’s kind of a, on the one hand it’s, you know, political knowledge is this kind of complex, esoteric thing that you can only understand if you have the right credentials and you went to Yale or you were the editor of the Duke Law Review or whatever, you know, various points you learn about all the or you have the Nobel prize in economics, whatever. There’s that side of it. But then the other side of it is all you need to do is have the good facts. Because actually a lot of this stuff is just everything is self evident really, and if you’re the right kind of person, you have the right kind of intellectual posture. So I don’t think Sorkin feels like it’s necessary to show us that because it’s just self evident that Toby just went in and he just, he just hit them with some logic and this crowd, which was a proletarian mob only minutes earlier, you know, it’s like, oh, actually no, free trade is good. And then they just went back to their lattes.

Nima: (Laughing) Right.

Adam: Yeah. And it’s, it’s, um, the, the constant resume humping in Aaron Sorkin land is pretty amazing and he does this, I think in most of the shows where it’s, uh, you know, I was, I was a Rhodes Scholar, I was a, I was a, I went to Princeton. I did this, again, it’s not done ironically, it’s like sort of used as per se, evidence that someone’s more correct. The show is sort of seen as the revolt of the elites that like the rabid right and the far radical left and this show was about how these smart kids from the Ivy League schools who know who have all the data. Again, this is why I really think that like Ezra Klein’s entire project from his like Steven Pinker puff pieces to like his constant reinforcement about how capitalism and free trade works is an extension of West Wing he watched when he was like fucking 20 years old.

Nima: Right. It’s like, you know, when looking at the foreign policy parts of certain episodes, all the tropes are there. I mean this and again, you know, Sorkin’s a liberal, this is a liberal administration and everything is exactly as you would imagine. Iranians are secretly building nuclear weapons with the help of the Russians, North Koreans or super sinister all the time. So is China of course, but you know, too bad we have trade with them ‘aw, what are we going to do?’ Israelis are, you know, petulant, but like, you know, victimized by circumstances beyond their control and without any actual historical context added and all Arabs, especially Palestinians, are terrorists, except when anecdotally they are specific individuals we meet who signal that the broad stereotypes that are pushed in every episode aren’t always right, so that the liberal mind can kind of satisfy itself and profess pluralism long enough to like, feel bad for a minute, but then get over it and get back to the hard work of protecting the empire. So like all of it is there and I was just struck watching it like it’s just laid out and you’re like, oh, you watch that show and it’s the same as reading like a very boring oped in The New York Times or The Washington Post. Like, it’s the same.

Luke Savage: I think we’d be remiss if I didn’t read this quote from Ezra Klein. Ezra Klein has directly spoken about The West Wing’s influence on him and he says, “There’s a cultural meme or cultural suggestion that Washington is boring, that policy is boring, but it’s important stuff.” Um, and he added to that the show dramatized quote, “the immediacy and urgency and concern that people in this town feel about the issues they’re working on.” Yglesias added, “I was interested in politics before the show started, but a friend of mine from college moved to DC at the same time as me after graduation and we definitely plotted our proposed domination of the capital in explicitly West Wing terms. Who was more like Toby? Who was more like Josh?” So yeah, I mean it’s really hard to tell because the people who made the show and the people that watch it seem to think it’s a documentary. Like there is this kind of weird breaking of the fourth wall of politics that happens in it. And that’s not helped by the fact that the actors on the show are mostly or all seem to be, I don’t know, New York Times, like coastal liberals in real life and they’ve participated in like The West Wing cast will endorse, you know, Democratic presidential candidates. Um, maybe a slight digression. But I did want to use this podcast to bring up one of my favorite tweets of all time. We were talking about credentials and how those play a part in the show before. But there’s this great tweet from Rob Lowe in 2016 where somebody just added him out of the blue and said, “@RobLowe please tell me your son goes to duke or there is some other family reason that has led you down this tragic path”

Adam: Because Rob Lowe’s right-winger.

Luke Savage: That’s right. But Rob Lowe, the, uh, eloquent rogue that he is quote,tweets and responds, “He does, and Sam Seaborn was Duke law. #WestWing.” So even at like, it’s weird how in real life, like, you know, Rob Lowe uses The West Wing as a foil. He did the same thing during the Democratic primaries in either 2015 or 2016 where he was live tweeting one of the debates and he was like, oh, Bernie Sanders is hectoring with all this stuff about taxing the rich and like, what a great way to turn me off. And then he just tweeted out a clip of Sam Seaborn, his character on the show, uh, explaining to people how —

Adam: We have to watch this clip.

Luke Savage: Yeah. Yeah.

Adam: I don’t want to bury the lead here. Let’s watch the clip.

Luke Savage: Okay. Let’s just watch the clip.

[Begin Clip]

Henry: Sam, are you in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy?

Sam Seaborn: I am not. I am in favor of tax cuts for those for whom it will do the most good, and that’s a tough enough battle. And it looks like, all of a sudden, we’ve got a fair fight. But I’m not talking about policy. I’m talking about rhetoric, and the men you work for need to dial it down to five. Henry, last fall, every time your boss got on the stump and said, ‘It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share,’ I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty six other people. And I’m happy to ’cause that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get twenty seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty seven times hotter. The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for twenty two percent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying.

[End Clip]

Luke Savage: Oh, go off king! Preach!

Adam: This is pretty amazing because (laughs) first off, rich people do get 27 more votes. That’s, that’s how public finance and public information works like that’s why Murdoch owns Fox News. He gets way more votes than you and I do. The rest of it, yeah it fetishizes um, politeness. It fetishizes like being nice.

Luke Savage: But I, I also love the implication that Sam is making. And I guess which Rob Lowe cleaves to in real life that like taxes, there’s no moral covenant, there’s no social contract, there’s no kind of undergirding idea that this is taxes are redistributive. Like the way that Sam Seaborn finds a way to slip in, ‘oh yeah, I was making 400k at Gage Whitney,’ you know, which is the corporate law firm that the character worked on before. It’s like, um, it’s like, and ‘I’m happy to do it, I’m happy to pay the taxes because,’ you know, ‘it’s in my self interest that the poorest not suffer too much.’ So the whole, the whole, you know, in that short clip, the whole concept of like, you know, marginal tax, progressive income tax, it’s kind of reinscribed to be all about like the benevolence of wealthy liberals. Like this is, it’s just another form of charity that makes Liberals feel good. There’s no kind of deeper idea about how a society should be ordered or you know, there’s not even, there’s another episode of this show that, that alludes to John Rawls and it doesn’t even have the sort of Rawlsian like justice is fairness idea. It’s literally just Sam Seaborn is a wealthy patrician and he’s giving money through taxes out of the kindness of his heart.

Nima: Well, right. And, and there’s a real kind of, you know, like pay to play idea in everything that he says. Right? So it’s like this amount of taxes equals one vote and that he’s just decided not to bitch that much about not getting what he thinks is his fair share of votes.

Adam: I’m just imagining like a coked-out Sorkin getting his IRS bill and being like, ‘Alright, I’m writing this episode now.’

Nima: The same way that like George Harrison wrote “Taxman” which seems completely anathema to like Beatles-y idea of like everyone should share everything.

Luke Savage: That’s right, yeah.

Nima: Luke, I will ask this, do you think there was a difference and that the difference makes any difference once Aaron Sorkin was no longer the lead writer, like how did the politics in the show change and is that significant?

Luke Savage: Well, I mean, I think that the general consensus, the sort of received wisdom on the show is that it drifts to the center after Aaron Sorkin leaves. But I mean —

Nima: Which is after Season Four, I believe.

Luke Savage: Yeah, it’s after Season Four. And, um, I mean I think Adam has stronger views on this than me because I don’t think he regards the subsequent, like the non-Sorkin seasons as canonical. I primarily see the differences —

Adam: I do not.

Nima: (Laughing)

Luke Savage: (Chuckles.) Right. I primarily see the differences as being a stylistic one. I don’t think ideologically it’s all like the show gets all that much different because I don’t really think that, uh, the show was, you know, some intensely left-wing thing to begin with, which was kind of its reputation, which is such a sad comment on the state of American politics.

Adam: I think it goes from being liberal to centrist. I really do. If you watch some of the episodes from season five it’s a, maybe less so season six, but season five has some what I would argue sort of right-wing, like I, I know that, I know that [producer John] Wells, when he took over, it was way more, was just generally I think a more conservative guy, but I mean going from liberal to centrist is not like a huge shift. It just got more, it also got way worse. I mean, it got measurably worse because, you know, Aaron Sorkin’s just a ten times better writer than any hack they had to replace him. So it’s like, it goes from having four, you know, pretty interesting plots per episode that feather at the end really well to like one or two plodding uninteresting plots and every screenwriter for at least the first half of the first season Sorkin left is just doing a really bad Aaron Sorkin impression.

Luke Savage: Yeah. No, I agree. I mean, I think the show it gets worse, but I also think that for me it’s shift from being broadly liberal to broadly centrist is kind of more of an aesthetic thing than anything else.

Adam: That’s probably true.

Luke Savage: Yeah, that’s, I guess that’s all I meant. So maybe, maybe we’re not in a disagreement, but I think ideologically you can still see a very similar smugness undergirding the whole thing. Like in the famous, uh, ‘liberal isn’t a dirty word’ clip where, you know, Jimmy Smits owns Alan Alda by talking about, you know, it’s, it’s well into the post Sorkin era, it might be even be the last season where, uh, it’s the, you know, the, the next two candidates for president debating each other. This is kind of like, you know, as per Adam, you know, what he was saying, you know, you can see that like stylistically this isn’t as good but to me it has the same underlying politics. Let’s give it a listen.

Nima: Great. So this is, this is during a presidential debate between Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits. (Chuckles.) So here we go.

[Begin Clip]

Senator Arnold Vinick: No. I know you didn’t say it. You’re not an unthinking liberal. Are you? (Applause)

Representative Matt Santos: I know you like to use that word ‘liberal’ as if it were a crime.

Senator Arnold Vinick: No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have used that word. I know Democrats think liberal is a bad word. So bad you had to change it didn’t you? What do you call yourselves now, progressives? Is that it?

Representative Matt Santos: It’s true. Republicans have tried to turn liberal into a bad word. Well, liberals ended slavery in this country. (Applause)

Senator Arnold Vinick: A Republican President ended slavery.

Representative Matt Santos: Yes, a liberal Republican. What happened to them? They got run out of your party. What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican party Senator? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did conservatives do? They opposed every one of those things, every one. So when you try to hurl that word ‘liberal’ at my feet as if it were something dirty, something to run away from, something I should be ashamed of, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor. (Applause)

[End Clip]

Adam: Um, yeah.

Luke Savage: (Laughing) I mean, when you even say about that.

Adam: Yeah. The idea that liberals did all those things is super ahistoric. It was liberals in concert with the left.

Luke Savage: You know how, uh, you know how in liberal twitter, every viral tweet is just sort of like, uh, or in like #Resistance twitter every viral tweet is just, you know, saying really self-evident things in, in all caps, in this kind of vaguely smug way. There was one recently that was really big, like I want to say like over 100,000 retweets and it was like ‘I’m sick of liberal being used as a, as a slur,’ and then it was like ‘Liberals gave you’ and then just listed off like everything good. And it’s like the framing is interesting because you know, these things are given by the smart people, like they’re not won through struggle, they’re not, you know, they’re bequeathed from above.

Adam: Yeah civil rights was bought by LBJ and LBJ alone, there was no, nothing else.

Luke Savage: yeah that’s true. That’s right. Yeah.

Nima: He bequeathed freedom and rights. (Laughing)

Adam: (Chuckles.) Yeah, he bestowed it upon us. Thank you. Thank you, liberal. As you were turning, as you were turning Indochina into a napalm hellscape, you, you managed to do one good thing on accident.

Nima: (Laughing)

Adam: We don’t even have time to get into the gender politics because the show was pretty casually sexist and has, has most of the women are either supportive or sexually available at all times. Women sort of creepily flirt with men in ways that are not really, were kind of very Sorkin’s fantasy.

Nima: Yup.

Adam: Uh, he, he mostly views women as sort of the Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday who are kind of one of the guys and can sort of snap back at you always sexually available, willing to do sexual innuendo at the drop of a hat and there’s an episode where, where they do this really, in retrospect, pretty gross representation of the kind of frumpy feminist who’s mad at Rob Lowe for sexually harassing Ainsley Hayes, the sort of good Republican. And then Ainsley Hayes subsequently goes on a rant about how actually it wasn’t sexual harassment. I mean it’s really just sort of Sorkin’s like fantasy role playing about how he wished these things happened.

Luke Savage: That stuff with Ainsley Hayes is, is pretty, is pretty ugly. I mean they basically, you’re supposed to find it endearing that they, like, they don’t, they have no respect for her and they basically hire her to be, yeah, the token Republican, but also like eye candy and also because they think it’s hilarious that like she, she bests Sam with logic on CSPAN or something and then Josh Lyman runs into the West Wing and he says, ‘guys, come look at the TV. Sam’s getting beat by a girl.’

Nima: (Chuckles.) Right.

Adam: Which in 2002 is like a huge novelty I guess.

Luke Savage: I guess.

Nima: (Laughing) Well, or, or, or when they put the turkeys in Allison Janney’s office and it’s like a big hoot because she was giving them shit like as the boys club. So like, yeah, it’s a, it’s a whole thing. I mean also, I mean race is an interesting factor to the show considering I think the one black character is Dulé Hill who was an afterthought.

Adam: Yeah. He wasn’t in the pilot.

Luke Savage: Well the pilot is a really, I’ve only seen the pilot I think maybe twice and it’s also a very strange thing because initially the idea for the show, not to derail us, but initially the idea of the show was that the president wasn’t going to feature at all or was barely going to feature, um, and the show is going to be entirely about staff working in the, in the West Wing and the president and the Oval Office was going to be this kind of structuring absence, but I guess they decided that that was going to be a sort of gimmick very quickly. And so they added Martin Sheen and yeah then they added Dulé Hill, who I think is one of the more like sympathetic characters on the show who’s kind of the young, uh, the young black assistant who works for the president.

Nima: (Laughing) Who was always going shopping for the president.

Adam: Yeah the young kid named Young, it was really brilliant. I think we should wrap it up. I think we’ve definitely kept it long.

Nima: Yes, without a doubt. Luke Savage, writer, podcaster, you’ve seen his work, uh, in Jacobin and Current Affairs, Guardian elsewhere. You can hear his work on the Michael and Us podcast. He’s up in Canada, don’t hold that against him, and thank you so much for joining us once again on Citations Needed. Luke, it’s always a pleasure to have you.

Luke Savage: Thanks so much.


Adam: That was instructive. Uh, I think, I think we should do another Sorkin episode at some point eight years from now. We got that out of our system though. It’s got to be our number one requested episode. So we’ve given them what they want.

Nima: Yeah, no, no, no. This was, this was great. And it forced me to revisit, uh, this cultural entity that really is so vitally important to understand the pitfalls that I think politics keeps getting itself trapped in. And then, uh, you know, to kind of really understand how, how mainstream democratic politics operate and even how #Resistance folks really, where their worldview is, is shaped. Um, I, I think it is, it is a very telling thing. It is not the be all end all, but it really has a lot of that shit in it and it’s pretty remarkable to kind of see it in TV form, you know, and obviously you know, you can never get tired of the, of the old walk-and-talk. So everyone, get back into West Wing and also understand that it is absolutely terrifying and horseshit.

Adam: Yeah, it is both entertaining and has really bad politics, which is a lot of what I watch.

Nima: (Laughs.) Yeah.

Adam: Let’s not kid ourselves. All right, well, uh, it was good talking to Luke, it’s always good to have him on. We’ll have him at some point later.

Nima: So that will do it for this very special West Wing episode of Citations Needed. Thank you all for listening. You can follow the show on Twitter @CitationsPod, Facebook Citations Needed, support the show through Patreon.com/CitationsNeededPodcast with Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson. And extra special thanks goes out to our Critic-level patrons. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our production consultant is Josh Kross. Research assistant is Sophia Steinert-Evoy. The production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Transcriptions are by Morgan McAslan. The music is by Grandaddy. Thank you everyone for listening. We’ll catch you next time.


This episode of Citations Needed was released on Wednesday, September 26, 2018.

Transcription by Morgan McAslan.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.