“Hello darkness, my old friend.”
This happens to me more than I like to admit. I will have a diary in mind, and then, something late turns me onto an entirely different path. Today I was over 500 words in when it happened.
Generally, I handle crises like we currently face relatively well. I buy in, I prepare, I take care of myself, I watch my emotions. Yet, sometimes the darkness breaks through, and catches me unawares, emotional, more vulnerable than usual.
It happened like this. I decided to look up something on YouTube. An innocuous enough beginning. But if you’re familiar with it, you know YouTube does a lot of ‘suggestive selling’ with related and unrelated videos. And tonight it was a West Wing video that destroyed my momentum toward diary. And broke me open in a very real way.
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It was a video about Abby being back in the wite (sic) house, in a time of crisis. That was from the Season Five episode “Shutdown,” that first aired on 11/19/2003.
A series of events at budget negotiation time led to an impasse between Congress and the Bartlet administration. The unscrupulous Speaker of the House ( a Republican, go figure) reneged on the already agreed upon deal, resulting in Jed telling the a$$hole speaker to shut the government down. Everyone seemed confident that Bartlet would agree to new terms, but a day came and went, a second day came and went, and nothing was happening. It was at a time when there was an element of estrangement between Jed and Abby, which resulted in Abby leaving the White House for a while.
Desperate, Leo called Abby to ask her to come back and intervene. As the episode depicted it, the Bartlet White House was regarded as ‘weak’ before the nation, in a terrible bargaining spot. Josh, after a series of embarrassing and problematic missteps, was being excluded from the frantic ‘war room’ negotiations, which Bartlet himself also eschewed.
Without presidential direction, a desperate Leo tried some overtures with the Speaker to try to find a resolution. Bartlet didn’t even know, until Abby told him, when she came back. Bartlet was incensed with Leo for doing that, until Abby stopped him, telling him they didn’t know what he wanted them to do. And, with brilliant clearheadedness, Abby asked, do you now what you want them to do?
Not answering, Bartlet watched Abby. Until she asked: Where’s Josh?
After that Leo invited Josh back into the discussion, where he took a very different position from the staff members desperate to cave in to the blackmail and trickery. (The other Bartlet supporter was C.J. who suspected something else was behind Bartlet’s actions. Toby, at a loss, asked C.J. what it might be. She said “Leadership.”)
When Bartlet entered the war room, Josh said the initiative for a solution should come from the White House. And he proposed the very outside-the-box idea of leaving, right that moment, to go up to the hill and speak with the majority leadership.
In the motorcade, Josh sat next to Angela (another advisor). Angela, apprehensive about this effort, said, talking about the Speaker, every thing this guy has done has taken us by surprise. To which Josh answered, And nothing we’ve done has surprised him.
Bartlet sees a tourist bus from Kansas along the route, and instructs the driver to pull over, so he could engage with them. C.J. calls while Josh is standing outside the limo and tells him the press is en route, now informed about the remarkable initiative. Josh looks up the road to the Capitol and decides they should walk the remaining distance, with full rest coverage.
They arrive, and the Republican leadership, absolutely blindsided by the move, asks that they wait a few moments. So Bartlet, a gazillion cameras in attendance, sits. And waits, and waits. Josh, realizing the mistake the Republicans were making, walks up to Bartlet, and tells him, let’s go. Right now.
Never once did he have to explain a thing to the President. Isn’t that amazing? In today’s world?
So the entourage leaves, totally stunning the Republicans when they finally come out.
Eventually the Speaker has to go to the White House to speak with Bartlet, and Bartlet refuses to budge. So, now in a catastrophically bad political position, the Speaker caves, and the original deal is upheld. As a budget, not a continuing resolution.
The contrast … oh the contrast. It hit me very deeply, indeed. But also the anger at the kind of tricks Republicans employ. At one point the Speaker was onscreen and I screamed at him as if he was right in front of me. Because the things they do have a cost. Too, it’s good to let the toxins out, sometimes.
Democrats being strong, Democrats winning. I never tire of it. Not even if it is in a fictional series.
Thanks for reading.
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