Leo McGarry: No crook he.
For a West Wing
nut such as myself, the passing of John Spencer, aka Leo McGarry, was like a death in the family. Leo was the chief of staff to President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), who for the entire length of the Bush administration has been the paradigm of what I would like a president to be: curious, intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, complicated, and above all true to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution. McGarry was hardboiled and street tough in the way Bartlet is not, and yet he too was damaged goods: a workaholic, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and someone whose marriage was sacrificed to the job of sustaining the Bartlet presidency.
In spite of the fact that the Bush administration has more than its fair share of damaged people in the upper echelons of power (Bush is also a recovering alcoholic and Cheney has suffered four heart attacks), there is precious little of the spirit of Bartlet's administration in it. It is rigid, partisan, ideological, simplistic, and flagrant and blatant in its abuses of the Constitution. Bartlet's administration balanced the budget, saved Social Security, brokered a Middle East peace deal, and a host of other options that merely require some bi-partisan thoughtfulness to come nearer to reality; this administration, however, has done none of these things. Instead it has increased the budget deficit, made a nonsense of a prescription drug program for seniors, and engaged in a reckless foreign policy that echoes Bartlet's expansionist, liberal policy except in the absolute incompetence with which it has been carried out.
I love The West Wing
because it shows smart people who love their jobs working hard and learning things. It makes public service honorable and honesty and integrity central to the notion of government. It is to this administration's shame, that such noble ideas have been so deeply compromised.