Lawrence O'Donnell and Richard Stengel
President Bartlet is the president we would like to have, not the one we do have or ever have had. So, no, he doesn't do much pandering. I know people think he is supposed to be Clintonesque, but no one here intends that. He's a Democrat. That's where the Clinton comparison begins and ends for us. A writer for another TV show asked me recently what's going to happen to The West Wing if Bush wins. I didn't know what he meant. We think of the show as so clearly unconnected to the real world that we don't see why that would make any difference. But maybe some of the magic is that the audience connects it to the real world, even if we don't, and with a Republican White House, they won't be able to do that. I'm not worried. A hit TV show just needs 15 to 20 million viewers. If Bush wins, there are bound to be 20 million saddened Democrats who will need The West Wing more than ever.
Lawrence O'Donnell is a co-producer and writer on The West Wing and writes the "National Affairs" column for New York magazine. Richard Stengel, the editor of Time.com, is the author of You're Too Kind: A Brief History of Flattery (click here to buy it). He was also chief speechwriter and senior adviser on Bill Bradley's presidential campaign.