Arnie Vinick on what the presidency was about

This morning during my workout on the elliptical, I was watching “The West Wing” on the Roku, and saw the end of the penultimate episode in the penultimate season. It’s the one in which Arnie Vinick accepts the GOP nomination for president.

And even more than usual, I was made wistful by the evocation of what we once expected from the presidency — that the one who held it would at least do so with a modicum of honor and respect for the office. It was a great speech, especially when he was talking about the president he hoped to replace. He drew some boos from the partisan convention floor when he first mentioned the Democrat, but pushed past that to say:

It is with great humility that I accept your nomination for president of the United States.
Before I share with you my vision for America I want to say a few words about the man who I hope is my predecessor: President Josiah Bartlet.
He has graced and honored his office.
The highest in the land.
The most powerful in the world, some would say. Myself included.
He has served this country steadfastly and laudably and I say this despite our political and philosophical differences.
For in the end, a presidency is more than a simple catalogue of policies pursued, crises weathered, battles lost or won.
It’s a stewardship, a sacred trust, a commitment to sacrifice every fiber of your being — every thought, every moment, every — Every everything in service to your nation.
President Bartlet has done this well and ably and he deserves nothing less than our humble appreciation and heartfelt gratitude.
… my commitment to strive to be worthy of the example of the great men who have gone before.
Presidents walk in giant footsteps.
They have magnificent legacies to uphold.
I stand here on this day and put my name forth as one who aspires to their example, who will daily make that sacrifice.
Who will honor not just the office, but the people that office serves.
Their president of these United States of America…..

Imagine that. A president, or presidential nominee, who could say such words with conviction and not a trace of irony: “a stewardship, a sacred trust, a commitment to sacrifice… (a) commitment to strive to be worthy of the example of the great men who have gone before” — to honor the office and the trust invested by the people. To care about them, and about those things, more than about himself and his fragile ego.

Some of my friends understand this, but others don’t: The thing we have lost in the past year is the dignity of the office. That’s shattered, gone with the wind. And now I can only find it in TV fiction. Good TV fiction, but still make-believe.

Anyway, at this point, as I make my way through the series yet again each morning in the coming days, Vinick has my vote. Matt Santos is going to have to work to change my mind…


10 thoughts on “Arnie Vinick on what the presidency was about

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Talk about good TV, and about being wistful…

    Last night I saw a few minutes of the silly sitcom that Allison Janney is on now.

    What must it be like to go to work each day on something so lame after having been an essential part of something as wonderful, and unique, as “The West Wing?”

    That would be tough…

  2. Bart

    Work is work in the entertainment business and other professions. Sometimes actors take on roles that doesn’t make sense but both series were/are popular so who are we to judge? Never watched either show so I have no other basis for my comment other than what it is.

        1. bud

          I assume you’re referring to Mom. That is a great show that is very funny but at the same time tackles serious social issues, most notably substance abuse. Janney and her co-star Anna Farris do a remarkable job. There is no accounting for taste but Mom is clearly a better show than the predictable, preachy and frankly boring West Wing.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, that’s what I said, Richard.

      We used to enjoy this kind of conception of the presidency in real life. Now, we can only find it in fiction, and history…

  3. Bart

    Since there is not a new thread posted, this one will do.

    How does it feel to be vindicated? Allison Janney won an “Oscar” for her role in “I, Tonya”. Didn’t care to watch the show, had better things to do. Trim my toenails, take out the garbage, play with the dog, and other more important tasks of the day. Priorities, priorities, priorities!!!

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    But I didn’t. Transcribe, that is. I copied and pasted. Scripts, or transcripts, of most movies and TV episodes are available online. Although you have to be careful; they’re not always accurate.

    So I don’t deserve your props….


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