Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Master of Disaster

A West Wing Word

This weeks episode (Duck and Cover) follows the nuclear crises that closed last weeks show. C. J. returns from her dinner with Danny to be informed that the Cal Vista owned nuclear power plant in San Andreo California (said to be near San Diego) has had an accident. No one is 100% sure what happened, but there was a massive burst of steam and a back-up system failed requiring the release of high leaves of radiation into an auxiliary building. The president is immediately briefed as these occurrences could lead to a full scale meltdown. An emergency press conference is held within half-an-hour in which the president announces that he has declared a federal emergency in the area and California governor Gab Tilman has ordered an evacuation of a 15 mile radius around the plant. This accident happened around 9:00 pm eastern on a Sunday night and the president must stay up to monitor and direct the situation, which includes ordering the venting of possibly dangerous levels of radiation into the atmosphere to avert a meltdown, and ordering four civilian engineers into the plant to secure some valves so as to stave off disaster (one of the four dies as a result of the radiation). This is a particularly rough night for the commander and chief as in addition to the nuclear situation in the nations most populated state, the American brokered emergency elections in Kazakhstan are also occurring and by the time the polls close that nations Russian imposed president is re-elected amid wid spread charges of voter intimidation, prompting PRC forces to cross the boarder and secure ethnic Chinese enclaves. Oh, and did I mention that early that day the president was informed that his son-in-law cheated on his eldest daughter? Boy, retirement and building a presidential library has got to be looking better and better to Mr. Bartlet.

The Santos camp first hears of the accident while attending a 'rock the vote' event in Florida. Josh immediately clears the congressmans schedule for the next day and the team heads back to the hotel to watch events unfold on television. Vinick hears of the tragic happenings in his home state while returning to campaign headquarters from an event in the DC suburbs. Vinick immediately informs his campaign manager Bruno that he had lobbied to get that plant its license 25 years ago and that some of his children and grandchildren live in nearby San Diego. It doesn't take long for the Santos campaign to get this damaging information but Josh chooses to sit on it and hope the press learns of this on its own, so as to avoid opening themselves up to charges of playing politices with national disaster. Throughout the night Josh Starts to second guess his decision not to the leak the information and the next morning sends Donna out to nudge the press in the right direction, by this time however our Ms. Moss discovers the media already has the story and is about to break with it.

Back at the White House Will has been designated the federal governments sole briefer on the San Andreo situation and has a hard time keeping other government spoaks people from leaking to the press. Mr. Bailys job is made more unpleasant when he is forced to announce that the sitting Democratic president will be accompanied by the Republican nominee to the FEMA operations site in southern cali, as senator Vinick is part of the California congressional delegation his being at the sit is part of protocol. Before Airforce One departs however, Vinick gives a press conference in DC, in which to deflect criticism of his long held pro-nuclear stance, he seems to be shifting blame to the Bartlet administration for poor regulatory enforcement. By playing the blame game with national disaster Vinick succeeds in alienating a lot of voters and a dozen states that had been firmly in his column (including California, Ohio, Missouri) are now redesignated as swing states. The episode closes with Josh declaring the race "to close to call".

I'm gussing this is suppose to be the turning point in the campaign that will allow under-dog Matt Santos to win in November. If this is the case its not so much Santos winning on his own merits as it is a situation beyond anyone's control playing particularly harshly against the front-runner. This being said I could have handled the spin control on this situation much better then the Vinick staff by simply calling for national unity and a non-partisan investigation of the accident, and agreeing to go by the whatever recommendations a commission comes to if elected. I do however like that the writers chose to make Vinicks greatest strength his biggest weakness, in that his penchant to bluntly speak his mind no matter what others may think is what lands him in hot political water (alia the ethanol incident in Iowa during the primaries).

In other West Wing News, what I had long expected has happened and on Sunday NBC announced that the program will end its seven year run with the inauguration of a new president in a mid-May episode. Series producer John Wells has also confirmed that Leo McGarry, the character played by the late John Spencer will be 'killed-off' by a similar heart attack in an upcoming episode. I am still curious to see what they are going to do with the now illogical flash-forward from the season seven opener.


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