Our great national tragedy: No Leo McGarry

I’ve been re-watching “The West Wing” lately, which can make a guy wistful, if he loves his country.

Most recently, I watched a scene in which Toby presides over a “let’s get serious” meeting with a group of congressmen, including the Republicans who are blocking the Bartlet administration’s effort to allow sampling in the census.

That was a realistic scene, when it was first aired. Such a meeting today would be impossible. The Republicans in the room were raising thoughtful, serious objections to sampling (which even Toby admits privately, after the meeting). Things like that don’t happen anymore. Certainly not with House members.

Anyway, Trey Walker and I haven’t communicated directly in awhile, at least since I was on the opposite side in the 2018 election. But then last night he tweeted:

Well, I had started responding to him before I even saw his followup tweet:

We would live in such a better world if Leo, and of course, John Spencer, were among us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve discussed Leo here before, of course. And Bryan posted this transcript of one of his best scenes. I tried and tried to find video of it to include here, but the best I could find was this murky still image. Which reminds us of The West Wing’s one flaw — the White House wasn’t that DARK. Nor are congressional hearing rooms…

11 thoughts on “Our great national tragedy: No Leo McGarry

  1. Phillip

    There’s no Leo McGarry to save Biden. Not even Jill Biden seems able to save Joe Biden. I suspect the decision to hold the hastily-called press conference was Joe’s and Joe’s alone. Certainly the choice to come back out after seemingly ending the press conference so he could mix up Mexico and Egypt was his alone. Wouldn’t that be something if future generations pointed to that very moment as the turning point in the dooming of American democracy.

    As you might imagine, the vast majority of my friends are politically progressive, generally vote Democratic, and certainly will vote (as will I) Biden over Trump. But every single one I’ve talked to expresses the same feeling: “I wish Biden had passed the torch…he’s just too old.” True, Trump says things just as dotty or forgetful as Biden, but any objective observer has to admit he says these things with more energy, somehow less cloudiness than Joe. Not fair perhaps, but perceptions matter.

    Biden should have had a mic drop moment the day after the 2022 midterms: “I saved you from a second Trump term, and confounded the pundits’ prediction of a Dem bloodbath in the midterms. You’re welcome, good luck to Pete, Kamala, Gretchen…peace out.” His historical legacy might have been preserved.

    But if his stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality leads to the return of Trump II and what might follow, then Biden will forever be held at least partially responsible and much good from his life’s work will be forgotten.

    I’m hoping Joe surmounts all this and that a majority of Americans realize the alternative to Joe is simply unspeakable, but I must acknowledge that I know hardly any liberal friends who don’t just feel sorry for Joe and just wish he would have reconsidered, still hope he might.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And do what, Phillip? Reconsider and do what? Step aside for whom?

      There’s nobody on deck who can hit.

      But we differ, I suppose, in that you would consider someone as inexperienced (ESPECIALLY in world affairs) as “Pete, Kamala, Gretchen.” I would not. If Joe had said that, I would have said, “No, Joe. Until you can come up with someone qualified, you’re it.”

      And I’d feel very bad about it, because he deserves to be able to retire more than anyone else I can think of in public life. But I don’t see a way he can, and he doesn’t either…

      1. Phillip

        The fact that Biden is vastly more experienced in world affairs than somebody like Gretchen Whitmer or Kamala Harris becomes a completely irrelevant point if the national perception of Biden’s mental acuity and general physical fragility reaches a point where his chances of beating Trump slip away completely. Because then the relevant question is not your question “step aside for whom?” but rather “do we prefer these other Democrats—anybody!–to Trump and do they stand a significantly better chance of beating Trump?” Because in the end that is more important than anything. Any of those other Democrats could (and probably would) keep on Biden’s foreign policy team, including Anthony Blinken, for continuity.

        Joe’s vast experience and knowledge in foreign affairs does the country no good if he’s going to lose the election. And for him not to, he’s going to have to turn around perceptions of his health and viability during what will be a brutal general election contest. And that might be something that is quite simply not within his ability to completely control.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “Joe’s vast experience and knowledge in foreign affairs does the country no good if he’s going to lose the election.”


          And I’d prefer pretty much anyone to Trump. My concern is about what happens after beating Trump. That’s why I stress qualifications and experience…

          I don’t have anything against Gretchen Whitmer. But then I don’t have anything FOR Gretchen Whitmer. I can’t point to anything she’s done that makes me think, “There’s somebody ready to be president.”

  2. Barry


    Bob Costas Says If Biden’s ‘Hubris’ Won’t Let Him Step Aside Then He Must ‘Be Shown The Door’ By Dems

    “Just because the Republicans and Fox News and all the tributaries that come off of that will overstate it, turn a blind out of the fact that Trump, who has always been an unprincipled and reprehensible person, is now a ranting lunatic who has mental gaffes of his own.

    So it’s it’s a selective truth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Right?

    And when it comes to Biden, this is like the truth that no one, until very recently wants to say out loud. But my friends will tell you, I’ve been saying it for four years. This is Emperor’s New Clothes stuff.

    Joe Biden should have run on a firm promise that he would be a one term president. The only reason he is president is that he’s not Donald Trump. Then the Dems could have gotten a lot of people up in the bullpen, and they could have sorted through those people.

    If Biden’s hubris is such that he doesn’t understand the best interests of his party and more important, his country, then he has to be shown the door. Period.

    Because if Trump is a threat to democracy, and in many ways he is, so too are the Dems who are in danger of being as feckless as the Republicans have long been shameless. If they’re going to send this guy out there, if Trump is a monster, and in many ways he is, you’re going to send this guy out to slay the dragon? I don’t think so.”


    1. Brad Warthen Post author


      Shown the door by whom and in favor of whom?

      Why do people suppose there are answers to those questions, when there are not?

      Bob Costas should go call a ball game or something…

      1. Barry

        I’ve given you an entirely legitimate name several times now.

        That man has something Joe Biden doesn’t have – and won’t have – he has a vigor that could actually attract people to the Democrat ticket.

        Joe is looking worse every single day. It’s going to get really, really bad.

        He’s turning a 4-5 point loss into a 7-8 point loss. .

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, we look at different things — both of which have value.

          I look at whether the person is qualified for the job. You look at whether someone could “attract people to the Democrat ticket.”

          I look at it like a manager deciding whom to hire. You look at someone you believe can get votes.

          My method is sound, except for one thing: It’s an election. A qualified person can’t get into office if he can’t get votes.

          The trouble is, it’s hard to find both together…

          1. Barry

            If any governor could ever be qualified for the job, the two term Lt. governor of California and now two term governor of the 11th biggest economy in the world is “qualified” for the job.

            He might not be your choice, but I think calling Gavin Newsome unqualified for the job isn’t remotely fair. If the 2 term governor of California isn’t qualified, then no governor ever could be qualified for the job- and no governor ever elected President was qualified to do the job.

            I don’t think such a belief is reasonable.

            and I couple that with his ability to actually campaign properly, be willing to be interviewed by anyone and not duck such interviews because of the concern of him looking poor, travel extensively throughout the country and not look like he’s about to fall down adds to his already impressive qualifications.

  3. bud

    I agree 100% with Phillip on this one. All of the folk he suggests would be fine presidents. They, and others, have the temperament and judgement to make good foreign policy decisions. Frankly Biden it comes to issues in the middle east have not been very good of late. Do we really need to keep troops in Jordan? Of course I’ll vote for Biden. But I’ll do so with a heavy heart. Let’s just hope Brad is right on this one.


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