Alex Massie

The West Wing and Propaganda

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Hell thath no fury like a speech-writer with a book to peddle:

When the sun rises over our capital city this morning, its denizens will awake to a truly novel tale: The aggrieved ex-staffer—wait for it!—disillusioned by Washington. The tome out today is by former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer, who describes the White House as "less like Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing and more like The Office." In Mr. Latimer's hands, it reads more like "The Princess Diaries," full of hurt feelings and high-schoolish drama.

I give not a single hoot for Mr Latimer's sensitivities and his memoir may, if in an unlikely fashion, be most useful. Alas, that happier eventuality seems unlikely. What hope is there when even White House staffers like to think themselves players - and not mere functionaries - in some White House pseudo-drama?

Life is not the West Wing and thank god it ain't. Do not get me wrong. I loved the West Wing.

Then I lived in Washington. At which point any admiration for the programme could only be maintained by an equal measure of credulousness. It was a program for would-be insiders and wannabe-insiders who lived in Nebraska or Akron or even Silver Spring and wanted to believe in a farytale so they could feel better. It was, therefore, ghastly.

In Britain, of course, it is still considered a great programme. And, as I say, I fell under its spell too. But its heroic version of the Presidency might as well have been comissioned as a White House public education film demonstrating how the President would solve every single problem in the world. And then some.

In other words: the West Wing was, in the end, a White House infomercial.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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