Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Generally, I think the West Wing is pretty funny.

Aaron Sorkin pours so much energy into undoing the heartbreak of the Clinton-years- creating Republican strawmen to knock down and rewriting history so Democrats win every argument. The West Wing is a lot like the play-by-play boys provide as they shoot hoops alone in their driveway: "Robbie Boy takes the ball, he goes to the baseline, shoots over Shaq, it's GOOD! Robbie steals the inbounds pass from Kobe and drives to the hole...."

But on 2-26 Sorkin crossed a line. He did one of his ripped-from-the-headlines-but-not-quite-true numbers and settles some scores from a shameful Clinton episode. Except this time his target wasn't Republican operatives, it was military families.

The scene was set in the White House where Leo, the WH chief of staff, was waiting with the families of three servicemen who had been captured in Africa while on a humanitarian mission. The working class mother of one of the soldiers was dismissive of the Bartlett crowd as unmilitary and asked if Leo had been in the service. Of course he had-- combat duty as a pilot in Vietnam. And later, after a successful rescue mission which saves the hapless soldiers, terrorists blow-up the base where the Delta team trained. Over a dozen men are killed so the cry-baby mother has to deal with the fact that other parents lost their children because her son was rescued

First, note the complete ignorance of military realities that Sorkin demonstrates with the bam-bam timing of the rescue and retaliation. We are supposed to believe that the rag-tag army of a country like Rwanda or Liberia can find the training camp of a Delta team in a foreign country and mount a suicide bombing against it in a matter of hours. That's absurd. The command, control, and intelligence capabilities required are staggering. I doubt that six NATO countries could pull it off. But West Wing makes it sound like no big deal.

But here is the heart of the problem ......

In 1994, Herbert Shughart told Bill Clinton that he "was not fit to be president" and refused to shake his hand. But this outburst did not come as he was waiting for Clinton to rescue his hapless son from terrorists. He said it as he received the Medal of Honor his son Randy earned trying to rescue a Black Hawk crew in Somalia in 1993. Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon were the two Delta snipers who requested permission to drop into cauldron that was Mogadishu on 3 October 1993. [Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote a column recently on the Shugharts .]

Unlike the steely Bartlett and his battle-tested team, Bill Clinton tried to evade responsibility for the decisions that led to 18 American deaths. At times, he even suggested that the Rangers were too aggressive and were thus responsible for the debacle.

This is the event Sorkin echoed. Apparently he intends to get even with everyone who ever said a mean thing about or to Bill, Hill, or Al. And he will twist he story as much as required to make it all come out right in the end.

Sidenote: When NPR-listening residents of the Keystone state joke that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, and Mississippi in the middle, they don't mean it as a complement to us in the middle or to Mississippi. They have in mind places like Newville where Randy Shughart grew up and Perry county where his family now lives.

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