Sunday, September 21, 2008

West Winging It

Seeking a President Who Gives Goose Bumps? So’s Obama.
Published: September 20, 2008

In the lasted twist on the trademarked MoDo Faux Conversations, Barack Obama gets a pep talk from fictional former president Jeb Bartlet. The column is full of the similarly trademarked Sorkin cross-talk. You can almost picture Martin Sheen and Dulé Hill (as Barack) walking and talking across the West Wing set. Take this example:

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.
It may indeed be real Sorkin dialog. Maureen disingenuously muddies the water with this set-up.
I called the “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin (yes, truly) to get a read-out of the meeting.
The last time Dowd had a guest/ghost writer it was Stephen Colbert (well, his staff at least) and it became her most popular column of the year. And Maureen would definitely have Sorkin’s phone number in her Rolodex, even if she sometimes gets his e-mail mixed up. At least according to the New York Post (via New York magazine)

Dowd’s other well-documented romance was with The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. In May 2001, the New York Post reported that Dowd had accidentally sent “randy” e-mails intended for Aaron Sorkin to her colleague Andrew Ross Sorkin. “That’s a real cautionary tale of e-mail,” she says. “I had only met him; I didn’t really know him and I was just trying to kind of give him tidbits of political things. So I just would e-mail him funny things, and that one was a joke that some guys at a bar said, but when it appeared in the New York Post it was as if I were saying it. Which was so embarrassing, because it was just such a dumb line, and so at least if they were going to catch you with some flirtatious e-mail—which we weren’t doing at that point—you’d like it to be, like, a cool kind of line. And it was also embarrassing because I think he was married then.”
And she later had to make an embarrassing confession when a thinly-veiled Dowdish character made it into a West Wing script recounted here by LA Times gossip columnist Elizabeth Snead:
Sorkin admitted he often thought of Dowd while writing witty banter for actresses. And he did tell a funny, if slightly embarrassing, shoe fetish tale about Dowd, whom he met during the first season of "The West Wing" when he was shooting scenes in Washington, D.C.

“I wrote an off-screen character who was a powerful, highly feared female columnist for the New York Times. One of the White House staffers had inadvertently made a joke about her shoes and was afraid that the administration was going to suffer if he didn’t apologize.”

To thank Dowd for being “a good sport” about the thinly veiled reference, Sorkin sent her a slew of expensive shoes from Barneys the day the show aired.

“She liked them a lot,” recalled Sorkin. “But she told me that because she sometimes covers Hollywood in her column, to accept the gift was unethical. But she didn’t give back the shoes. What she has done, and this was five or six years ago, is, every once in a while, she will just give me cash. Forty, sixty, one hundred dollars … It’s not clear to me how giving me cash makes the ethical picture less murky, but it was terribly important to Maureen that this be done right and this is her version. She just gives me cash.”

“It’s gonna take me to the year 2030 to pay off those shoes,” confessed Dowd, still smiling, albeit not quite as sweetly.
That ties into an earlier anecdote where Sorkin fishes for a compliment.
Sorkin tried out an old joke. “You are the most respected, revered columnist in the country and you have a Pulitizer Prize and you dated me for a while. What was that like?”

"I asked you in the green room not to mention that," replied Dowd, smiling through gritted teeth. "It was fantastic, of course."
And the column was fantastic as a call to arms for Obama to get on message and go on the attack. I only have to wonder what side of the designer shoe debit ledger that a guest column script goes onto.

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