Excerpt from “War Crimes”

(Sometimes, we need to take a break and appreciate the wonderful things we’ve been given over the years.  Today, I’d like to remind you of the glorious yet fictional legacy of that greatest of presidents, Josiah Bartlet, master of oratory and unparalleled leader of the Free World.  The following was excerpted from The West Wing, episode:  “War Crimes”.  Enjoy.)

CHARLIE:  How was church?

BARTLET:  [mumbles] It sucked.

ABBEY:  It was fine. [to Bartlet] Stop it!

BARTLET:  It sucked!

ABBEY:  [sighs] You’re talking about church.

BARTLET:  Oh, like I’m not already going to hell.

CHARLIE:  [follows a pace behind] What was the problem?

ABBEY:  He feels the homily lacked panache.

BARTLET:  It did lack panache!

ABBEY:  It was a perfectly lovely homily on Ephesians 5:21. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

BARTLET:  Yeah. She’s skipping over the part that says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord, for a husband is the head of a wife as Christ is the head of the church.”

ABBEY:  I do skip over that part.


ABBEY:  Because it’s stupid!

[They walk into THE OVAL OFFICE.]


ABBEY:  “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by washing of water with the Word, that he might present the Church to himself in…” something.

BARTLET:  [behind his desk; puts on glasses] “In splendour.” And I have no problem with Ephesians. And any time you want me to cleanse you with the washing of water, you know I’m up for it.

ABBEY:  Then what is your problem?

BARTLET:  Hackery!

[Abbey waves her arms in the air and flees to the PORTICO. Bartlet pursues.]

BARTLET:  This guy was a hack! He had a captive audience! And the way I know that is that I tried to tunnel out of there several times. He had an audience and he didn’t know what to do with it.

ABBEY:  You want him to sing “Volare”?!

BARTLET:  Couldn’t have hurt. Words…

ABBEY:  Oh, God.

BARTLET:  Words, when spoken out loud for the sake of performance, are music. They have rhythm, and pitch, and timbre, and volume. These are the properties of music; and music has the ability to find us, and move us, and lift us up in ways that literal meanings can’t. Do you see?

ABBEY:  You are an oratorical snob.

BARTLET:  Yes, I am. And God loves me for it.

[They stop and face each other.]

ABBEY:  You said he was sending you to hell.

BARTLET:  For other stuff, not for this. You can’t just trot out Ephesians — which he blew, by the way. It has nothing with husbands and wives; it’s all of us. St. Paul begins the passage: “Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ.” [passionately] “Be subject to one another.” In this day and age of 24-hour cable crap, devoted to feeding the voyeuristic gluttony of the American public, hooked on a bad soap opera that’s passing itself off as important, don’t you think you might be able to find some relevance in verse 21? How do end the cycle? Be subject to one another!

ABBEY:  So. This is about you.

BARTLET:  No, it’s not about me! Well, yes, it is about me, but tomorrow it’ll be about somebody else. We’ll watch Larry King and see who. [shouts] All hacks, off the stage! Right now! That’s a national security order.

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