President Bartlett Closes Down Government

I swear this is exactly how it happened. I was finishing up my daily TV Fax and watching a new episode of Bones, which was so steeped in the dessication and decomposition and explosion, literally, of rotting corpses that I was driven from prime time to my DVD cache of West Wing episodes.

I went to the next one in rotation and found myself watching someone talk about going to a meeting at the Old Executive Office Building, which I did this week, followed by the unfolding storyline of a Democratic President having a late-night meeting with the New Speaker of the House and other budget negotiators and telling him he was not willing to pass a third continuing resolution and that the federal government would be shutting down, which it did briefly.

I was watching this having just seen on C-SPAN that the President was holding a late-night meeting with the Speaker after having vowed earlier in the day to veto a stopgap spending bill–a third continuing resolution–even if it meant a government shutdown (cue eerie “Twilight Zone” theme background music).

According to West Wing, during a shutdown Amtrak, the courts, federal prisons and the National Weather Service will remain on the job. According to President Obama in a statement released at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, FHA mortgages may not be forthcoming, small businesses may trouble getting loans and passports may not be provided to folks who had planned trips.

West Wing talked about vetereans not getting their home loans.

President Obama said yesterday that 800,000 federal workers would not be coming to work, while West Wing put the number at north of 940,000 under the Bartlet administration. West Wing’s Josh Lyman had to cancel a meeting with the FCC. No word on whether the real administration would have to do the same.

President Bartlett emerged from his standoff with a compromise budget by the closing credits. President Obama said Thursday night the two sides were closer and there was hope for good news by Friday morning. Here’s hoping life imitates art.

Epilogue:It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I was reminded yet again of how spot on that NBC drama was in its time, and ours. This time it was as though an occult hand had reached out and pointed me toward the episode most closely resembling the day’s news.

And, no, I won’t bemoan Martin Sheen not getting a best actor Emmy for this show as I always do in these West Wing blog items, though to paraphrase his son, he is “a god” in my TV drama book. OK, yes I will. Martin Sheen should have won a best actor Emmy for that role.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.