Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Game, The Name, and Leo

Being deathly ill is an interesting position to be in. You notice things that normally wouldn't catch your attention and ignore things that would on any other day irritate and annoy you. Today is day seven of being sick and let me just say I have done my fair share of noticing and ignoring.

I have watched three whole seasons of The West Wing in the last seven days. Mostly out of boredom and the need for something to occupy my mind, but also because I have been thinking a great deal about John Spencer and how his passing will affect the dynamic of the show. I've come to the conclusion that Leo McGarry was the central character, next only to the President. His hand was dipped into almost every storyline and his presence was well known and respected.

How I hadn't noticed before is beyond me, but after watching season two, I have decided that the only other person that understands and appreciated the following quote by John Kennedy as much as I do is President Bartlet (or shall we say Aaron Sorkin, the writer):

The political world is a very interesting life. It allows the full use of your powers. First, there is the great chess game. It's the battle, the competition. There's the strategy and which piece you move and all that.

Until I re-watched a season two episode titled "The War at Home," I hadn't taken into account the great respect President Bartlet has for chess as it pertains to politics. When I began this blog I named it "The Political Game" because of the Kennedy quote. I am not very good at chess, but I can appreciate it's meaning and significance. In the episode, when Leo informed President Bartlet that they had lost this one and he responded by saying they had lost it six moves ago, that's when it clicked. That was the moment when I realized I hadn't ever noticed the connection between chess, the quote, and my favorite television show. It is no wonder that I like The West Wing so much.

Since I watched the episode I have been thinking a lot about the blog, mostly about my seven day absence, but also about how I had chosen that lighthouse template after having completely ruined my patriotic theme with too much tinkering. The template was meant to be temporary and now I have a new revamped blog. One that more clearly represents the meaning behind the title and one that I think I am satisfied with for the time being.

One last comment on the passing of John Spencer. In that same season two episode, Leo says something to the President that I think may have been the moment, if the jury was still out at that point, where I decided that Leo was my favorite and the star of the show.

If I could put myself anywhere in time, it would be the cabinet room on August 4, 1964 when our ships were attacked by North Vietnam in the Tonkin Gulf. I'd say 'Mr. President, don't do it. You're considering authorizing a massive commitment of troops and throwing in our lot with torturers and panderers, leaders without principle and soldiers without conviction, with no clear mission and no end in sight.

If there was ever any question at what point I was sold on the greatness of The West Wing and that Leo McGarry is the central character and my personal favorite, if I had to pinpoint it, that would be the moment.
John Spencer
1946 - 2005


Nick Speth said...

Hey Tara, hope you're feeling a little better. Get well soon!

I've said before that I've never gotten into TWW too much, but I do like Spencer (off topic, sorta, I also like the John Spencer Blues Explosion). He was great in The Rock. Maybe you've inspired me to start watchin' TWW.

My chess game is downright terrible. My strategy is basically to hunker down and prolong my inevitable defeat as long as I can, and I'll be honest, I'm likely to compare everything to poker. This is the last forum I'd like to disagre with JFK on, but I think the world of Washington politics is far more similar to poker than chess. While in chess you sacrifice pawns to win more valuable pieces, or position, in poker you wait, sometimes for what seems like forever, and then when the moment seems right, you risk everything YOU have.

In chess you spend pawns, bishops, rooks, and knights, and the king is that last thing taken. In poker you have to pawns, just yourself and your stake. To me that's politics. Huge risks of your whole career all the time. Just ask Dan Quayle the penalty for a momentary lapse of spelling.

Nick Speth said...

that should be "you have no pawns..." sorry

Tara A. Rowe said...

Hey Nick, thanks for the well wishes. I am feeling better today. The thought of being sick on Christmas is forcing me to at least pretend to feel better.

I'd never thought of Washington politics as poker, but then again I don't spend much time thinking about poker. (Though, I will admit that celebrity poker thing they have on Bravo is quite entertaining!)

One thing about first it seems you have all sorts of moves and pawns (including bishops, rooks, etc.) but then really when it comes down to it, the whole game is about one move, the last move you make with your queen.

Politics is one move. You either win or you lose, you don't get points for how long you delay the defeat.

Nick Speth said...

Yeah, I'm no good at chess. And like I said maybe I have poker on the brain. It's somewhat telling that the first video I downloaded to my new Ipod is an episode of the World Poker Tour.

p.s. I watch Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo too, and if I could get into games with those people, I'd never need a real job. I was, however, shocked when James Woods lost. Woods is actually world class. He tangles with the big boys all the time.

Angela Carpenter said...

Nick, I'm sorry to have to point it out, but Tara's analogy is far superior. Both because chess is a far superior game to poker, and because even if you take that one big chance that will make or break your career/country/whatever you still saved and sacrificed a few pawns along the way (and if you didn't it was all a waste).
Tara I hope you feel better, Call me if you need to get out for some reason. Do you feel up to the Piersol-Garner wedding tonight?

Tara A. Rowe said...

Calling chess a far superior game to poker are fighting words, Angiey. I'm surprised Nick didn't jump all over this. I'd like poker better if it weren't all about luck. Chess is about brains, strategy, and just common sense.

I forgot about the Piersol-Garner wedding, but thanks for the invite.