The Reek And Reward Of Politics

Why Would Honest People Get Involved In Such A Dirty Business?

The West Wing aged poorly, but one of the things Aaron Sorkin’s early 2000s political drama taught us that is definitively applicable now is politics is messy and involves a lot of compromise and complex nuance debates that leave us feeling like we’ve just bathed in a pig trough full of shit.

You have to deal with some real sleazy characters who are inexplicable given undeserved power by voters who are dazzled by bullshit, or in the case of foreign governments, won it through undemocratic means. But you do it because maybe, just maybe, at the end of bathing in that shit, you might make the lives of some folks better and you might help society progress. Those rewards are few and far between, but when they come, they are invigorating. It gives you the motivation to swim in that shit trough again.


In lieu of President Joe Biden’s decision not to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman accountable for the murder of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some have felt a wave of disillusionment. We dethroned the corrupt and sleazy Trump Administration, but got one that is still kowtowing to a brutal character like MBS. When does it ever get better? Why would he do it?

It reminds me of a scene from a 2002 episode of The West Wing where White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, is briefing reporters about the White House’s response to a story from the Middle Eastern kingdom where 17 school girls were trapped in a burning school, and emergency crews refused to rescue them because they weren’t wearing correct Islamic garb. After holding back her own emotions on the subject. a reporter asks Cregg how she could be so sanguine about the tragedy. With righteous indignation wrapped in a protective layer of sarcasm, Cregg goes through the laundry list of reasons Saudi Arabia is a brutal, oppressive regime, while finishing it by quoting Shakespeare “but Brutus is an honorable man” and telling the reporters the standard American government talking point about the kingdom, with obvious derision – “That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace”

In a 2002 episode of The West Wing, White House Press Secretary CJ Cregg feels the disillusionment that sometimes comes with politics.

It’s an indigent recognition of a truth that existed in that show’s world that also exists in ours: Saudi Arabia is an ally we can’t afford to piss off. A major oil supplier that is barely holding together a politically volatile region with duck tape and pins. When our options are bad or worse, you choose bad. It still makes it taste like ash and iron to have to sing the praises of the “bad,” or give in to it.

Politics is a great place for many naive and delusional people to get involved in if they want to see the real world. It is eye-opening. You discover that life is actually full of bad options, and you often have to pick the least bad option to hope to live another day. Sometimes great options come along, and you take them and enjoy them, like a rare sunny, warm day in early summer. It’s those options, where we make the best differences and almost makes up for all the bad times.

Almost.

I’ve been quiet lately. My day job has gotten busy quickly and I’ve been digesting everything that has happened politically over the last few weeks, but I have a lot coming down the pike for you to read.

Stand by.

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