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Politics have changed, and the “rational Republicans” portrayed on the hit NBC show The West Wing no longer exist, a panel of former actors and writers said at the Politicon conference on Saturday.
“I feel like the fakest thing about the show is that we had rational Republicans,” said actor Bradley Whitford, who played Josh Lyman on the show.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, who wrote and produced for the show, agreed that the political dynamics are no longer what they were, citing former Sen. Bob Dole as an example of a reasonable Republican.
“As a writer, I think it would be impossible to write this show now,” O’Donnell said.
Richard Schiff, the actor who played Toby Ziegler on the show, agreed that political norms have changed: “We had a parameter system of rules and regulations and traditions that people followed up until the last two years.”
Ben Rhodes, who worked in Barack Obama’s administration, said that members of Obama’s campaign watched The West Wing to get “mentally prepared” to work in the building.
He then compared Obama’s White House to Donald Trump’s. “We used to have this thing in the White House called ‘fact-checkers.’ I don’t think they’re employed anymore,” he said.
Asked by an audience member whether the cast would be interested in rebooting The West Wing, O’Donnell says he’s had private conversations with creator Aaron Sorkin but would only quote what he’s said publicly. Earlier this year, Sorkin said, “The last thing I would want to do is harm that [legacy], so if I can come up with an idea that doesn’t feel like A Very Brady Christmas, if I can come up with an idea that works, then yeah.”
However, Whitford pointed out, “We’re really old to be working in the White House.”
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