West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Seventh Season Episodes * #707 "The Debate" The Live Debate Episode
Written by: Lawrence O'Donnell Jr., Directed by: Alex Graves
Takes Place:
Broadcast: Sunday, November 6, 2005

The debate
Forrest Sawyer, Moderator,
Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos, Alan Alda as Senator Arnold Vinick
NBC Universal Photo: Mitchell Haddad
The debate is Vinick and Santos agreed to is here. Forrest Sawyer is the debate moderator.
"Good evening, and welcome to the first Presidential debate with the Republican party's nominee, California Senator Arnold Vinick and the Democratic party's nominee, Texas Congressman Matt Santos."
Right at the beginning the two candidates decide to have a real debate instead of sticking to the rules their representatives had worked out. Forrest Sawyer is now faced with moderating without rules. They talk about several things including Headstart which Vinick says doesn't work because the nudge it gives disappear after a few years in the school system. Santos objects.
"So, give up on headstart, just give up on early education, and then give up on those kids who don't test well. They'll find their way, don't worry about them."
"I'm not going to give up on public schools."
"Well, you haven't proposed a single thing that will make them better — not one new idea. I'm going to keep trying new ideas. Some might work, some might not, and I'll level with you about that. We'll keep the good ideas and get rid of the bad. And I won't let a day go by in this White House where I don't work hard to improve our public schools. In fact, I'm going to stake my Presidency on that, right here, right now. And if in four years from now, you don't think I've improved public education in this country then do not vote for my reelection."
Sawyer asks them about creating jobs and Vinick says he would get out of the way so the private sector can create jobs.
"Entrepreneurs create jobs. Business creates jobs. The President's job is to get out of the way."
"Do you want a President who will get out of their way when corrupt executives are plundering a company like Enron?"
"Hey, I'll go after corporate crime. My running mate, Ray Sullivan, was very tough on white-collar crime when he was a prosecutor and my Attorney General will be just as tough."
"Do you want a President to get out of the way when airline executives are putting their companies into bankruptcy so that they can avoid the pension responsibilities to the workers that have dedicated their lives to those companies?"
"Some of our older airlines are having trouble meeting their huge pension obligations at the very same time when they're facing intense competition from low-cost airlines that are so new they don't yet have pensions to pay. Now, an unthinking liberal will describe the airline bankruptcies as the evil capitalists screwing the workers."
"I didn't say that Senator and I don't think you should put words in my mouth."
"No. Of course you didn't say it. You're not an unthinking liberal. Are you?"
"I know you like to use that word 'liberal' as if it were a crime."
"No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have used that word. I know Democrats think liberal is a bad word. So bad you had to change it. What do you call yourselves now, progressives? Is that it?"
"It's true. Republicans have tried to turn liberal into a bad word. Well, liberals ended slavery in this country."
"A Republican President ended slavery."
"Yes, a liberal Republican, Senator. What happened to them? They got run out of your party. What did liberals do that was so offensive to the liberal party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things ­ every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator. Because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor."
Sawyer brings up gun control. Vinick is not for it. Santos explains his position in a little more depth.
"I think we should forget about more gun control. What we need is bullet control. That's right. There are at least 100— 200 million guns in this country. I own three of them We cannot control the supply of guns in this country but we can control the supply of ammunition. Buying bullets should not be easier than buying a plane ticket. We should license the purchase of handgun ammunition. There should be a clear, ID record of every handgun ammo purchase. We're in the 21st Century, homicide detectives should be able to trace every fired bullet back to the buyer in minutes."
Santos asks about alternative energy. Vinick answers,
"I don't trust politicians to choose the right new energy sources. I believe in the free market. You know, the government didn't switch us from whale oil to the oil found under the ground. The market did that. And the government didn't make the Prius, the hottest selling car in Hollywood. That was the market that did that. In L.A. now, the coolest thing you can drive is a hybrid. Well, if that's what the free market can do in the most car-crazed culture on Earth, then I trust the free market to solve our energy problems. You know, you know, the market can change the way we think. It can change what we want. Government can't do that. That's why the market has always been a better problem-solver than government and it always will be."
"While you're trusting the market, we're burning fossil fuels every day and the polar ice caps are just about ready to melt."
"The same people that were telling you that we were going to run out of oil by the end of the 20th Century are now trying to scare us with global warming theories."
"Theories? You don't believe in the overwhelming, scientific research that's—"
"No, no, no you know what you're talking about? You're talking about one degree change in the Earth's temperature in the last hundred years."
"Senator, you have obviously not seen the scientific research—"
"I have...."
Sawyer asks for the closing statements starting with Santos who finishes with,
"The President has to lead. He has to actively head off problems, not just hope the market will figure out everything for him. Itıs the free market that Senator Vinick trusts so much that has left 45 million people without health insurance. But to his credit, the Senatorıs very honest about the fact that he has no health care plan, no education plan, no jobs plan, no energy plan. All he has is a tax plan. After he cuts taxes, whatıs he going to do for the next four years? Tax cuts are not a magic wand that you can wave at every problem. Senator Vinick is very quick to attack my plans, but the Presidency is about more than just saying no, no, no. You have to say yes to something. You have to do something. We don't have enough time for me to remind you about every policy difference that you've heard here tonight. But when you go to work tomorrow and you're talking about this debate, talk about the qualities that you want to see in a President; the leadership qualities. Ask yourself if Matt Santos is the kind of guy who's going to give up on the promises that he's made tonight because it's going to be too tough to get them done. Talk about what it was like for Matt Santos to go from where he was baptized 45 years ago in San Antonio to where he's standing tonight. Ask yourselves what it was like to do that. And then ask yourselves if you're ready to give Matt Santos the Presidency of the United States. You know, you've seen the stories: in newspapers all over the world, people are asking is America ready for a Latino President? I have never asked that question. I never asked if Annapolis was ready for a Latino midshipman. I never asked if the Marines was ready for a Latino fighter pilot. I didn't have to ask. I just had to prove that I was ready, that I could get the job done. I am asking for your vote now because I know that I am ready to do the job. I thank you."
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Then it's Vinick's turn: "First of all, I want to thank Matt for agreeing to drop the rules tonight and let us have a real debate. And what you've heard, over and above the many important policy differences, were different philosophies of government. I believe both of us want what's best for this country, we just have different ideas about how to go about it. I think it's fair to say that Matt has more confidence in government than I do. I have more confidence in freedom — your freedom; your freedom to choose your child's school, your freedom to choose the car or truck that's right for you and your family, your freedom to spend or save your hard-earned money instead of having the government spend it for you. I'm not anti-government. I just don't want any more government than we can afford. We don't want government doing things it doesn't know how to do or doing things the private sector does better or throwing more money at failed programs because that's exactly what makes people lose faith in government. And all of us, Democrats and Republicans, Independents, Liberals, Conservatives, we all want a government that we can believe in. We all want a government that doesn't make false promises, a government that doesn't overreach, doesn't take on more than it can handle; an efficient, effective, honest government. That's what the Founding Fathers created. That's what they wanted for us. Now the choice in this election comes down to this: do we want more government or do we want to get control of government. To govern is to choose and the choices are never easy. There are lobbies out there that will fight you on every choice you make. They're ready to call you names the second you make a choice they don't like. You heard that heckler go after me tonight. You have to be tough to stand up to that. But being tough won't help you make the right choice. That takes experience and mature judgment. That's what the Presidency needs now more than ever. And that's why I ask you to give me your vote: so that I can give you the government you were promised by the Founding Fathers. Thank you, very much."

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (as well as more information),
let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

28 Amendment
Don't miss Neal Rechtman's election thriller The 28th Amendment in which an actor
who portrays a fictional US President on television gets drawn into real-world politics
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