Something therapeutic about watching the first season of The West Wing during our national nightmare under Trump. “Take This Sabbath Day” is a beautiful story. It’s a story about the mechanics of presidential decision-making. Although it’s couched in religious terms, it’s very much about Truman’s expression: “The Buck stops here.” President Bartlet avoids making a decision on commuting a death sentence right until the execution, and thus finds himself with a state-sponsored execution on his conscience and no moral or political rationale why it happened under his watch. He lets himself drift with the times instead of defining them. He asks his priest for confession (played beautifully by Karl Malden). Bartlet is the president who, on occasion, deliberates too much. Trump is the anti-thought, the reptilian instinct given human form.
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