15 Episodes of The West Wing We Need Now More Than Ever

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4.23 Twenty-Five

In the dramatic season four finale, after the kidnapping of President Bartlet’s youngest daughter Zoey, the president and First Lady are distraught, and the country is on high alert. With other crises at hand, the president makes a decision that no president – in reality – has ever made before, but using an amendment that exists for perhaps this very reason.

In his darkest time, he realizes that as a father in crisis, he cannot effectively act as a responsible or clear-minded president, and thus invokes the 25th amendment – the next in command shall serve as president in his stead, effectively pausing his rule. With a recently resigned VP (due to scandal), the next in line would be the Republican Speaker of the House, Speaker Walken.

Though the episode focuses more heavily on Zoey’s kidnapping and the emotional distress of it, it’s yet another show of reluctant yet respectful and successful bipartisanship, and putting country before ego, the job before the pride. I can’t be alone in fearing that, in real life, such a responsible and self aware decision wouldn’t be made under dire circumstances, God forbid.

Regardless, it showed a maturity on both ends – Bartlet for his self awareness, and Walken for his willingness to do the job right and understand that when Bartlet was ready to return, he’d hand it back over without a fight, rightfully so. (I’m a fan of politicians acting like respectful adults.)