Where Have All the Matt Santoses Gone?

The presidential campaign continues to heat up on "The West Wing." Last night, Democratic candidate Matthew Santos pulled the God-card for the second time this season on the campaign trail-with the kind of eloquence I so long to hear from real, living candidates for whom we can actually vote. Two weeks ago Intelligent Design was the issue that sparked discussion of the Big-G, and this time it was the don't-want-to-go-there, polarizing abortion debate that got Santos talking about the complexities of being Catholic and being pro-life (as a person) while at the same time being a pro-choice politician representing the Democratic party.

Controversy about abortion was initially sparked by a special interest group TV-spot that quoted Santos out of context saying he believed in "unlimited abortion." A Republican candidate's dream right? Not so, for Republican presidential hopeful Arnold Vinick, who responds to the attack add with as much anger as Santos. Oddly enough, this season's West Wing presidential campaign has pro-choice candidates on both side of the red-state, blue-state divide. Vinick has alienated the Republican religious right with his disinterest in religion, while Santos surprises the liberal left with his frequent God-talk.

Last night's best moment: Santos is confronted by the head of the fictional lobbying group Women's Alliance for Choice about his abortion views. The powerful organization is threatening to throw its support behind the pro-choice Republican Vinick and is unhappy about Santos' "yes I support abortion limits" response to the attack ad. Santos explains his understanding of the need for abortion "limits" by asking the group's leader if she believes in no-questions-asked abortion based on IQ tests, gender of the child, and the slippery slope that goes on from there. Answer to all of the above? No. Exactly, explains Santos. That's why I don't believe in unlimited abortion rights.

Again, a show in which a candidate is not afraid to express a smart, complex viewpoint about a third-rail issue (from both sides, I have to say, as kudos go to Vinick for his nuanced understanding as well.) Why aren't these people real so we could vote for one of them?

(Well, I confess, this was one of three best moments, really--the second being the news that there will be a LIVE DEBATE next week between the candidates, AND, last but not least, the return of Donna Moss, FINALLY, so the show can get back to the Josh-Donna sparring-flirting tension I love so much!)

Weekend Media Roundup

The rehabilitation of Josef Ratzinger's image from the modern-day Torquemadato benevolent Pope Benedict XVI continued in The Los Angeles Times Saturday with the dean of the "Vaticanobservers" (why aren1t they just called reporters?) John Allen portrayingthe pontiff's meeting with former nemesis Hans Kung as a sign of Benedict1swish to be pope of not just of a faction of the Catholic Church but of thewhole 1.1 billion family of faith

On the Right Coast on Sunday, TheNew York Times fronted a story about the propensity for prayer amongcollege football teams, including the Georgia Bulldogs, whose coach MikeRicht takes them to church as a bonding measure. The Times mostly frowns onthe phenomenon as a violation of players1 religious privacy. But the storyincludes a comment by Baltimore Raven rookie Musa Smith, a former player forMike Richt's Georgia Bulldogs and a Muslim: "At the end of the day," saidSmith, "[praying as a team] was about strengthening your spiritualfoundations and to walk in a righteous way in whatever you believe."