How many times on West Wing did CJ work with Toby or Josh to come up with a quick, snappy answer to a difficult question? It seemed to happen every episode. Why didn't the president have a soundbite of an answer? He used two paragraphs when a sentence would have worked. (At least he didn't call the reporter stupid.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting. But with the new law that you signed yesterday regulating the tobacco industry, I'd like to ask you a few questions. How many cigarettes a day --
THE PRESIDENT: A few questions? (Laughter.)
Q How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke? Do you smoke alone or in the presence of other people? And do you believe the new law would help you to quit? If so, why?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the new law that was put in place is not about me, it's about the next generation of kids coming up. So I think it's fair, Margaret, to just say that you just think it's neat to ask me about my smoking, as opposed to it being relevant to my new law. (Laughter.) But that's fine, I understand. It's an interesting human -- it's an interesting human interest story.
But I've said before that, as a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. I don't do it in front of my kids, I don't do it in front of my family, and I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where -- (laughter) -- there are times where I mess up. And, I mean, I've said this before. I get this question about once every month or so, and I don't know what to tell you, other than the fact that, like folks who go to AA, once you've gone down this path, then it's something you continually struggle with, which is precisely why the legislation we signed was so important, because what we don't want is kids going down that path in the first place. Okay?
The Bush/West Wing answer
"This bill is aimed at keeping kids from starting smoking. If kids don't start, they won't have to struggle with quitting like I have. Next question."
Maybe I just wish I was Sam Seaborn.