August 7th, 2009
01:32 PM ET
Where does realism end and prognostication begin?
10 years ago, The West Wing premiered, starring Bradley Whitford as a DC insider based on Rahm Emanuel. Whitford's character, Josh Lyman, eventually became chief of staff to the first member of a racial minority to become President (Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos), who defeated a veteran, moderate Republican senator from the West (Alan Alda as Arnold Vinick). True, Santos was a Hispanic Texan, not an African-American from Illinois, but still, not bad - especially since West Wing writer and producer Eli Attie confirms Santos was modeled in part on Barack Obama, back in 2004 before Obama was even a senator.
Now, with the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, we have another real-life parallel. For his first appointment to the high court, West Wing president Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) decided to nominate the first Hispanic justice: Roberto Mendoza, played by Edward James Olmos. Again, hardly perfect prognostication - among other things, Mendoza was from Brooklyn, while Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx – but not bad, especially for a show written a decade before Sotomayor's nomination.
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