Federal File

October 16, 2002 1 min read

The National Education Association early this month left no doubt about its leanings in the 2002 presidential election.

President Josiah Bartlet from NBC's The West Wing.

We agree with President Bartlett that we must come together as a country and “do better” on behalf of America’s children and America’s public schools.
—NEA Press Release
—Photo illustration

No, we’re not confused. Yes, President Bush won’t face the voters until 2004. But in the parallel universe of “The West Wing” on NBC, Democratic President Josiah Bartlet goes for another four years on Nov. 5. And the NEA is solidly behind the (fictional) Man from New Hampshire.

“The National Education Association strongly agrees with President Bartlet’s call for more teachers and better funded public schools,” the union said in an Oct. 3 press release.

The NEA, in a missive that carried no discernible whiff of satire, was reacting to a stemwinder President Bartlet gave on the Oct. 2 episode to a (fictional) NEA gathering.

”.. [T]here isn’t nearly enough, not nearly enough, not nearly enough money in our classrooms, and we can do something about that,” said Mr. Bartlet, the nation’s forty-second-and-a-half president, backed by a banner with the union’s (actual) slogan, “Making Public Schools Great for Every Child.”

The NEA press release went on: “The president can be sure that the members of the NEA will do our share to make public schools great for every child.”

Which president? Bartlet? Bush? Fillmore?

“We’re referring to President Bartlet,” said NEA spokeswoman Kathleen Lyons, who said the union did in fact have its tongue in cheek with the release. “But obviously we want to work with President Bush as well, the real president.”

The NEA release’s earnest tone triggered more than a few titters around Washington, given that President Bartlet exists only in the person of actor Martin Sheen.

“They’ve opened themselves up to cheap shots,” said Lisa Graham Keegan, the chief executive officer of the Education Leaders Council, “and they’re going to get them.”

President Bartlet could not be reached for comment.

“He doesn’t return my calls either,” Ms. Lyons said.

—Ben Wear