The West Wing (1999–2006)
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The Debate 

A live debate between Santos and Vinick, performed once for the east coast and once for the west.


Alex Graves


Aaron Sorkin (created by), Lawrence O'Donnell (as Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.)




Episode complete credited cast:
Janeane Garofalo ... Louise Thornton
Ron Silver ... Bruno Gianelli
Teri Polo ... Helen Santos
Patricia Richardson ... Sheila Brooks
Forrest Sawyer ... Self
Alan Alda ... Senator Arnold Vinick
Kristin Chenoweth ... Annabeth Schott (credit only)
Allison Janney ... C.J. Cregg (credit only)
Mary McCormack ... Kate Harper (credit only)
John Spencer ... Leo McGarry (credit only)
Bradley Whitford ... Josh Lyman (credit only)
Jimmy Smits ... Matthew Santos
Martin Sheen ... President Josiah Bartlet (credit only)


In an episode originally broadcast live (there are two versions, one for the Eastern and Central time zones; one for the Pacific time zone), Santos and Vinnick square off in a debate with TV newsman Forrest Sawyer (as himself) moderating. Halfway through the debate, Santos departs from the "script" and begins delivering statements while pacing the stage; Vinnick joins in. Other cast members appear briefly in backstage film segments, and Ellen DeGeneres hosts (also on film) from an adjacent sound stage. Alan Alda (Vinnick), an accomplished stage actor, seems much more comfortable with the live format than Jimmy Smits (Santos) who blows several lines during the East Coast hour. Written by Peter Harris

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live broadcast | See All (1) »




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Did You Know?


The role of the debate moderator was offered to Jim Lehrer, Tim Russert & Tom Brokaw before Forrest Sawyer accepted the role. See more »


When Vinick says: "The same people who told you we were gonna run out of oil by the end of the twentieth century are now trying to scare us with global warming", he forgets to say theories at the end, but Santos still responds "Theories?!". See more »


Matthew Santos: This is not a law enforcement problem. This is an economic problem. If Mexico's economy was as strong as Canada's, there wouldn't be a problem. The President cannot solve this problem. You cannot seal a 2,000-mile border. Mexico has to solve it. Mexico has to grow its own economy. It has to provide enough jobs so that it's not worth it to try to cross into our borders illegally. There is no other real solution to this. And Senator Vinick is smart enough to know that, and I think you are, too.
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West Wing Main Title
Written by W.G. Snuffy Walden
Performed by Pete Anthony
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User Reviews

An Original, Perceptive, and Accurate Debate
15 March 2011 | by General_420See all my reviews

This episode is original, perceptive, and accurate. It is remarkable how each side portray their viewpoints on different political issues – health care, education, dependency on foreign oil, etc. The West Wing has always been a great show examining a vast array of political issues – while remaining fair to both Democrats and Republicans.

This episode is not like conventional episodes. It is literally a passionate debate between two sides. While watching the debate, I felt very engaged, it reminded of the first debate between President Obama and Senator McCain in the sense that an underdog is able to stand toe-to-toe with his competitor and debate with authority.

I highly recommend this episode because it felt like the old West Wing episodes that only Aaron Sorkin could deliver. Like many people that love the West Wing, I will agree that the show took a turn towards dull and uninspiring after Aaron Sorkin stopped writing, but this episode restored itself confirming that it is the best political show television has ever seen.

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Release Date:

6 November 2005 (USA) See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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