Summary: The West Wing episode “Take This Sabbath Day” deals with the moral dilemma faced by President Bartlet after he is asked to grant clemency to a man on death row. The episode explores themes of faith, justice, and politics.
1. The Clemency Request
The episode begins with a request for clemency for a man named Leo McGarry who is scheduled to be executed in two days. McGarry’s crime was committed during a robbery in which someone was killed. He has been on death row for over ten years, and his appeals have been exhausted. The request for clemency comes from McGarry’s parish priest, who is a friend of the President. The President is torn between his beliefs as a Catholic and his duties as the leader of the country.
At first, the President is hesitant to grant clemency. He discusses the case with his staff, who are divided on the issue, with some arguing for mercy and others for justice. The President also seeks advice from other religious leaders and tries to find a way to reconcile his faith with his duty to uphold the law.
The decision is ultimately left up to the President, who must choose whether or not to grant clemency. His decision has broader implications for his administration and for the country as a whole.
2. Faith and Morality
“Take This Sabbath Day” is a deeply religious episode, as it deals with the moral and ethical implications of the death penalty. The episode raises questions about the nature of justice and the role of faith in shaping our beliefs about right and wrong.
The President seeks guidance from his own Catholic faith, consulting with his priest and seeking input from other religious leaders. He grapples with the idea of forgiveness and redemption, wondering whether McGarry deserves a second chance. The episode also touches on the broader issues related to capital punishment, including the long appeals process and the potential for wrongful convictions.
The President’s struggle with his beliefs highlights the importance of religion in public life. It also highlights the difficult choices that leaders must make when faced with moral dilemmas. In the end, the President decides to grant clemency, but his decision is not without consequences.
3. Political Calculations
As the President considers whether or not to grant clemency, he must also think about the political ramifications of his decision. He knows that his decision will be scrutinized by the media and will have an impact on his approval ratings. He also considers how his choice will affect his relationships with other members of Congress and with the families of the victims.
The episode touches on broader themes related to politics and morality, highlighting the ways in which our values are shaped by our political beliefs. The President’s decision ultimately speaks to his commitment to justice and his willingness to stand up for what he believes in.
The episode also sheds light on the complicated relationship between religion and politics. While the separation of church and state is important, faith still plays a vital role in shaping our beliefs and shaping our society. The President’s decision to grant clemency reflects his faith-based commitment to justice.
4. The Power of Compromise
The West Wing is known for its emphasis on dialogue and compromise, and “Take This Sabbath Day” is no exception. The President seeks input from his staff and from other religious leaders, trying to find a way to reconcile his beliefs with his duties as President. He also takes into account the perspectives of others who are affected by his decision, including the families of the victim.
The episode shows the importance of compromise and negotiation in politics. The President ultimately decides to grant clemency, but he does so with conditions that are designed to address the concerns of those who disagree with his decision. In doing so, he shows that it is possible to find common ground even on contentious issues like the death penalty.
The episode also highlights the importance of empathy and compassion. By listening to the perspectives of others, the President is able to make a decision that takes into account the needs and concerns of different stakeholders.
“Take This Sabbath Day” is a powerful episode of The West Wing that deals with complex issues of faith, justice, and politics. The episode shows the importance of grappling with moral dilemmas and the difficult choices that leaders must make when faced with conflicting values. It also highlights the value of dialogue and compromise in politics, as well as the importance of empathy and compassion in decision-making.
In the end, the President’s decision to grant clemency reflects his commitment to justice and his willingness to stand up for what he believes in. It also serves as a reminder of the power of faith and morality in shaping our beliefs and our society.