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Life imitates art: The new chief of staff on screen

Claire Soares

The parallels have been drawn between Barack Obama and President Matt Santos – the Hispanic who broke through the colour barrier on The West Wing. Now Rahm Emanuel, the man who was the real-life inspiration for Santos's wing man Josh Lyman, has been named as Obama's chief of staff. Is life imitating art or art imitating life?

For proof that Rahm was the spark for Josh, look no further than a dead fish. In Season Five of The West Wing, when Josh is still deputy chief of staff to President Bartlett, a self-aggrandising profile of him appears in The Washington Post.



"This story about me sending a congressman a dead fish wrapped in newspaper – the Post get this from you?" he barks at his assistant, Donna. Nope. Try Mr Emanuel, who reportedly sent the very same gift to a pollster with whom he'd fallen out.



With his arrogant, cocky manner, Josh was never interested in winning the popularity stakes and took immense pleasure in playing Congressmen off against each other to get his own way.



Mr Emanuel's steamrolling personality has similarly upset people on the Hill. There have been snippy comments about his "clanking brass balls" and even the man himself admits to waking up some mornings "hating me too". But there is a softer side to the pair. Mr Emanuel, for example, studied ballet in high school and was offered a scholarship to a prestigious dance academy. West Wing viewers never saw Josh don a pair of ballet pumps, but he did confess to Sam in series three that he had wanted to be a ballerina, when he was four. "I'd kinda like that not to get around," he quickly adds, aware his macho image may be threatened.



Both men are Jewish, although Rahm is observant while Josh is non-practising. But while Josh is an incorrigible womaniser, his alter-ego is a family man: Josh fools around with Amy Gardner; Rahm is married to Amy Rule. And Mr Emanuel will be hoping he avoids one other Lyman fate – being seriously injured in an assassination attempt by white supremacists.





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