The video: Even after Sunday night's welcome news that President Obama and Congressional leaders of both parties have hammered out a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and avoid default, countless Americans still aren't entirely sure what exactly the debt ceiling actually is, or why the threat of ignoring it was so dire. The most helpful tool: A "witty and wise" 2005 scene from the hit NBC drama The West Wing, scripted (by now-MSNBC commentator Lawrence O'Donnell) when the show's fictional White House was negotiating its own budget deal. (View clip below.) The key exchange: "So this debt ceiling thing is routine, or the end of the world?" Response: "Both."
The reaction: Leave it to "the only truly dependable arbiters of American political etiquette" to pen the first actually understandable explanation of the debt ceiling, says Storyful. That would be, of course, the scriptwriters of The West Wing. Yes, says Sarah Anne Hughes at The Washington Post. "In times of political trouble," we can reliably turn to Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing for answers. For this political lesson, says Kyle Buchanan at New York, watch with actress Kristen Chenoweth as your "tiny, adorable stand-in." Check it out: