It's never a good idea to get into an argument with a fictional character. Especially a fictional character created and still being fed material by an Oscar-winning writer.
And it does appear that Utah's junior U.S. senator, Mike Lee, might be traveling down the same unwise path taken by another then-young Republican, Vice President Dan Quayle, who looked rather a fool when he attacked the "lifestyle choice" of single motherhood made by an imaginary news broadcaster named Murphy Brown back in 1992.
But, in our senator's defense, two points.
First, Lee didn't throw the first punch. The senator the other day merely let it be known that he didn't appreciate the way his positions and history were described in a rapid-fire Aaron Sorkin scene in the new HBO series "The Newsroom."
And, in quibbling about the facts, Lee has a point. He has not really called for a full-on repeal of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. And he did not defeat former Sen. Robert Bennett in a primary election. Those claims were among the bill of particulars listed by two characters in the show who were lamenting what they saw as a hard right shift in the Republican Party.
On the other hand. While the characters he writes may be journalists, Sorkin isn't. He's a writer of television shows ("The West Wing") and movies ("A Few Good Men," "The Social Network") and his goal is not history, but getting his message across. And, to be realistic in his writing, Sorkin might opt to put sloppy memories, rather than precise research, into the mouths of his characters.
Lee defeated Bennett in the state GOP convention, not a primary election. Still, Sorkin's point that the moderate Republican is becoming a thing of the past is not invalid.
Lee doesn't advocate for the repeal of the 14th Amendment. But he does want to so reinterpret it as to end the way it has been read since it was adopted, 144 years ago last Monday, in granting automatic citizenship to every human being born within this nation's borders, whether the baby's mother was here legally or not. That's enough of a change to settled law that a shorthand reference to it as "repeal" is a fair, if dramatically licensed, description.
Sorkin isn't writing a textbook or a legal brief. He's writing drama that he hopes will be widely watched and enjoyed. His points could probably be just as well made, though, if he hired a couple of fact-checkers.
Otherwise, Lee's protests gain strength. And conservatives' mistrust of the "liberal media" gains some unfortunate traction.