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Good drama, not news reporting, is his goal

For a guy selling politics to the American public, Aaron Sorkin is surprisingly modest about his own political savvy.

"I'm not particularly sophisticated when it comes to political issues," he says. "I read the same newspapers as everyone else and that's really as far as it goes." The rest, says the author of the play (and screenplay) "A Few Good Men," is dramatic writing, "and the things that I write need to respect the properties of dramatic writing."

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The idea for the NBC drama "West Wing" came to him on the spur of the moment at a lunch his agent arranged for him with "ER" producer John Wells.

"As soon as I sat down," Mr. Sorkin says, he realized "he's expecting me to pitch him something." Having just finished the Michael Douglas-Annette Bening romantic film comedy "The American President," Sorkin says he was full of unused research and ideas from that project.

"What about the White House?" is what tumbled out of his mouth.

The Syracuse (N.Y.) University graduate says his lack of deep background in politics doesn't stop him from believing in basic American ideals.

"I was sitting at the White House with [then-presidential adviser] George Stephanopoulos," says Sorkin of his research for the film. "I had such a sense this was a real guy, and I had such a patriotic feeling. He's the same age as [I am]," he adds with a laugh.

This enthusiasm for the possibilities of government is a family legacy, Sorkin says. "I got the somewhat romantic notion that government can be good from my father," he explains.

While he keeps up with current events, he says he feels no responsibility to present news. "My job is to captivate the audience," he says. "I feel no responsibility to the literal truth."

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