- Written by Aaron Sorkin, Story by Peter Parnell & Patrick Caddell, Directed by Laura Innes
- Broadcast: April 26, 2000
- Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin (for other credits, see Episodes)
- Takes Place: April 2000 (The press conference talks of upcoming Easter egg hunt & egg roll)
- The President, who hasn't been sleeping well, feels expansive enough to play with the idea of deciding who will be appointed to the Federal Election Commission. Leo thinks it's a waste of time and talks about attempts at:
- "Changing the nature of democracy." The President gets peevish at such complaints.
"You were in a better mood an hour ago," Leo says.
"I was in a better mood a year ago."
- Leo sends Josh out to talk to aides to the Senate leadership about the openings on the FEC. Meanwhile, Sam is beating his head against the wall in an attempt to change the policy they inherited of "Don't ask, don't tell" in the military. (Did the previous Republican Administration come up with that???).
- Then there is an opposition paper that turns up describing what is wrong with the Bartlet Administration and how it is vulnerable to someone running against them in the primary in the next election. As Josh says to Toby:
- "Our second year doesn't seem to be going a hell of a lot better than our first, does it?"
- When Toby tells Leo that the paper was written by Mandy, who now works for them, Leo replies:
- "That's politics ... she was playing for the other guys."
"...There's some observations the President's not going to be wild about."
"I move him to the middle," Leo says, guessing what the observations are.
"The sense is that his instinct is to be aggressive and you take him to safe
"Okay...Don't worry about it."
- And Danny has this memo and plans to publish it, though C.J. looks on that as a betrayal:
- "She's a key player in the Democratic Party and she says the President is staggeringly vulnerable. And that may not be good news for you C.J., but it's news." When C.J. objects, Danny refuses to be blamed. "You guys are stuck in the mud around here and none of it is the fault of the press. I know you're frustrated, but it ain't nothing to the frustration of the people who voted for you. So don't come in here questioning my. . ." Danny stops himself before saying the rest of the thought.
- And a new poll comes out which Toby reports to Leo:
- "CNN/USAToday puts our approval ratings at 42%".
". . .We dropped 5 points in a week?. . . We didn't do anything last week."
"I'll say." Toby, responds.
"Toby, when you start thinking about jumping ship, you'll let me know,
"...One victory in a year stinks, in the life of an administration. But it's
not the ones we lose that bother me, Leo, it's the ones we don't suit up
for." Toby's voice rises a bit, then he goes on. "And I'm not too crazy about you questioning my loyalty just then."
- Finally information on the paper gets to the President, who asks Leo:
- "Are you bothered by this?"
"We've heard it all before, Leo: You drive me to the political safe ground.
It's not true."
"I know it's not true. . . . You drive me there. And you know it, too. . . We're stuck in neutral because that's where you tell me to stay."
"No, I'm not, sir."
"You came to my house ... and you said 'Jed, let's run for President' and I said 'Why?' and you said 'So you can open your mouth and say what you think'. . . . Where did that part go, Leo?"
"You tell me, Mr. President. I don't see a shortage of cameras and microphones around here. What the hell were you waiting for?. . . Everything you do says 'For God's sake, Leo, I don't want to be a one-term President.' You dangle your feet and I'm the hall monitor around here. It's my job to make sure nobody runs too fast or goes off too far. . . . You ever told me to get aggressive about anything, I'd say 'I serve at the pleasure of the President' . . . . These people who would walk into fire if you told them to. . . . Everyone's waiting for you. I don't know how much longer."
"I don't want to feel like this any longer."
"You don't have to. . . ."
"This is more important than re-election, I want to speak now."
"I'm going to talk to the staff, I'm going to take them off the leash."
"You have a strategy for all this?"
"I have the beginning of one."
Leo writes out on a legal pad, "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet".
- Leo then talks to his staff:
- "Listen up. Our ground game isn't working. We're going to put the ball in the air. If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into 'em full speed. We're going to lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy."
- Theme of Episode: The Courage of One's Convictions vs Re-Election
For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode, let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.