West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fifth Season Episodes * #510 "The Stormy Present"
Stormy Present Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, James Cromwell as ex-President Newman
NBC: Warner Bros. photo

Teleplay by: John Sacret Young, Story by: John Sacret Young & Josh Singer, Directed by: Alex Graves
Broadcast: January 7, 2004
Query: Where does the title come from?
Query: Was North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights "snatched by one of Sherman's men"?

There are protests across Saudi Arabia. People are demanding more freedom, more say in their own government. This might be great in another country, but the U.S. is worried about Saudi oil. In spite of the problem, Bartlet and the staff are headed for Ford's Theater. Everybody except C.J. is dressed --- but all are hiding from the President, who has a tendency to force his staff to listen to trivia about the Lincoln assassination whenever they go to that theater. C.J. rushes to her office. The TV is on and she is focuses on it while she starts to undress.
The reporter on TV is talking about oil making Saudi Arabia, "...the epicenter of the world economy A civil war, a fanatical new regime, these could imperil our very way of life."
"Yeah, no kidding," Toby says to the TV.
"Oh!" C.J. shouts, stopping her rush to remove her suit jaccket, "Toby."
"Is there something you wanted?"
"World peace?"
"Toby, I'm not protecting you. Go hide from the President somewhere else."

But they all have to meet with Bartlet before leaving. He claims he is going to be easy on them this year.
"I'm not going to ask what was the line of dialogue that made the audience laugh that John Wilkes Booth used as cover to enter the Presidential box. I'm not going to ask about the broken lock to the box, the snapping shin bone, 'Sic Semper Tyrannis', Major Rathbone and Clara Harris..."

Leo and Mallory are just heading out when the Secret Service comes back in mumbling into their communication devices about the President being dead. Turns out ex-President Lassiter just died. The trip to the theater is cancelled. And soon thereafter Bartlet makes plans to go to the funeral. Leo has to stay at the White House. He keeps C.J. to brief. Josh has to stay to mediate a dispute between North Carolina and Connecticut about ownership of one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights. So, Toby has to go to the funeral with Bartlet and write the eulogy for the "far right" former President. As he gets on Air Force One with members of the dead President's administration, he tells Josh by phone,
"Who needs Dante? I'm on my way to hell at 30,000 feet."

On Air Force One Bartlet finds himself alone with two men who understand what it is like to have the weight of the office of President of the United States on their shoulders --- ex-President Newman, who was the last Democrat to hold the office before Bartlet, and Walken who only had the office for a few days. They talk about the situation developing in Saudi Arabia where protesters are demanding change. Walken says,
Stormy Present Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, James Cromwell as ex-President Newman
NBC: Warner Bros. photo
"We need wholesale change in the region. This is an opportunity. We're the only super power left. Why wouldn't we go into Riyadh?"
"The more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race...." Newman says with irony.
Bartlet says, "Glenn, I'm not sure we have the stomach for empire."
"I'm not looking for empire," Walker argues. "I'm not looking to colonize. If this protest is a call for democracy, I think we should create a provisional secular government, oversee the transition, and get out as fast as we can."
"Leaving them with a weak state and a hated Vichy government...." Newman says. "You start saddling up camels in every country in the Middle East then you better be prepared to spend the next 50 years sifting through sand because this isn't a quick run on the beach, Jed. This is the new world order."

Shortly thereafter, Bartlet sits with Toby, who is not finding it easy to write this eulogy. Plus he seems a little out of his element surrounded by these old men from the long ago administration. He tells Bartlet,
"I've been walking up and down these aisles looking at these old men, these great and terrible old men, and thinking: prosperous, free and democratic Saudi Arabia --- something to wish for. But the men on this plane spent the better part of the late 20th century trying to play God in other countries. And the regimes they anointed are the ones that haunt us today. Yeah, I'm not making much progress with the eulogy."
"...when we were elected, I really thought we were going to own the place --- do it differently, better. Now I realize the men on this plane are the only others who have been there before --- who really know."

"It's sad. It's just sad."

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