West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Seventh Season Episodes * #706 "The Al Smith Dinner"
Written by: Eli Attie, Directed by:  Lesli Linka Glatter
Leo and Santos
John Spencer as Leo McGarry,
Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos
NBC Universal Photo: Mitchell Haddad
Takes Place: The day after Toby is fired.
Broadcast: Sunday, October 30, 2005

Both campaigns are talking about the debates which they can't agree on. Santos give Josh orders,
"Break the logjam. And lower expectations."
"Okay, those are contradictory orders, 'cause the more I give to get an agreement, the more it's going to look—"
"Get it done."

And they are talking about the Al Smith dinner in New York. A dinner to honor the first Catholic to run for president, a benefit for Catholic charities. But with a largely Catholic attendance neither candidate wants to face the abortion issue in that setting. And at the same time both candidates see an ad about Santos and abortion from something called the Committee for the Integrity of Human Life. Vinick is a livid as Santos,
"Who told them to draw abortion into my campaign."

Neither candidate wants to get into a negative tit for tat campaign and yet there are complications. And back at the White House, Will starts his job as Communications Director, but as he tells Margaret,
"I don't really feel comfortable working in Toby's old office."
"Think of it as the Communications Director's office."
"I can't help thinking of it as a federal crime scene."

Everything has been removed from Toby's office except that ball Toby used to bounce against the wall when he was thinking things through. Will bounces it tentatively as C.J. walks in. She talks to him about
"...your first press briefing."
Vinick, Santos
Alan Alda as
Senator Arnold Vinick,
Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos
NBC Universal Photo: Mitchell Haddad

"You don't want me briefing today."
"I do."
"I need a few days to get up to speed. I don't know the first thing about the leak investigation and I haven't even sat down with Counsel."
"Refer those questions to Counsel's office."
"Those questions? What about the entire briefing?"
"We have to show that we've replaced Toby without missing a beat. There's an ongoing investigation. There's not much we can say about it anyway."
Will does the briefing and watching it on TV Margaret tells C.J., "They're crushing him like a grape."
"He's doing fine."
Later Will and C.J. discuss it before the second briefing, "You saw the wires. They counted the number of questions I was asked this morning because I didn't answer one of them."
"You thought we were going to get good coverage this week?"
"Forty-seven, by the way; career high."
"You have to let the press punch themselves out."
"You're talking to the punching bag. My job is to look like I'm not completely ignorant. Counsel won't even brief me on the details of Toby's firing."
"I asked them not to."
"Don't you want me to have a shred of credibility in the briefing room?"
"Your ignorance is your credibility. That's why I put you in this job. And your constituents aren't in that room...."
"O for 47. I'm the Jamaican Bobsled Team."

Back on the Santos campaign, Josh tells his staff to hire a woman to read their campaign statement. They tell him they found someone: "She was working for the Midwest Corridor Campaign." Josh watches the statement and it is Donna reading it. He complains but can't give a reason for why he objects to this person. Vinick has a reason, however,
"She's hitting me from the left and from the right.... telling the right I'm pro-abortion, telling the left I'm a captive of the religious nuts."
His campaign manager, tells him, "I think you should... go to the Al Smith dinner, talk about your opposition to partial-birth abortion; and the minute the Santos campaign runs its first negative ad we run a hundred of ours."
"Years, I've been looking forward to this campaign. I never imagined it would look like this."
"It willl look better after you win."

And he isn't the only one being hit. Some women's groups have decided Santos is not as pro-choice as they want and since Vinick is also pro-choice and he is 9 points ahead, they are thinking of talking to him about their concerns. Leo can't talk them out of talking to Vinick. And Will has to face the Press lions again. He appeals to C.J. but her only advice is,
"Follow your instincts"
"My instincts say to curl up in a ball in the corner of my office"
"Then follow your job description"
After his opening statement in the briefing, he tells the press, "I'll dodge your questions now." But they have given up.

And at the Santos campaign, Lou pulls Josh into a room where they find Donna,
Leo, Santos
Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos,
John Spencer as Leo McGarry, Lisa Darr as Becca
NBC Universal Photo: Mitchell Haddad
"I don't know what the problem is between you two, but she's great on television and I don't care if she worked for Francisco Franco in the primary, right now it's all hands on deck. So, work it out." And she leaves them alone together.
"What kind of on-the-record experience do you have?"
"Is this a job interview?"
"I'm campaign manager, I hire the staff, generally involves an interview. On-the-record experience?"
"Six hours ago, nationally televised press conference, Santos-McGarry campaign."
"References, if we want to pursue this?"
"Josh Lyman, campaign manager. Try the main switchboard."
"He tell you that campaigns require loyalty; you don't go working for the other guy?"
"Who happened to be the Party's front-runner."
"You knew I wasn't supporting him; me, your mentor in professional politics."
"The guy who taught me to answer a phone, who kept me in grunt-level servitude because I knew he liked his hamburgers burnt like hockey pucks?"
"You ditched me when I gave you a career."
"As a short-order cook...."
Lou comes back into the room, "I hope you two are getting along like peas in a pod. It just broke over the wires: Women's Alliance wants to meet with Vinick. I need you to spin it bad for, him fine for us."
"How is that even possible?"
She tells her, "Bad for us, worse for him; whatever sticks to the wall."

Later Will finds his own bouncy ball on his desk with a ribbon around it. He is the new Communications Director. And the two candidates (both of whom felt forced to go to the dinner) meet before going on stage at the Al Smith dinner and they agree to a debate.

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (as well as more information),
let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

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