West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Third Season Episodes * #308 (52) "The Women of Qumar"
Toby Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler
NBC Photo: James Sorensen
Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin, Story: Felicia Willson, Laura Glasser, Julia Dahl, Directed by: Alex Graves
Takes Place:
Broadcast: November 28, 2001
Query: Is Qumar a real country or deliberately invented as a plot device?
Query: Where & how did the term "Red Tape" come to be mean government boondoggles?

Throughout this episode, C.J. disagrees with the rest of the staff (and others) on two subjects. She wins her point on one but loses on the other. One of these concerns a possible mad cow outbreak in Nebraska. No one will know for 72 hours the results of tests that will give an answer as to whether there is an infection in U.S. herds. C.J. advises the President and Leo to release this information but Leo disagrees:
"In three days we will have our facts straight. We can make a full disclosure. . . . Meanwhile the USDA takes the time for tracing, checking feed logs, herd movements. . . . Waiting buys us time to get some reassuring answers."
"I don't know how many more times we can get caught keeping a secret," C.J. tells him.
"Sometimes that's what we're supposed to do."

The other subject is a new lease on Kalifa Air Base in Qumar in The Gulf. In order to keep the base, the Administration has agreed to sell some powerful weapons to this country. C.J. tells Leo:
"Three weeks ago a woman in Qumar was executed for adultery. She didn't need a lawyer 'cause there was no trial. It was her husband's word against hers. . . . Later today I'm going to be announcing that we're selling them tanks and guns." Leo doesn't have an answer for her.

The President worries about how the public will deal with even a hint of a problem with the beef supply:
"The most costly disruptions. . . . Always happen when something we take completely for granted stops working for a minute."

C.J. is lobbying everyone she can about the Qumar situation. Toby pulls her aside to caution her, but he doesn't get far:
"If I were living in Qumar, I wouldn't be allowed to say, 'Shove it up your ass, Toby'. But since I'm not, shove it up your ass, Toby."

Sam thinks the President should deal with a lawsuit by coming out in favor of a law which has no chance of passing. Bartlet responds:
"I can't be responsible every time somebody irrationally twists my meaning. People are responsible for themselves. . . . All that's left are personal behavior and bad luck and I'm not responsible for either one. And. . . if Mrs. Landingham was here right now, she'd say the exact same thing."

Later the President calls in the staff who know about the Mad Cow developments. Again, most of the staff want to keep it secret until they know more. C.J. sums up her position:
". . . the public will not forgive a President who withheld information that could have helped them or saved lives. Second, in a crisis people need to feel like soldiers not victims. Third, information breeds confidence. Silence breeds fear. That's my argument."

Then C.J. talks to the National Security Advisor on selling weapons to a regime which gives no rights to women and seems to keep them alive only to produce more men. But C.J. admits:
"I don't suggest foreign policy around here. . . . I don't know how we can tolerate this kind of suffering anymore. . . .The point is that Apartheid was an East Hampton clambake compared to what we laughingly refer to as the 'life' these women lead and if we had sold M1A1s to South Africa 15 years ago, you'd have set the building on fire."

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

Background from Bravo: What you need to know from past episodes.

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