West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Third Season Episodes * "Isaac and Ishmael"
Writer: Aaron Sorkin, Director: Christopher Misiano
Takes Place: Unknown
Broadcast: October 3, 2001
Query: What are the stories of Isaac and Ishmael as told in the Judeo-Christian and the Moslem traditions?
Query: Can you cross into Vermont from Ontario, Canada?
Query: What was that music at the end?

The Staff From "Isaac and Ishmael" -- Pictured: (l-r) Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Richard Schiff as Toby Zeigler, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman, Allison Janney as C. J. Cregg
Warner Bros. photo
During a "crash" ("means there has been some kind of security break: No one in or out of the White House"), Josh talks to some high school students who had won a trip to the White House through Presidential Classroom. Josh assures them that there is nothing to worry about. "We've been having these crashes once a week." Most of the security problems, it seems are due to Islamic extremists. But Josh emphasizes that the problems are not due to Muslims in general. Josh gives these high school students an SAT kind of question:
"Islamic extremist is to Islam as _______ is to Christianity."
After hearing from the students, Josh writes down his answer: "KKK. . . . It's the Klan gone medieval and global. It couldn't have less to do with Islamic men and women of faith of whom there are millions and millions.Muslims defend this country in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp, National Guard, Police and Fire Department."

When he runs out of other things to say, Josh calls in friends. First up:Toby.
"...there's nothing wrong with a religion whose laws say a man's got to wear a beard or cover his head or wear a collar. It's when violation of these laws become a crime against the state and not your parents that we're talking about lack of choice." He goes on to say that "The Taliban isn't the recognized government of Afghanistan. The Taliban took over the recognized government of Afghanistan. . . . When you think of Afghanistan, think of Poland. When you think of the Taliban, think of the Nazis. When you think of the people of Afghanistan, think of Jews in concentration camps."
Toby then goes on to tell a story told to him by a friend of his father's who had been in a Nazi concentration camp. "He said he once saw a guy at the camp kneeling and praying.
He said 'what are you doing?'
The guy said he was thanking God.
'What could you possibly be thanking God for?'
' I'm thanking God for not making me like them.'"
Then Toby says, "Bad people can't be recognized on sight. There's no point in trying."

Later a student asks Sam:
"...what do you call a society that has to just live every day with the idea that the pizza place you are eating in could just blow up without any warning?"
"Israel," Sam answers.

When C.J. joins them, Josh introduces her by saying:
"C.J. has a bizarre affection for the intelligence community."
C.J. comes back with "We need spies. Human spies. . . . It's time to give the intelligence agencies the money and the man power they need."

Meanwhile Leo takes part in the interrogation of an Arab American whose name corresponded to a name given by a terrorist who was caught entering the country from Canada. There are some circumstantial indications that the man, who is on the White House staff, may not be totally loyal to all U.S. policy in the Middle East.
The young man says, "It is not uncommon for Arab Americans to be the first suspected" in terrorist activities like bomb threats. Leo, being so very protective of the President and the Presidency as well as the country, isn't sympathetic.

Josh's parting advice to the students on how to relate to the terrorists is:
"...remember pluralism. You want to get these people? I mean, you really want to reach in and kill them where they live? Keep accepting more than one idea. It makes them absolutely crazy."

Leo has to face some pretty unpleasant things about his responses to all this. At the end he is so confused and embarrassed that his apology is some of the most realistic dialogue ever written. It is so realistic that like much of what each of us says when we are under a great deal of emotional distress, it is nearly incoherent.

What is the media writing about this episode (note most news organizations only make their stories available for a short time so these links may not work for more than a couple of weeks or so)?

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (or any other), let us recommend the listing at The West Wing Episode Guide.
28 Amendment
Don't miss Neal Rechtman's election thriller The 28th Amendment in which an actor
who portrays a fictional US President on television gets drawn into real-world politics
Previous SiteMap  Help Us  Home Next

Quotations & some other material copyrighted to John Wells Productions, et al.
Email westwing@bewarne.com to report mistakes, make comments, ask questions
(note: above email address doesn't reach anyone connected to the show itself).
An introduction to the BBC's "Blake's 7" (from Fantasy Empire), and
A guide to the 70's series "Kung Fu" are also available.