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West Wing Wiki

WHICH WHITE HOUSE INSIDER WROTE DAMAGING MEMO ATTACKING THE PRESIDENT? -- LAURA INNES ("ER") DIRECTS -- Rumors percolate about a scathing memo that outlines the weaknesses of President Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) administration for his political rival and grip the White House until C.J. (Allison Janney) learns it came from one of the trusted staff. C.J. finally discovers that the memo is in the possession of one reporter and tries to dissuade him from publishing it. Meanwhile, Sam (Rob Lowe) and Toby (Richard Schiff) meet with opposing military officers and congressmen to discuss amending the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy towards LGBTQIAP+ in the armed forces. When two members of the Federal Election Commission resign, Josh (Bradley Whitford) sees opportunity and moves fast to meet with contentious senators to suggest that the President appoint two Democrats as replacements instead of sharing one spot with the Republicans. Leo (John Spencer) not only has trouble with the White House's faulty e-mail system, he confronts the President and issues a challenge that could define or destroy his administration.


As the episode opens, Sam and Toby are discussing the remarks that President Bartlet is to deliver. Toby urges Sam to remember to change the opening line which remarks about the "magnificent vista" if it rains. Sam assures Toby that it's not going to rain -- he received the weather forecast from the US Coast Guard, from the National Weather Service ("They use satellites, they use technology") -- only for lightning to flash and thunder to crash as a downpour begins. Toby glances out the window, remarking snarkily, "This is the same satellite technology they use to track intercontinental ballistic missiles, right?" The ceremony gets moved indoors.

C.J. stops into Toby's office to ask if either of them knew about a "piece of paper that's out there," though neither of them are aware of it. Leo joins them and they walk over to the OEOB for the ceremony. At the OEOB, the President is not looking forward to the event, a gig with the United Trout Fisherman.

Josh arrives and tells the President the hot button issues (the congressional budget office is revising its out-year projections; two comissioners have resigned from the Federal Election Commission (FEC); the National Governors' Association (NGA) is endorsing trigger locks...). Upon hearing about the resignations, the President sees a chance to move the direction of the FEC toward aggressive campaign finance reform by supporting for the newly available positions folks with the appropriate opinions. Leo expresses his skepticism about the wisdom of this idea, but the President assures him that he would just like "to dangle his feet in the water" and see what he can see.

As the senior staff stands to watch the President deliver his remarks, Toby prompts Sam, who swears angrily. He says to a confused Leo, "I forgot to do something." The President starts his speech grandly: "As I look out over this magnificent vista ..."

Back inside the West Wing, Josh is explaining to Donna how the FEC works: basically, there are six members, each of whom serve a six-year term, and two positions are up for appointment every two years. This is a first time that two commissioners have resigned at the same time. Of course, Donna wants to take advantage of this opportunity, only for Josh to tell her about the roadblock: despite having the authority to fill the appointments, the President is essentially dictated by the party leadership on both sides in order to keep the peace. Josh thinks fighting against this will have no chance of success.

After the press briefing about Easter activities at the White House, C.J. asks Steve about the piece of paper. Mandy comes to see C.J. and tells her that she wrote a memo for Russell outlining how to beat Bartlet for renomination. C.J. takes Mandy to task and demands a copy of the memo now. Mandy brings a copy of the report to C.J. for her to read. C.J. asks who else has it and Mandy says she doesn't know. C.J. sends her away and she sits down to read it.

Josh arrives in Leo's office and offers two names to put on the FEC, John Bacon and Patricia Calhoun. Leo tells Josh to meet with the top staff of the Congressional leadership to take some temperatures on how this might go. Josh meets with the staff and they have (obviously) two different names. The representative for the Majority Leader tells Josh that not only will the Republicans vote down the nominees, there will be political retribution. Josh decides to push back and try and make this happen. Donna brings Josh information that he requested about some of the issues that might get forced on them.

Toby and Sam go into a meeting with military leaders about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Sam has command of a number of statistics about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and they go back and forth. C.J. comes and gets Toby out of the meeting to talk about Mandy's memo, which she has finished reading. Later, Josh and Mandy have it out about the memo. C.J. goes to see Danny to find out who has the report. Danny tells her that he does. The two of them fight about it and C.J. storms off.

Toby goes to see Leo about the report and Admiral Fitzwallace comes out of the office and asks Toby about what the meeting is about across the hall. Toby tells him it is about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Toby tells Leo about the report and Leo responds it will be alright. Admiral Fitzwallace stops into the meeting, making the military officers jump to attention. Fitzwallace declares that he is not necessarily for changing the policy, but then again they said the same thing about him fifty years ago. Sam goes out after him and thanks him for stopping in. The meeting wraps up when the Congressman declares that the White House is not serious about changing the policy.

Later, Toby brings Leo his "second piece of bad news in one day." The latest poll numbers have the President's approval number at 42% - they dropped five points in a week. The rest of the Senior Staff come into Leo's office and recount their days and the issues that are coming at them. Charlie comes in and tells Leo the President wants to see him. Leo comes into the Oval Office and they have it out about the President being stuck in neutral. Leo tells him that "he serves at the pleasure of the President" and he would do whatever the President tells him to do. Leo urges him to let the staff off the leash and lets try and get something done.

Leo takes a pad and writes in big letters - "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" and goes back and tells the Senior Staff to get working. They all respond with, "I serve at the pleasure of the President."


Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
Moira Kelly as Mandy Hampton
Dulé Hill as Charlie Young
Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg
Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
John Spencer as Leo McGarry
Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman
and Martin Sheen as President Bartlet

Special Guest Star

John Amos as Percy Fitzwallace

Recurring cast

Timothy Busfield as Danny Concannon
Janel Moloney as Donna Moss
Renee Estevez as Nancy

Guest Starring

Paul Provenza as Steve Onorato
Richard Penn as Blakely
Aaron Lustig as Jerry Graham
James DuMont as Major Thompson
Ted Marcoux as Major Tate
David Brisbin as Ken
Andy Buckley as Mike Satchel


Kathryn Joosten as Dolores Landingham
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
Kim Webster as Ginger
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
Charles Noland as Steve
Kris Murphy as Katie Witt


The theme of the Egg Hunt is "learning is delightful and delicious" - as, by the way, am I
—C.J. Cregg
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

President Josiah Bartlet: We've heard it all before, Leo: you drive me to the political safe ground. It's not true.
Leo McGarry: I know it's not true.
President Josiah Bartlet: Good.
Leo McGarry: You drive me there.
President Josiah Bartlet: What the hell did you say?
Leo McGarry: We're stuck in neutral because that's where you want to be.

Leo McGarry: Say it out loud. Say it to me.
President Josiah Bartlet: This is more important than re-election. I want to speak now.
Leo McGarry: Say it again.
President Josiah Bartlet: This is more important than re-election. I want to speak now.
Leo McGarry: Now we're in business.

Josh Lyman: I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States.

President Josiah Bartlet: Is Toby on his way?
Charlie Young: Yeah.
President Josiah Bartlet: C.J.?
Charlie Young: Yeah.
President Josiah Bartlet: Why aren't they here now?
Charlie Young: They didn't know it was raining, sir.
President Josiah Bartlet: Nothing like surrounding yourself with the best and the brightest, Charlie.

[Prior to the president's speech at the American Association of Trout Fishermen convention]

Leo McGarry: Are you going to concentrate on this now, or is your head going to be on changing the nature of democracy?
President Josiah Bartlet: No, I'm definitely going to be thinking about the trout fishermen, Leo, 'cause that's where my focus should be.

Donna Moss: Two commissioners just resigned?
Josh Lyman: At the same time.
Donna Moss: How many times has that happened?
Josh Lyman: Including this time?
Donna Moss: Yeah.
Josh Lyman: Once.

Major Tate: Sir, we're not prejudiced toward homosexuals.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don't want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?
Major Tate: No sir, I don't.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: 'Cause they impose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.
Major Tate: Yes, sir.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That's what I think, too. I also think the military wasn't designed to be an instrument of social change.
Major Tate: Yes, sir.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that's what they were saying about me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn't serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the U.S. Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... Beat that with a stick.

Leo McGarry: 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.
President Josiah Bartlet: I don't want to feel like this any longer.
Leo McGarry: You don't have to.[1]


  • A military officer actually uses the word 'sodomy' in reference to LGBTQIAP+ people.
  • In one scene, Josh is seen carrying a copy of A Necessary Evil, a book on the history of distrust in the American Government.  According to the description on the amazon.com page for the book, "In A Necessary Evil, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills shows that distrust of government is embedded deep in the American psyche. From the revolt of the colonies against king and parliament to present-day tax revolts, militia movements, and debates about term limits, Wills shows that American antigovernment sentiment is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our history. By debunking some of our fondest myths about the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the taming of the frontier, Wills shows us how our tendency to hold our elected government in disdain is misguided.". Based on the "errand" that Josh is running during this episode, the book is well-placed and timely.
  • Sam attempts to assure Toby that it will not rain before President Bartlett gives his speech based on a report he received from First Lieutenant Emily Lowenbrau of the US Coast Guard. Although this is viewed as a goof as "First Lieutenant" is not a Coast Guard rank, it is in fact a billet and position title, held by the officer in command of the deck department[1]


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The West Wing" Let Bartlet Be Bartlet (2000) — Quotes and trivia copied from IMDb

I PilotPost Hoc, Ergo Propter HocA Proportional ResponseFive Votes Down
The Crackpots and These WomenMr. Willis of OhioThe State DinnerEnemiesThe Short List
In Excelsis DeoLord John MarburyHe Shall, from Time to Time...Take Out the Trash Day
Take This Sabbath DayCelestial Navigation20 Hours in L.A.The White House Pro-Am
Six Meetings Before LunchLet Bartlet Be BartletMandatory Minimums
Lies, Damn Lies and StatisticsWhat Kind of Day Has It Been?
II In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part I)In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part II)The Midterms
In This White HouseAnd It's Surely to Their CreditThe Lame Duck CongressThe Portland Trip
ShibbolethGalileoNoëlThe Leadership BreakfastThe Drop-In
Bartlet's Third State of the UnionThe War at HomeEllie
Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to JailThe Stackhouse Filibuster
17 PeopleBad Moon RisingThe Fall's Gonna Kill You18th and PotomacTwo Cathedrals
III Manchester (Part I)Manchester (Part II)Ways and MeansOn the Day BeforeWar CrimesGone QuietThe Indians in the LobbyThe Women of QumarBartlet for AmericaH.Con - 172100,000 AirplanesThe Two BartletsNight FiveHartsfield's LandingDead Irish Writers
The U.S. Poet LaureateStirredEnemies Foreign and DomesticThe Black Vera Wang
We Killed YamamotoPosse Comitatus
IV 20 Hours in America (Part I)20 Hours in America (Part II)College KidsThe Red Mass
Debate CampGame OnElection NightProcess StoriesSwiss DiplomacyArctic Radar
Holy NightGuns Not ButterThe Long GoodbyeInauguration (Part I)
Inauguration: Over There (Part II)The California 47thRed Haven's on FirePrivateers
Angel MaintenanceEvidence of Things Not SeenLife On MarsCommencementTwenty-Five
V 7A WF 83429The Dogs of WarJefferson LivesHanA Constituency of OneDisaster ReliefSeparation of PowersShutdownAbu el BanatThe Stormy PresentThe Benign PrerogativeSlow News DayThe Warfare of Genghis KhanAn KheFull DisclosureEppur Si Muove
The SupremesAccessTalking PointsNo ExitGazaMemorial Day
VI NSF ThurmontThe Birnam WoodThird-Day StoryLiftoffThe Hubbert PeakThe Dover TestA Change Is Gonna ComeIn The RoomImpact WinterFaith Based Initiative
Opposition Research365 DaysKing CornThe Wake Up CallFreedoniaDrought ConditionsA Good DayLa PalabraNinety Miles AwayIn God We TrustThings Fall Apart2162 Votes
VII The TicketThe Mommy ProblemMessage of the WeekMr. FrostHere Today
The Al Smith DinnerThe DebateUndecidedsThe WeddingRunning Mates
Internal DisplacementDuck and CoverThe ColdTwo Weeks OutWelcome to Wherever You Are
Election Day (Part I)Election Day (Part II)RequiemTransitionThe Last Hurrah
Institutional MemoryTomorrow