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PRESIDENT IS EN ROUTE TO WEST COAST SPEECH WHILE TENSE CRISIS IN GULF UNFOLDS -- While President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and some of the staff are en route overnight to Portland for a major education speech, Leo (John Spencer) remains behind to monitor a tense situation in the Persian Gulf when a foreign tanker is suspected of smuggling contraband oil and fires on U.S. Navy helicopters sent to investigate. Elsewhere, Josh (Bradley Whitford) is on a tight deadline when he debates with an opposing party's congressman (guest star Charley Lang) -- who happens to be gay -- the merits of a bill brought before the President that would prohibit same-sex marriages. On the plane, Toby (Richard Schiff) tries to re-work Sam's (Rob Lowe) questionable speech on education while Charlie (Dulé Hill) offers a novel idea that would result in more teachers. In addition, secretary Margaret (guest star Nicole Robinson) worries that her boss, Leo, might be tempted to take a drink after he signs his divorce papers.



The episode opens with the presidential motorcade arriving at Andrews Air Force Base. Charlie tells the President the Assistant Energy Secretary is going to ride on Air Force One so he can speak with the President on the way back. In the press van, C.J. is giving the press the schedule for the trip. Danny asks her why she is going on the trip. She admits that she made fun of Notre Dame on the eve of the Michigan-Notre Dame football game, and the President—a proud Notre Dame alumnus—is bringing her along as punishment.

Leo speaks with the President on the tarmac and he tells Bartlet about a meeting he had with Bruno and Hess about a tanker that U.S. forces stopped in the Gulf and they may board. At the top of the steps, the President makes C.J. put on a Notre Dame cap and they turn around for photos - to C.J.'s consternation and embarrassment.

Act I[]

Back at the White House, Josh is on the phone with Leo, who is in the car on the way back to the White House. Donna has a date, and Josh tells her that she has to be back because he is meeting with Congressman Skinner. Ainsley shows up at the mess to get a soft drink and some ice. She is carrying a fan because her office is hot, despite the sub freezing temperatures outside.

On the plane, Sam is suffering through a case of writer's block and wants to rework a speech that he wrote. C.J. has already had the draft distributed to the press and Toby and Sam ask her to get it back. The President asks C.J. about the tanker that has been stopped in the Gulf. He then gives her the lyrics to the Notre Dame fight song and tells her to lead the press in a rendition as the plane passes over South Bend.

Republican Congressman Matt Skinner shows up in Josh's office to talk about an anti-gay-marriage bill currently in Congress. Skinner is gay, and Josh cannot believe he is supporting the bill. Leo arrives in the Situation Room to get a briefing over the stopped tanker. There has been some exchange of gunfire and Leo goes to tell the President about the situation.

Act II[]

Margaret comes in to talk to Leo. She is concerned that he might drink today because his divorce papers arrived. She tells Leo that the President is on the phone. He picks it up and dismisses Margaret with a wave. Donna returns from her [bad] date and goes off to find Josh, after a conversation with Leo, where she expresses her concern for him as well. Josh and Congressman Skinner are in the Mess and talking about the bill.

Sam and Toby are working on the speech and they argue about what the message should be. C.J. goes back to the press and asks them to give back the old draft - which they don't want to do, but Carol starts to collect them. Charlie tells C.J. that they are approaching South Bend and that the President likes to hear the song at a "brisk and steady tempo."

Colonel Chase comes to see Leo to update him about the tanker situation. The ship was boarded but they threw the manifest and the log overboard. Aboard Air Force One, the President talks with C.J., Toby, and Sam about the flight and why late night flights are romantic. They are interrupted by a phone call from Leo for the President.

Act III[]

Donna comes to see Ainsley Hayes in her basement office (the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue). Ainsley is trying to get her work done - but Donna thinks the two of them look alike. Ainsley tells her she is crazy.

Congressman Skinner and Josh continue their discussions over the provisions in the gay marriage bill. Josh continues to be incredulous that a gay Congressman would side with the Republicans on the bill.

Aboard Air Force One, Sam, Toby, and the President are going over the draft of the education speech. The President is still looking for the "big message" in the speech. He wants to know where the call for 100,000 teachers went. Toby responds they can't get the people to commit to teaching in a public school. Sam sees Charlie scribble "send them to college" and asks him what he means by that. Charlie (at the President's urging) replies that the government pays for your schooling if you serve in the armed forces; why couldn't there be a similar incentive for people who would commit to teach in a public school?

Act IV[]

Josh and Congressman Skinner wrap up their argument when Skinner pushes Josh to "ask him the question!" Josh finally blurts out, "How can you be a member of that party!?" The Congressman explains that his sexuality does not define him. He says that he agrees with most of the Republican platform and he can live with the rest. Josh thanks him for coming by. As Skinner leaves, Josh sees him interact with the other Republican Congressmen who accompanied him. Skinner tells them that the President will sign the bill. One of the Republicans congratulates Skinner on a job well done and chummily puts his arm around Skinner. Skinner coldly tells the Congressman to take his arm off him, showing more disgust for his fellow party member than he may have let on to Josh.

C.J. comes to see Toby and Sam, who are arguing about the 100,000 teachers proposal. They tell her to tell the press there may be a new initiative in the education speech, even though C.J. has already told the press not to expect anything new. She leaves and the two men resume their argument over how to pay for tuition incentives for teachers. In the bullpen, Ainsley has set up and is trying to work as Donna talks at her. Josh comes and asks Ainsley about some of the provisions in the Marriage Recognition Act. Toby calls to talk to Josh and he tells Toby that it is his job to rein in the President when he gets too far out. Toby starts to tell him about the idea of tuition incentives for teachers, but is interrupted by the captain announcing their descent into Portland.

Josh goes off to see Leo in his office. On the way, he tells Donna that she looks really nice and she should keep the dress (which she had bought for the date and had every intention of returning the next day). Leo is on the phone with the President talking about the oil tanker and Bartlet has to settle to let the ship go. Josh then talks to the President about the Marriage Recognition Act. Josh tells him that he should "put it in a drawer." Bartlet doesn't like the idea of pocket vetoes and would rather veto the bill outright, but Josh persuades him to settle for a pocket veto to avoid political blowback (though the bill will be back in the future).

C.J. comes to see the President and asks him why he went to Notre Dame (in response to a question from the press). The President tells her that he chose Notre Dame because he was thinking of becoming a priest, but he gave up that plan when he met Abbey. Toby then comes in and gives the President a draft of the speech. He also suggests the President form a group to investigate a pilot program for tuition incentives for 100 teachers, instead of the 100,000 initially suggested. Bartlet agrees that it's a start - and since he has had to swallow the two other issues, he's going to give this one a chance.


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

Special Guest Star

Timothy Busfield as Danny Concannon

Guest Starring

Emily Procter as Ainsley Hayes
Charley Lang as Matt Skinner
David Graf as Colonel Mark Chase
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
Michael Tomlinson as Congressman
Gregg Daniel as Steve Adamley


Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
Jana Lee Hamblin as Reporter Bobbi
Don Chastain as Reporter #2
Randolph Brooks as Arthur Leeds
Richard Hoyt Miller as Air Force One Steward
Timothy Dale Agee as Air Force One Steward
Michael Cunio as Mike



  • During the scene in Ainsley's office, the oscillating fan changes direction between shots.
  • In the President's study, a laptop is open that shows which parts of the world are in daylight and night. The North Pole is shown to be in daylight. The North Pole is only in daylight between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (between late March and late September), whereas this episode takes place at some time in November when the North Pole would already be in darkness.
  • The phrase 'permanent revolution' is most closely associated with Leon Trotsky, not Mao Zedong, as Toby and the President claim.
  • The President claims that Mao took a lot of long flights. Actually, he never flew, as travelling by plane would leave him vulnerable to assassination attempts. He preferred using an armoured train.
  • As noted, this episode takes place in November sometime after the midterm elections and before Thanksgiving. In the year 2000, when the episode aired, Notre Dame did not play Michigan. The Notre Dame-Michigan game, when it is played, is typically scheduled in September.
  • When Leo is getting a brief in the Situation Room, the Air Force Colonel tells Leo that the tanker is being boarded by Naval personnel from a CH-47 Seahawk. This is incorrect, "CH-47" and "Seahawk" are two separate helicopters. The model designation, CH-47, is an Army helicopter called "Chinnok" and the Naval helicopter called "Seahawk" has the the model designation SH-60.


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
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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
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