'The West Wing' - the TV Show Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'The West Wing' - the TV Show

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Martin Sheen, star of The West Wing - graphic by Community Artist Jimster.

The West Wing is one of the most highly regarded television dramas ever. The programme focuses on the operations of a fictional US Democratic president, Josiah Bartlet, seen through his eyes and those of some of his administration's staff as they juggle major international crises and smaller problems like persuading Senators to vote for a bill, all with liberal doses of humour mixed with drama. The staff and President are intelligent, decent people, working hard to do what they think is right. Most of the events of the programme take place in the West Wing of the White House, which is where the offices and work areas of the staff are located, and from which the programme takes its name.

On several occasions, the programme has used flashback sequences to tell stories, such as how the staff came to join the campaign, which adds to the backstory of the show. One of the flashbacks revealed the origins of a particularly idiosyncratic feature of the programme - the 'walk-and-talk' (or 'pedeconferencing'), where instead of sitting down for meetings, the staff discuss things as they walk. The flashback showed this practice began because the staff couldn't find the rooms they were meant to be using for meetings! Also, in series three, a special The West Wing documentary was aired, talking to Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton as well as former White House staffers.

From the middle of season six, the focus of the show shifted towards the selection of a Democratic candidate and the subsequent election campaign to choose Bartlet's successor after his two terms were up (there was a lot of screwing of time lines due to the writers being aware that the show was coming to an end). One of the major episodes was a live partly-improvised debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Two versions were made, one for the East Coast audience, another for the West Coast audience. The audience was asked to vote on who they thought performed the best, and it was believed that this would be the method that the show used to choose who would win the election.

The West Wing has wrestled with problems ranging from foreign aid, drugs, Hollywood, and education to terrorism, diplomacy and foreign policy and the census.

Readers should note that this entry includes spoilers of both the major and minor varieties.

President Josiah Bartlet: I was watching a television programme before, with a kind of roving moderator who spoke to a seated panel of young women who were having some sort of problem with their boyfriends - apparently, because the boyfriends had all slept with the girlfriends' mothers. And they brought the boyfriends out, and they fought, right there on television. Toby, tell me: these people don't vote, do they?


The West Wing was created by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the play A Few Good Men, and had previously scripted the feature film The American President, which starred Martin Sheen as the Chief of Staff and best friend of the President (Michael Douglas). Sorkin has said that The West Wing developed from all the stories he didn't have time to tell in The American President. When TV executive producer John Wells1 asked Sorkin if he was interested in writing a TV programme, Sorkin decided to give these stories an airing: this was the genesis for The West Wing.

Though The West Wing was written by a team of writers, Aaron Sorkin was principal writer for its first four seasons. The writers had access to several consultants from the real-life political arena, including Dee Dee Myers (former press secretary to President Clinton's administration), Patrick Caddell (policy and strategy advisor to President Carter) and Lawrence O'Donnell (a former advisor to Senator Patrick Moynihan).

Sorkin's The American President also featured other actors who would later appear in The West Wing, including Anna Deavere Smith and Joshua Malina, while Janel Moloney and Joshua Malina had starred in another of Sorkin's TV successes, Sports Night; actor Timothy Busfield also worked on that show as a director of two episodes.

The pilot episode aired in the USA on 22 September, 1999. It was originally going to air in the autumn of 1998, but was delayed due to the Monica Lewinsky scandal - network bosses were concerned that a political drama would not be well-received in that climate.

WG 'Snuffy' Walden provided the theme tune for the show. The prolific writer had started writing music for shows such as Roseanne and thirtysomething and had written the music for Sorkin's Sports Night. We would later come up with the theme for Sorkin's next show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Awards and TV Ratings

The show has been critically acclaimed since its beginning and has won the most Emmy awards ever for a single series (nine awards, in its first series). These included awards for writing, casting, direction, theme music and best supporting actor and actress awards for Richard Schiff and Allison Janney. Most of the principal actors have been nominated for, or have won, awards at some stage for their acting on the programme. The West Wing also received four consecutive Emmy awards for Best Drama. This is a record for this category held jointly with Hill Street Blues.

The West Wing's ratings have never been enormous, but are fairly respectable, though they did drop after Aaron Sorkin left at the end of series four. The West Wing's highest-rated episode was Isaac and Ishamel at the beginning of series three, which was Aaron Sorkin's response to the World Trade Center Attack and took place outside of the series' timeline. This episode earned 25.2 million viewers. Additionally, the programme's viewers are attractive to advertisers because they tend to have considerable disposable income.


President Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet

Bartlet is a Catholic, Democratic president from Manchester in New Hampshire, where he served as Governor (elected with 61% of the vote) and a Congressman. His ancestor, also called Josiah Bartlet, was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, so politics is in his blood. He attended Notre Dame University (because he was considering becoming a Catholic priest) where he studied economics, and later to the London School of Economics. He is also a winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Bartlet is in his late fifties or early sixties. He is married to Abbey, a doctor (see below), and has three daughters, Elizabeth2, Eleanor and Zoey. His brother Jonathon is head of the Bartlet Presidential Library Commission. He has never lost an election in his life. His Secret Service codename has been both 'Eagle' and 'Liberty'. As the first series begins, he is in his first term as President (beginning in the second year of the term, though some of the first year is occasionally seen in flashback), and was elected with 48% of the vote.

Bartlet was shot in an assassination attempt on Zoey and it was revealed that he had MS. An investigation was launched that mirrored the attempts to impeach President Clinton. After Zoey was kidnapped, he decided to leave office as he felt his judgment may be questionable, he was replaced for a few weeks by the Speaker of the House, Glenallen Walken after the Vice-President had resigned just days earlier.

Bartlet won his second term by beating Florida Governor Robert Ritchie. Ritchie came across as a rather simple guy with the ability to produce good sound bites. His persona as a ‘man-of-the-people' was very much like that of George W Bush. In the presidential debate Bartlet debated Ritchie out the hall, securing him a land-slide election.

By the later series, the President was not in great health and walked with the aid of a cane.

Bartlet had the abilty to recall an incredible amount of trivia which was sometimes useful in briefings and dinner parties but mainly just for annoying his staff on long journeys. The West Wing staff dreaded getting the President involved with economics. Since he held a Nobel Prize in the field, he often knew more about the subject than his advisors. CJ then had the task of trying to get him to explain the policies to the press without him returning to the manner of an university professor.

Initially, the President was due to be a recurring character, appearing in about one-fifth of the episodes, and Martin Sheen was originally only signed to appear in four episodes, but production staff were so impressed with the actor's performance that they asked him to become a permanent cast member.

President Josiah Bartlet: Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.
Dr Jenna Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
President Josiah Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.
Dr Jenna Jacobs: 18:22.
President Josiah Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.

Leo McGarry

Leo is the White House Chief of Staff, and the President's best friend. It was Leo who persuaded Bartlet to run for President, and he is relied upon and respected in the White House. Leo is an old friend of Josh's father, and it was this connection which enable him to persuade Josh to join the 'Bartlet for America' presidential campaign.

Leo was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and later served as Secretary of Labor. He is a recovering alcoholic and is also addicted to Valium (he spent time in rehab and has only once subsequently succumbed to temptation3.). He has a daughter, Mallory, a teacher, who becomes friendly with Sam. Leo's assistant is called Margaret. She infuriates him sometimes, but they are close. Leo knows everything.

Leo is a very hands on chief of staff and has strong views on policies. When he found himself unable to support Bartlet's position on the Middle East, he agreed to stand down. Minutes later he suffered a heart attack. He returned to work as Special Counsellor to the President. He was asked to sort out the Democratic nomination for Bartlet's successor as the conference looked like descending into farce. He tried to talk Matt Santos into standing down, but Santos used his concession speech to reinvigorate his campaign and won the nomination, asking Leo to be his running mate.

Leo's lack of charisma was often seen as a stumbling block in the Presidential Campaign, he even leaked his own ineptitude in debates to the press to lower the expectations on him for the Vice Presidential debate. After the tragic and unexpected death of John Spencer, Leo had to be written out of the series. Just ninety minutes before the polls closed in California he was found dead in his hotel room. Like Spencer, Leo had suffered a fatal heart attack.

In the final episode, Mallory leaves a gift for President Bartlet, the framed napkin with the words that Leo scrawled on it, ‘Bartlet for America'.

Sam Seaborn: There's a town in Alabama...
Leo McGarry: They want to make the Ten Commandments into law. I heard.
Sam Seaborn: What do you think about that?
Leo McGarry: Coveting thy neighbor's wife is going to be a problem.
Sam Seaborn: Also, if I was arrested for coveting my neighbor's wife, I'd probably bear false witness.

Charlie Young

Charlie is the President's personal aide (or 'body-man'), originally from Washington DC. His mother was a police officer killed on duty and he supports his younger sister, Deena. Charlie and the President have a father-son relationship, and Charlie dated Zoey Bartlet for a while4. Their dating made them the target of a sniper attack from racists, they missed Charlie and Zoey but got Josh and the President.

Charlie originally applied for a White House messenger job, but the personnel officer he spoke to suggested he be considered for the job. There are so many well-qualified applicants for the job as President's aide they are forced to choose on instinct, and Charlie passes the test. The President looks on Charlie as an adopted son and sometimes asked Charlie's views on various problems he was having.

Charlie started at Georgetown University during the show, and when he graduated Bartlet said that Charlie was too qualified for his current role. Charlie got a job as aide to newly appointed Chief of Staff, CJ. He was presented with the President's old copy of the US constitution in the final episode as he was about to embark on a course at Georgetown School of Law.

Charlie seeks and obtains the President's permission to date his daughter
President Josiah Bartlet: Just remember these two things: she's nineteen years old, and the 82nd Airborne works for me.

Josh Lyman

Josh is the White House Deputy Chief of Staff. He's from Connecticut and attended Harvard and Yale. While he studied law and is a qualified lawyer, neither Donna nor Sam consider him to be a 'real' lawyer, which annoys Josh. Before working for Bartlet, Josh was floor manager for the House Minority Whip and Chief of Staff for Congressman Earl Brennan.

Josh is an old friend of Sam's and brought him to the Bartlet campaign. Josh is also close to Donna, his assistant. She likes to remind him that his watch 'sucks' and that he has a 'sensitive system'5. He is a non-practising Jew (his grandfather was in Birkenau during World War Two). Josh used to work for Hoynes, but left to work for Jed Bartlet because he felt that Bartlet was 'the real thing' and Hoynes wasn't. Josh also has a fanclub of female university students.

Josh sees himself as a master player of people. He enjoys trying to bully the members of both Houses of Congress into siding with the President. It was obvious that many people on the Hill did not like Josh one bit. When he tries to out a Democratic Senator to the press because he was blocking solider's honours because he wanted a piece of useless military technology to be built in his state, the Senator switches parties. This blew Josh's confidence and it was all Leo could do to keep him in a job against massive pressure from the Democratic Party. His portfolio is reduced and he becomes paranoid that people were working against him inside the West Wing. When the President is being blamed for a deadlock over the budget and a federal shutdown, Abbey gets the rest of the the staff to call Josh in to help out. A brilliant bit of thinking on his feet by Josh which involved the President walking to meet with the Speaker of the House, waiting as the Republicans panicked in their office, then leaving after a few minutes turned the tide of public opinion and reaffirmed the power of the President. Josh is back in business.

Josh leaves the White House to run the Presidential campaign for Congressman Matt Santos. Josh manages to get the outsider to become the Democratic Presidential Candidate, then masterminded the victorious Presidential campaign. He carries the same tatty rucksack around the country and as the final season wound up he became more and more stressed, drank more and more coffee and got less and less sleep6. As he was preparing during transition7 he is advised (forced may be a better word) to take a holiday, much to the relief of his staff! As the show ends he takes up his job as Chief of Staff to the President of The United States.

Originally, Bradley Whitford was going to play Sam, and Rob Lowe was going to play Josh, but they switched roles shortly before filming began.

Donna Moss

Donna is Josh's Senior Assistant, but likes to call herself the Deputy - Deputy Chief of Staff. She's from Wisconsin8 and attended the University of Wisconsin, but dropped out after two years to put her then boyfriend (subsequently called 'Dr Freeride' by Josh) through medical school. She joined the Bartlet team during the presidential campaign. Donna and Josh have a very close relationship as colleagues, with lots of entertaining banter. It is obvious to everybody but the pair of them that they are both in love with each other, but seemingly nothing is destined to happen.

Part of Donna's role in the show is to help the audience understand what is going on. When Josh explains the details of the latest bill before the senate to Donna, he is in fact explaining it to the audience. It is often clear that Donna knows more that she is letting on in these exchanges and just asking silly questions to wind Josh up.

Donna was injured in a fact finding mission to Gaza by a bomb. Josh rushed to her hospital to see her.

Donna quit working for Josh when she was offered a job as an aide to Will Bailey, the new Chief of Staff for the new Vice President, Bob Russell. She rose up to become Press Secretary for his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. She tried to get a job with the Santos campaign, but Josh, probably feeling betrayed by her cited all the attacks she made on his candidate. Donna was eventually hired behind his back and proved a valuable addition to the campaign. The pair got very close during the campaign, a good poll result9 lead to a long kiss, and they later, after a couple of false starts, ended up sleeping together. Their relationship managed to survive the election and the transition with Donna heading off on holiday with Josh. Helen Santos offered Donna the position of Chief of Staff to the First Lady. This mirrored Josh's position in the West Wing of the White House. It's worth noting that Josh was involved with the previous First Lady's Chief of Staff. Donna's new large office marked progress in the White House from her starting out in a cubicle near Josh's office.

Donna began as a recurring character in Season One, but appeared in every episode. The writers decided to make Moloney a series regular in series two. Interestingly, Moloney originally auditioned for the part of C.J..

Toby Ziegler

Toby is the White House Communications Director. He 'crafts the message' of the administration; this includes writing speeches. He's from Brooklyn in New York, is Jewish (he regularly attends synagogue) and could best be described as a tad crotchety10. He seems to have attended CCNY (City College of New York). Toby has two older sisters, who took him on protest marches when he was younger, and a brother who was payload specialist with NASA until he kills himself. He is divorced from his wife, a US Congresswoman. She became pregnant with his twins but refused Toby's offers at a second marriage, they remained close.

Toby tends to fiddle with his balls when he is thinking. He has a rubber ball on his desk that he plays with while writing and bangs it on the office partitions to summon his deputy. When waiting for the president he has a tendency to play with whatever spherical objects are to hand.

Toby has something of a big brother relationship with Sam, but rarely shows affection towards Sam or anyone else. It has been suggested several times on the programme that he was a soldier. Before joining the Bartlet team, Toby had never been on a winning campaign.

Toby has a dour, often pessimistic temperament. He also had a belief that he knew best. This was best illustrated when he leaked the existence of a secret military shuttle to the press in order to save the lives of three trapped astronauts. He eventually owned up to CJ and Bartlet sacked him. Toby did not have high enough security clearance to know about the shuttle so he risked prison and the Federal Prosecutor's threaterned sabotage of the Presidential Elections by refusing to reveal how he found out about it.

While awaiting trial he secretly helped Josh with the presidential campaign. He also found a smudge in the US constitution that had been interpreted in some sources as a comma and could actually have meant that the meaning of one clause had been misconstrued. Bartlet's last act as President was to pardon Toby.

Of the Mars probe ship Galileo
Toby Ziegler: They know it was on course traveling at a rate of 15,400 miles per hour, which it was supposed to. Somewhere during its descent it was also supposed to release two probes - each about the size of a basketball - firing them deep into the ground as part of the mission's search for evidence of water under surface.
Josh Lyman: We think if we hit the ground hard enough, we can make it to the center of the planet and find water?
Toby Ziegler: Yeah.
Josh Lyman: That's not a theory of physics pretty much disproved by Wile E. Coyote?

Sam Seaborn

Sam is the White House Deputy Communications Director, working with Toby. He is from California and attended Princeton, which is also used as his Secret Service codename. He also took a law degree at Duke University and worked as a top lawyer before being recruited onto the Bartlet team by Josh, a close friend. Sam is idealistic and occasionally naïve.

During the first season he started dating a girl he met at a bar. She turned out to be a law student putting herself through college by working as an escort. Although he hadn't paid for sex, he stopped seeing her but remained in contact and gave her a present after her graduation. However they were set up by her flatmate who told a photographer where to find them. He also had a relationship with Leo's daughter, Mallory. Leo took much delight in making it as difficult as possible for them.

Sam was sent to California to stop Will Bailey running a congressional campaign for a dead candidate in his home district. When the campaign was victorious Sam offered to stand as a candidate in the re-run election. While he was away he was offered the post of Senior Counsellor to the President in case he failed. While it was never stated in the show, he lost the election and turned the White House role down. President Bartlet had told Sam that one day he would become President.

Sam returned in the final series, back practising law. In a repeat of the situation when Josh recruited Sam to the Bartlet campaign, Josh arrived at Sam's office to offer him the job of Deputy Chief of Staff. He eventually agreed.

Rob Lowe was originally the star of the show, but other actors complained after a few series that his wages were in a different league to theirs. There rates were raised, but Lowe's were not, this led to him leaving the show. He reappeared for two episodes of the last four episodes, though he only uttered a couple of lines in the last episode. Josh's attempts to rehire Sam by visiting his law firm while he was in the middle of a meeting mirrored his original recruitment of Sam for the Bartlet campaign.

Will Bailey

Will took over from Sam as White House Deputy Communications Director after running a successful Congress campaign for a dead candidate. Will's father is Thomas Bailey, who in the world of The West Wing, was NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and is therefore (according to Bartlet), the only man in the world with a better title than his. Will often works with his step-sister, Elsie Snuffin11.

When Bob Russell became Vice-President Will Bailey joined him as Chief of Staff with the aim of running his campaign to succeed Bartlet. He obviously thought more of the V.P. than he did when Bob Russell was first announced by Bartlet. Will and Toby wrote a mock speech about how mediocre and dull Russell was, however the speech accidentally made it to the President's autocue!

Toby's relationship with Will was different to that with Sam. Toby regarded himself as more of a mentor to Will, somebody he12 plucked out of regional politics and into the big time. Toby felt betrayed when Will started to work for Russell and rather childishly called the movers in to clear out Will's office.

While Will was initially rather ill-at-ease with his new surroundings, it was obvious that he was skilled at moving the cogs of power. He may have been good, but with the help of Donna, he lost out to Josh when it came to getting their guy the Democratic Presidential nomination.

After Russell lost the nomination Will continued to work for him until CJ recruited him as Director of Communications after Toby was fired. His first task was to answer loads of questions about the sacking, a subject he knew little about. He seemed to revel in being asked difficult questions and finding ways not to answer them. This would go on to prove a useful skill as he ran for Congress in the midterm elections following the end of the show. It was revealed in the dedication of the Bartlet Presidential Library that he had won his seat in Oregon.

Claudia Jean 'CJ' Cregg

CJ is the White House Press Secretary, a job which involves giving briefings to the press corps. She attended Berkeley University and has a masters degree. Before being brought onto the Bartlet campaign by Toby, an old friend, CJ had worked for EMILY's List, an organisation helping pro-choice democratic women get funding for election campaigns, and for a film PR firm. Some staffers consider CJ too friendly with the press, especially Danny Concannon (see below). CJ has two brothers and her father is fighting Alzheimer's disease. She is the most senior woman on the White House staff. CJ's assistant is Carol, who helps with the Press and is a notoriously bad speller. CJ is six feet tall and her Secret Service codename is 'Flamingo'.

When Leo left his role as Chief of Staff, CJ replaced him in the role. She was a very different Chief of Staff, more procedural, taking less of a role in policy, though she did start trying to impose her own footprint of both international and domestic policy in the final months of the Bartlet administration. Due to her security clearance and closeness to the press she was initially under suspicion in the leak enquiry but was cleared when Toby came forward. At the end of the show she finally started seeing Danny regularly. She was offered countless roles on company boards during the last weeks of her time as Chief of Staff. Matt Santos offered her a role as Senior Counsellor to the President, but she decided to take a job offer from a rich chairman of a computer company13 to administer $10 billion in order to improve roads in the third world to allow aid to reach impoverished areas quicker.

CJ Cregg: The more photo-friendly of the two turkeys gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children's petting zoo; the other one gets eaten.
President Josiah Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch.

First Lady Dr Abigail (Abbey) Bartlet

Abbey, Jed's wife, is a well-respected doctor. She uses her position to support causes close to her heart, such as Medicare. She is also quite knowledgeable about politics, and often goes on official trips, either within the US or abroad. This includes basic duties such as dedicating memorials or more complicated ones such as representing the President or the United States around the world. Abbey is knowledgeable about politics and understands what the President and his staff are doing. After an investigation into her conduct in keeping her husband's MS quiet she is forced to give up practising medicine.

Dr Bartlet was a recurring character during the first two series but began to appear more regularly and became a main character during series three. In the final series, where the show focused less on the White House, she went back to being a recurring character.

Mandy Hampton

Mandy was the Media Director during Bartlet's presidential campaign. She was Josh's ex-girlfriend but the character vanished after the first series and has not been mentioned since. Aaron Sorkin admitted that he had trouble writing for Mandy, and it seems that because she was not directly involved in the political side of White House affairs, it was hard to find the character anything to do which related to the story being told.

Commander Kate Harper

Kate joined the regular cast in the fifth series as Deputy National Security Advisor, one of the few advisors to back Bartlet in a Middle East peace conference. Although she has a navy rank, she also has a background, much of it classified and blacked out14, working under cover for the CIA. She was good friends with CJ and the pair often worked closely together. She got together with Will in the seventh series15. She convinced him to run for Congress in Oregon. She also suggested that she didn't vote for Matt Santos, and her bad karma caught up with her when she wasn't offered a job in the new administration.

Seasons five, six and seven featured terrorist attacks on US goverment officals and an invasion of a central Asian country to stop China and Russia attacking each other. During these times, the National Security Advisor was apparently touring the world, so Kate was left as the Presidents main advisor.

Annabeth Schott

Schott was hired by the White House in series six as a deputy Press Secretary and media advisor. Her specialty was making people look good in front of a camera, she even almost worked her magic on Toby! She helped Leo manage the Democratic National Convention before becoming his chief aide during the Presidential campaign. It was obvious that she found him attractive and there was a fair amount of flirting. She was the one who found Leo in his hotel room. She was given the role as Press Secretary for the First Lady.

Congressman Matt Santos

Santos was a former Air Force Pilot and Mayor of Houston who went on to represent his district in Congress for three terms. He was contemplating retiring when he was persuaded to run for President to succeed Bartlet. He ran against former Vice President John Hoynes and Vice President Bob Russell for the Democratic Nomination. While he lacked the profile of his two opponents, Josh belived that he was the only person with the ability to challenge Arnold Vinick in the Presidential Elections. At first Santos was a dark horse but he picked up a lot of momentum in the final week of the Primaries and if the campaign had carried on another week, he would have been guaranteed the nomination. As it turned out, Leo tried to get him to stand aside. Santos used his concession speech to rouse his support and was nominated to try and become the first Latino16 President of the United States.

Santos's beliefs were not characteristic of the average Democratic candidate, he was against abortion, but pro-choice. He believed in Intelligent Design rather than Darwinian Evolution, but was against it being taught in science classes. It was his ability to talk calmly and rationally about his beliefs and not try and impose them on anybody that won him a lot of support. Much was made of his youth, energy and vitality, especially after he and his wife managed to destroy a hotel bed on one of their brief periods together during the campaign.

Santos was originally a distant second in the presidential campaign but eventually won by one state.

Santos is married to Helen and they have two young children. While Matt Santos is a fine, upstanding citizen, some of his family are not. Santos pays child support to a woman who had his brother's illegitimate child because he didn't trust his brother to support the child.

Senator Arnold Vinick

Arnie Vinick was the Republican Nominee to succeed Bartlet. He represented California in the US senate for 24 years and was a very influential man. Vinick was very liberal for a Republican, and had the policies to appeal to a lot of the undecided voters and conservative Democrats. Leo and Josh knew this and Josh set out to find a candidate who would appeal to the same type of voters.

After his wife died he stopped going to church and he believes in legal abortions, which led to him falling out with high profile clergy. The clergy are very influential with the Republican Party and tried to make him guarantee to appoint Supreme Court justices who would abolish legal abortion. He made hollow promises to them in a meeting to get rid of them. Vinick was firmly of the belief that since the constitution separated the church from the state that a bunch of unelected clergy should not have a say in running the country.

In order to appeal to the core Republican vote he chose the West Virginia Governor Ray Sullivan as his running mate. Vinick is a shrewd politician and seems to be the only person in his campaign who didn't under estimate Matt Santos. He also had a great deal of respect for Bartlet. Sullivan also provided the youth to contrast with Vinick, who was probably twenty years older than Santos.

Originally the General Election plan was for Vinick to win all 50 states, however Santos's unexpected strength put pay to that. His election campaign was really scuppered by a nuclear accident in his native California. When the press found out that Vinick, a long time proponent of nuclear power, had pushed through the building of the plant17 his poll ratings dropped like a brick. Against the advice of this team he appeared at a press conference outside the plant to defend his views on nuclear power until the press got tired of asking questions. This not only reassured the public, but meant that Santos, who was touring California at the same time, got none of the free press coverage he was banking on. This move probably meant that Vinick tied up California and therefore meant the election was decided in Nevada.

It should be noted that neither Vinick nor Santos resorted to smear tactics in their campaigns and both tended to talk positively about their own policies18.

It was suggested that Vinick was originally scripted to win the election, but after the untimely loss of John Spencer, they rewrote the story to give Santos the win. After the election, Vinick refused to contest the result, wanting to leave with dignity. When he started to refuse to sit on the boards of companies it became clear that he was considering running again. The sight of the life-long public servant still trying to look busy and important was a very poignant part of the later few episodes. Due to his experience, contacts with foreign leaders, his strategic thinking and their similar views on foreign policy Santos made Vinick his Secretary of State.

In making Vinick a socially liberal but financially conservative Republican who could but his point across intelligently and did not pander to right wing reactionaries or the Christian right, the writers were making a point that this is their idea of an ideal Republican, not the fool that the party had nominated in 2000.

Other Characters

Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) - Hoynes has a complicated relationship with Bartlet. He was added to Bartlet's campaign to make southern voters more likely to vote for the pair (he's from Texas)19. He, like Leo, is a recovering alcoholic. When it was revealed that Hoynes had an affair in which he revealed national secrets to show off to his conquest, he resigned. He tried to run to succeed Bartlet but another sex scandal broke, leading the Governor of California20 to endorse Santos and therefore give the congressman the momentum he needed to tie Bob Russell for the nomination before Democratic Convention.

Vice President Bob Russell (Gary Cole) - Russell was the second choice to succeed Hoynes. He was a man so dull his Secret Service code name was Bob Russell! Known as Bingo Bob or the Congressman from the Western Colorado Mining Company he was generally looked down on. He did prove to be a decent politician and was the front runner for the Democratic Nomination until Santos pipped him at the post in the Convention.

President Glenallen Walken (John Goodman) – When Zoey Bartlet was kidnapped the country faced a crisis. The President felt that he could not be a responsible Commander-in-Chief while his daughter’s life was in danger21 so had to step aside. Since the Vice President had only just resigned and not been replaced, the Presidency had to go to the Speaker of the House, Republican Glenallen Walken. Larger than life, braces wearing and with a dog in tow, Walken never wanted to be President but tried to make his impact in his short time in office. Most of the impact was aimed at various Middle-East states who he suspected were involved with the kidnapping. He believed they were going to kill Zoey anyway, so that he wasn’t risking the life of the President’s daughter. Luckily she turned up safe and sound. Meanwhile the staff of the West Wing were nervous that he would nominate his own, Republican, Vice President while in office. His skills at the press conferences led them to believe that the public would warm to him as a President and that he would be a major challenger at the next elections. As it turned out he was beaten for the nomination. Having resigned his post in the House to serve his country, Walken was out of work when Bartlet returned to the Oval Office. Walken turned up later in the series for the funeral of another former President.

Zoey Bartlet (Elisabeth Moss) - Zoey is the President and First Lady's youngest daughter, and the only one to appear with anything approaching regularity. She is in her mid-twenties and attended Georgetown University in Washington DC. She dated Charlie for a while, but her next boyfriend was a Frenchman named Jean Paul, a descendent of French royalty. His trying to spike her drinks with drugs lead to her kidnapping and a major crisis for the country. She rebuffed Charlie's attempts to get back together for a bit but they did start dating again. Her Secret Service codename is 'Bookbag'.

Gina Toscano (Jorja Fox) - Gina was a member of Zoey's Secret Service detail for a while. She was formerly in the Military Police and was the first to sign up to Zoey's detail.

Ron Butterfield (Michael O'Neill) - Ron is the head of the President's Secret Service detail.

Admiral Percy Fitzwallace (John Amos) - Fitzwallace is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has a good relationship with the President and Leo (who call him 'Fitz') and is well-respected. Fitz was killed in the same attack that injured Donna.

National Security Advisor Nancy McNally (Anna Deavere Smith) - Like Fitzwallace, she also has a good relationship with the President and Leo and is well-regarded. She has a rivalry with Fitz and has proposed that a way of ending the Middle East crisis was to give her a couple of nuclear missiles! She played less of a part in the latter series of the show, which was rather lax of her, considering the amount of national security problems there were during that time.

Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield) - Danny is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He and CJ are attracted to each other but cannot have a relationship as it would be unprofessional given their relative jobs. He works for The Washington Post and has previously worked for The New York Times and Time magazine.

Ainsley Hayes (Emily Proctor) - Ainsley is a Southern Republican, who wipes the floor with Sam on TV and is then hired by Leo as Associate White House Council. The idea to hire a Republican was originally unpopular with the staff (it was Bartlet's idea), but they come to respect Ainsley. She really likes her food, and she and Sam seem to be attracted to each other.

Josephine 'Joey' Lucas (Marlee Matlin) - Joey is a professional pollster. She also happens to be deaf, and often needs to communicate through her interpreter, Kenny. She often works for the Bartlet administration, who trust her. She and Josh are attracted to each other but Joey refuses to go out with him because she knows how Donna feels.

Amy Gardner (Mary Louise Parker) - Amy knows Josh from Harvard, where she dated his roommate. Amy was heavily involved in women's issues in politics, then consulted for Senator Stackhouse, a Presidential candidate, before being made the First Lady's Chief of Staff, a post she lost after upsetting the President. In the final series she tried to get Santos to choose a woman Vice President to take Leo's place. Instead he got her to accept the post of Director of Legislative Affairs.

Dolores Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) - an old friend of the President's, she now serves as his Executive Secretary. Her two sons were killed in Vietnam. She makes sure bad language is kept out of the Oval Office, and is a motherly figure to the staff and to the President. She died in a road accident in Washington

Deborah Fiderer (Lily Tomlin) - the senior staff eventually got the President to appoint a new Executive Secretary. It turned out that she had been sacked from her previous job after recommending Charlie for a job ahead of a democratic contributor's son. She is very single minded and controlling, qualities that enabled her to cut back on the President's appointments.

Lord John Marbury: (Roger Rees) - is the Earl of Sherbourne and an expert on the Indian subcontinent. He becomes the British Ambassador to the United States of America, which brings him into occasional contact with the President, who is an old friend. The President considers him 'colourful', while Josh and particularly Leo (who he fails to recognise despite them having met a dozen times) think he's a lunatic.

Oliver Babish (Oliver Platt) - was the fifth White House Counsel under President Bartlet. He is basically the lawyer for the White House, a building full of lawyers! He is generally rude, obnoxious and likes to think he frightens people. He takes his job very seriously and often comes into contact with people who don't take his questioning in the same light. His two main stints in the show were investigating whether the President had lied over his illness and who leaked the information about the military shuttle.

Bruno Gianelli (Ron Silver) - is a high-priced Democratic campaign co-ordinator. He ran Bartlet's re-election campaign. He is rude, highly intelligent and is used to the fact that he is almost always right. He was hired to run Vinick's campaign for President as he said he wanted to bring the country together rather than try and split it apart, it was his idea to try and win all 50 states.

Louise 'Lou' Thornton (Janeane Garofalo) - is a media specialist hired by the Santos campaign. She only turned up at a meeting of Democratic advisors because a member of staff got Josh's instructions not to invite her the wrong way round. It was decided to bring her in because it was better to have her on board then criticising them from outside. She is committed and highly intelligent and almost has as little social life as Josh. She started sleeping with one of the other aides during the campaign, though it is pretty obvious she wasn't really serious about him. Josh and the President-Elect managed to get her to join the new staff as Director of Communications.

Helen Santos (Teri Polo) - is Matt Santos' wife. She is often frustrated by the amount of intrusion in their lives that his run for President has caused. She doesn't like the Secret Service agents and the effect it has on the neighbourhood. She is not very media savvy and at one point a few of the tabloids were running stories on her wearing a thong, complete with pictures. It became increasingly clear to her that living in Texas until the kids had finished their school year was impossible when the Secret Service wanted to close down their street.

1Who also produced ER and Third Watch.2Who has a teenage daughter of her own, Annie.3Leo's alcoholism may be autobiographical on the part of Aaron Sorkin - he himself is an alcoholic.4The relationship was rather on-off, they got back together in series six as the President found Charlie sneaking out of Zoey's room late at night.5He can't hold his alcohol, though he likes to claim otherwise.6For reasons we get into later!7The period between the election and when the new President takes office.8Josh often makes jokes about Wisconsin, which may well annoy Bradley Whitford who is a Wisconsin native.9Insert innuendo here.10Ok, maybe more than a tad.11Her rather odd name is based on the real name of an actress, Kayla Blake (real name Elsie Sniffen), who appeared in Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night.12Well, Sam found him.13Hints of Bill Gates?14When CJ tried to look though her file, most of the details of Kate's assignments were blacked over.15Yes, it does seen that by now all the staff have hooked up with somebody!16Obviously in the West Wing Universe Bartlet does not share Martin Sheen's Mexican roots.17Josh was adamant that the Santos campaign would not leak the news as it would reflect badly on them.18Is is probably the area where the show veered furthest from real life!19A practice known as 'balancing the ticket.'20In the West Wing Universe they have a Democratic Governor.21More importantly how would somebody with the nuclear launch codes and the most powerful military the world has ever seen react if his daughter turned up dead after actions of foreign agents.

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