Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fourteen Days Of The West Wing - Day 3

Leo McGarry - former military pilot, former congressman, former Labor Secretary, alcoholic and drug abuser. Leo held the second most important job in the Bartlet administration - well the third if you accept what Josh said in the lecture hall in the episode Celestial Navigation - until he resigned following he first heart attack. Leo's role is a mixture. He is the chief advisor to the President, he is Bartlet's best friend and confidante, he manages the tasks assigned to the staff, he's the filter that keeps all but the most important things away from th President, and he is one of the few people around who can go face to face with Bartlet in an argument and be 99% sure that he'll be coming in to work the next day. The following exchange from the first season episode Let Bartlet Be Bartlet is one of those cases. It shows him as adversary advisor, friend and leader - adjutant to Bartlet's general in the field. It has long been my belief that John Spencer was at least as worthy of Emmy nominations in the "Best Actor in a Drama" as Martin Sheen, and certainly more than Rob Lowe.

Leo: Everything you do says: 'For God's sakes, Leo. I don't want to be a one-term President.'
Bartlet: Did I not say put our guys on the F.E.C.?
Leo: No sir. You did not do that.
Bartlet: Leo!
Leo: You said - No! You said, let's dangle our feet in the water or whatever the hell it is we dangle our feet in, when we want to make it look like we're trying without pissing too many people off!
Bartlet: You're writing a fascinating version of history, my friend.
Leo: Oh, take a look at Mandy's memo, Mr. President, and you'll read a fascinating version of it.
Bartlet: You brought me in on teachers. You brought me in on capital gains. You brought me in on China. And you brought me in on guns.
Leo: Brought you in from where? You've never been out there on guns. You've never been out there on teachers. 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. I tell Josh to go to the Hill on campaign finance, he knows nothing's gonna come out of it.
Bartlet: That's crap.
Leo: Sam can't get real on Don't Ask, Don't Tell because you're not gonna be there, and every guy sitting across the room from him knows that.
Bartlet: Leo, if I ever told you to get aggressive about campaign finance or gays in the military, you would tell me, 'Don't run too fast or go to far.'
Leo: If you ever told me to get aggressive about anything, I'd say I serve at the pleasure of the President. But we'll never know, sir, because I don't think you're ever gonna say it.
Bartlet: I have said it, and nothing's every happened!
Leo: You want to see me orchestrate this right now? You want to see me mobilize these people? These people who would walk into fire if you told them to. These people who showed up to lead. These people who showed up to fight. That guy [Leo points at Charlie] gets death threats because he's black and he dates your daughter. He was warned: 'Do not show up to this place. You're life will be in danger.' He said, 'To hell with that, I'm going anyway.' You said, 'No.' Prudent, or not prudent, this 21 year old for 600 dollars a week says, 'I'm going where I want to because a man stands up.' Everyone's waiting for you. I don't know how much longer.
Bartlet: I don't want to feel like this anymore.
Leo: You don't have to.
Bartlet: I don't want to go to sleep like this.
Leo: You don't have to.
Bartlet: I want to speak.
Leo: Say it out loud. Say it to me.
Bartlet: This is more important than reelection. I want to speak now.
Leo: Say it again.
Bartlet: This is more important than reelection. I want to speak now.
Leo: Now we're in business!
I'm gonna talk to the staff. I'm gonna take them off the leash.
Bartlet: You have a strategy for all this?
Leo: I have the beginnings of one.
Bartlet: What is it?
Leo: I'm gonna try that out for a little while.
Leo puts the pad on the desk in front of the President. It reads, 'LET BARTLET BE BARTLET.'

There is a coda to this scene in which Leo addresses the senior staff:

Leo: Listen up. Our ground game isn't working. If we want to walk into walls, I'd want us running into them full speed.
Josh: What are you saying?
Leo: Well, you can start by telling the Hill the President has named his nominees for the F.E.C. And we're gonna lose some of these battles, and we might even lose the White House, but we're not gonna be threatened by issues. We're gonna put them front and center. We're gonna raise the level of public debate in this country, and let that be our legacy. That sound all right to you, Josh?
Josh: I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States.
Leo: Yeah?
C.J. I serve at the pleasure of the President.
Sam I serve at the pleasure of President Bartlet.
Leo: Toby?
Toby I serve at the pleasure of the President.
Leo: Good. Then let's get in the game!

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