Leopold Thomas "Leo" McGarry was the former United States Secretary of Labor, former White House Chief of Staff, Senior Counselor to Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee for the 2006 election, and, posthumously, the Vice President-Elect of the United States.
Leo McGarry was born in Chicago, Illinois to an alcoholic father who shot himself one night after a fight with his wife. Leo also had two sisters, Elizabeth and Josephine. In mid-1993, Leo voluntarily admitted himself to the Sierra-Tucson Rehab Institute to treat an addiction to Valium drugs and alcohol, hence most people, including himself, calling him "a recovering alcoholic and drug addict." Leo and his ex-wife Jenny O'Brien have a daughter, Mallory.
Leo joined the United States Air Force and flew F-105s for the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. During this time, he and his friend, Ken O'Neill, were shot down near Hanoi and O'Neil carried a wounded Leo through the jungle for three days. It was suggested in The Portland Trip that he attended the University of Michigan.
He was a Senior Corporate Officer for Muller-Wright, a defense contract company with Ken O'Neil for over ten years according to President Bartlet. (An Khe)
In June 1993, Leo voluntarily admitted himself to the Sierra Tucson Rehabilitation Facility to treat his addiction to alcohol and Valium and spent almost a month at the facility. And when he got out, only his family, President Barlet, the FBI, and the Secret Service knew.
After serving one term as Secretary of Labor from 1991 until 1995, Leo went to New Hampshire in 1997 to persuade Governor Josiah Bartlet, an old friend, to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Having so persuaded Bartlet, Leo became his campaign manager, dubbing the campaign "Bartlet For America" and hiring such top political talent as Josh Lyman, Toby Ziegler, C.J. Cregg, and Sam Seaborn to work for the campaign. Eventually, Governor Bartlet, who was considered an insurgent candidate by the media, defeated Senator John Hoynes of Texas (whom Leo picked as Bartlet's vice presidential nominee to balance the ticket) for the nomination and went on to win the presidency.
As President Bartlet's Chief of Staff and top advisor, Leo had an office adjacent to the Oval Office and sat in with the President in the Situation Room. Leo was very involved in the formation of policy and the day-to-day operations of the White House and its staff. Leo was a recovering alcoholic and Valium addict. His problems with alcohol, as well as his workaholic attitude towards his job as Chief of Staff, contributed to his divorce from wife Jenny. It was revealed that Leo was an Air Force veteran, having flown F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers in the Vietnam War.
Leo McGarry was from Chicago, Illinois, though there seems to be some family connection to (likely one or more of his parents were born in) Boston, Massachusetts. In seasons 2 and 6, Leo was said to be from Chicago, and in a season 1 episode Josh Lyman called Leo "Boston Irish Catholic." During the episode The Portland Trip, it was strongly suggested by a conversation between the President and Leo that Leo attended the University of Michigan, at least for undergraduate work. It is also implied that Leo has a law degree, as in And It's Surely to Their Credit he told Josh Lyman that if he was going to go ahead with the lawsuit of the Ku Klux Klan that he, Sam, and Toby would take a leave of absence and join Josh's legal team.
In season six, McGarry had a heart attack outside Camp David, leading to his replacement by C.J. Cregg, the White House Press Secretary. He later returned to work after Bartlet's last State of the Union Address in his new role as Senior Counselor to the President. He stated that he would not work in any presidential campaign to succeed Bartlet. However, Bartlet asked him to run the Democratic National Convention when it seemed likely to deadlock. As the convention neared its endpoint - Josh Lyman convinces Congressman Matt Santos, to select McGarry as his vice presidential nominee. This was particularly ironic, because McGarry had earlier repeatedly insisted that Santos drop out of the race for the sake of party unity.
During the ensuing campaign, the press and others tended to refer to McGarry as "Mr. McGarry" as opposed to "Secretary McGarry" as would be the standard protocol for a former cabinet member.
On Election Night, McGarry went up to his hotel room in Houston to take a nap before the results came in. McGarry collapsed in his hotel bathroom of an apparent heart attack. He was found by Annabeth Schott and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. McGarry's death came ninety minutes before the polls closed in California and other western states, thus giving some voters this information prior to casting their vote. Despite McGarry's death, the Santos-McGarry ticket narrowly won the election over the Vinick-Sullivan ticket by a 30,000 vote margin in Nevada and McGarry posthumously became the Vice President-Elect after Santos's victory.
McGarry's funeral was held at an unnamed Catholic church, though the funeral was filmed at The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, Maryland. President Josiah Bartlet, President-elect Matthew Santos, Josh Lyman, Charlie Young, former DNC head Barry Goodwin, and McGarry's unnamed son-in-law served as pallbearers. Vice President-Elect McGarry was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Though McGarry was not seen again onscreen (in flashback or otherwise) after his death, his presence (and lack thereof) is felt in the final episodes of the series, most prolifically in the series finale when his daughter presented a gift to President Bartlet that she found in Leo's possessions. In the show's final scene, Bartlet opened the gift to find the napkin with the words "Bartlet For America", which McGarry had written to start Bartlet on his Presidential journey almost a decade earlier and which President Bartlet had framed and given as a gift to Leo during the House of Representatives' hearings into the apparent MS cover-up towards the end of his first term.
- University of Michigan
- Law School (undetermined)
- Colonel in the United States Air Force (retired; veteran of the Vietnam War)
- 1993-1995 : Secretary of Labor
- 1997-1998 : Campaign manager for the "Bartlet for America" presidential campaign
- 1999-2005 : White House Chief of Staff
- 2005-2006 : Senior Counselor to the President
- 2006 : Chairman, DNC Convention in San Diego, California
- 2006 : Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee
- 2006 : Vice President-Elect of the United States
Behind the scenes
Parallel to Bush Administration
It should be noted that Leo's approximately six and a half-year tenure as Chief of Staff would be rather extraordinary in our world (though, during the George W. Bush Administration, Chief of Staff Andrew Card served for over five years). The average tenure since 1945 has been approximately two years, however this may not be true in the West Wing universe. Leo would also be considered historically a very powerful Chief of Staff - comparisons could be drawn to H. R. Haldeman (often called the "second most powerful man in America" during Richard Nixon's administration) in terms of influence and closeness to the President, if one ignores Haldeman's ethical foibles.
Many similarities appear between McGarry's character and real-life Vice-President Dick Cheney. Both were former Cabinet Secretaries and White House Chiefs of Staff, and both are older and considered more experienced than their respective running-mates. It seems that Santos' choice of McGarry as his running-mate is due to his own lack of experience in foreign affairs and security issues, whereas McGarry's deep understanding and expertise of the issues is shown in his service during the Bartlet administration. This was also true of Cheney when he was selected to be Bush's running-mate, as he too lacked experience in these areas while Cheney served as Secretary of Defense in the administration of George H.W. Bush. McGarry's and Cheney's health was also a factor during their respective campaigns as both suffer from heart conditions.
|Season 5 appearances|
|"7A WF 83429"||"The Dogs of War"||"Jefferson Lives"||"Han"||"A Constituency of One"|
|"Disaster Relief"||"Separation of Powers"||"Shutdown"||"Abu el Banat"||"The Stormy Present"|
|"Opposition Research"||"Slow News Day"||"The Warfare of Genghis Khan"||"An Khe"||"Full Disclosure"|
|"Eppur Si Muove"||"The Supremes"||"Access"||"Talking Points"||"No Exit"|
|Season 6 appearances|
|"NSF Thurmont"||"The Birnam Wood"||"Third-Day Story"||"Liftoff"||"The Hubbert Peak"|
|"The Dover Test"||"A Change Is Gonna Come"||"In The Room"||"Impact Winter"||"Faith Based Initiative"|
|"Opposition Research"||"365 Days"||"King Corn"||"The Wake Up Call"||"Freedonia"|
|"Drought Conditions"||"A Good Day"||"La Palabra"||"Ninety Miles Away"||"In God We Trust"|
|"Things Fall Apart"||"2162 Votes"|
|Season 7 appearances|
|"The Ticket"||"The Mommy Problem"||"Message of the Week"||"Mr. Frost"||"Here Today"|
|"The Al Smith Dinner"||"The Debate"||"Undecideds"||"The Wedding"||"Running Mates"|
|"Internal Displacement"||"Duck and Cover"||"The Cold"||"Two Weeks Out"||"Welcome to Wherever You Are"|
|"Election Day (Part I)"||"Election Day (Part II)"||"Requiem"||"Transition"||"The Last Hurrah"|
|Preceded by: |
| Democratic Vice Presidential candidate |
|Succeeded by: |