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The U.S. Poet Laureate

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The U.S. Poet Laureate
Season 3
Episode 16
Written By Aaron Sorkin
Story By Laura Glasser
Director Christopher Misiano
Original Airdate March 27, 2002
Guest Stars: Laura Dern
Emily Procter

"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by Charlie

When the President is overheard making a disparaging comment on an open-mike about the potential Republican nominee, C.J. does damage control for days after while Toby tries to finesse the newly named poet laureate from speaking out against the United States' lack of support for a land-mines treaty. Elsewhere, Sam recalls Republican White House legal counsel Ainsley Hayes from vacation to help spin the administration's response to Bartlet's gaffe; Josh discovers his internet fansite; the President also ponders an effort to save a failing giant computer company.

Summary Edit

OpeningEdit

The President is doing morning show interviews from the Mural Room.  During a final interview, the President asks about Governor Ritchie, the presumptive Republican nominee.  During the final interview, the President takes a dig at Ritchie - Toby realizes the mike was hot and the news station got the comment on B-roll.

C.J. comes to get Toby - someone needs to talk to Tabitha Fortis, the U.S. Poet Laureate - who wants to chastise the administration over land mines. Toby quickly agrees to do it himself, C.J. realizes he likes Fortis.

Act IEdit

C.J., Sam, and Josh are strategizing on how to spin the comment made by the President, which has already been leaked to several media outlets.  C.J. comes up with a "non-apology apology", and they decide to go with that.  On his way back to his office, Josh finds Donna, Margaret, Ginger, and Bonnie crowded around Donna's desk looking at LemonLyman.com, a fan site devoted to Josh.

In the Oval Office, the President arrives to meet with Leo on what is on the plate for the day.  Among other things the House of Representatives is planning to rebuke the President for being impolite. They step out to the outer office to watch C.J.'s Press Briefing.

Act II - TuesdayEdit

At the Press Briefing the next day - C.J. is still getting questions on the President's comments about Ritchie.  When she leaves, Sam is waiting for her in the hallway.  They talk about how the Ritchie campaign should let this go - there's no way for them to look good.

Sam returns to his office, where Congressman Wachtell is waiting.  Wachtell is a moderate Democrat who wants Sam to do something about the President's comment.  Sam tells the Congressman there is nothing he can do - Wachtell suggests a summit on bipartisanship, Sam says that is a non-starter.  Wachtell suggests a Republican appointment, Sam suggests that they will raise the visibility of Ainsley Hayes.

Josh calls Donna to his office - he wants to post a response to LemonLyman.com - she thinks that is a very, very bad idea. He makes her sit down and write a response.

Toby stops in on his way to meet Tabitha Fortis.  He gets her from the lobby and brings her back to his office so they can talk.  He starts out slowly but she jumps right in - saying the US must sign the landmine ban.  Toby tells Tabitha that she can't voice her disagreement at a party hosted by the President.  She apologizes that they can't have the party but she won't stop calling for the ban - she gets up and leaves.

Act III - WednesdayEdit

It's the next day and the Ritchie story will not go away - C.J. gets more questions about it at her morning press briefing.  Charlies comes to her at the end of the briefing to tell her the President wants to do another run through before the Press Conference the next evening.  He also asks C.J. about what is so bad about drilling in the ANWAR - C.J. realizes that Charlie has been reading Governor Ritchie's book.

Ainsley arrives in Sam's office - having been called back from her vacation.  He tells her that she has been promoted to Deputy White House Counsel and that she needs to get out on the media circuit to put a Republican face on the administration.

C.J. grabs Toby, who is on his way out to see Tabitha.  She tells him that several additional networks will now be covering the President's news conference the next night.  He tells her that he is going sightseeing with Tabitha - she reminds him that he needs to get this thing done - he says it will be fine.

Josh calls Donna back to his office, the people on LemonLyman.com have gone nuts over his response.  He makes her sit down to write another post.

Toby is touring Washington with Tabitha and he impresses upon her that she needs to come to the party and not confront the President on landmines.  If she does, that would be the story and landmines would not be the story.

In the Oval Office, the President has a realization and heads to Leo's office - he tells Leo that the Democrats should yield all their time in the House, where the Republicans are preparing to "whine" about the President's comment.  While the Republicans do that - the Democrats will caucus about literacy and tax credits.

Act IV - Thursday, 8:00pmEdit

It is almost time for the President's Press Conference and C.J. is briefing the press beforehand.  In Toby's office, Sam and Ainsley are watching the briefing and they have a discussion about smartness and the Presidency.  Toby arrives, Ainsley leaves, and Sam asks Toby how things are going with Tabitha Fortis.  Toby says he is not sure.  Ginger comes to the door to tell Toby someone is on the phone from Georgetown, there is a problem (Tabitha was delivering a lecture there).

Josh comes to find Donna, the people on LemonLyman.com have gone nuts over Josh's latest post.  C.J. comes down the hall from her office to ask Josh if he posted to a website (the Washington Post is running a story that reports Josh has done exactly that).  In the strongest terms, she tells him not to do it again.

Toby arrives at Georgetown to find Tabitha.  She asks him if it's possible to have a private moment with the President to talk about landmines then she won't have to do it publicly.  Toby tells her that he can arrange that.

Back at the White House it is just a few minutes before the President's Press Conference.  Just before he walks into the room, the President takes C.J. aside to compliment her on how she handled herself this week.  She realizes (she had begun to think about it the day before) that the President knew the light was on and made the comment anyway.  She is impressed by the President, who walks out to hold his Press Conference.

Trivia Edit

  • Donna and Margaret are looking at a website dedicated to Josh and run by his fans. It's called www.lemonlyman.com and is actually registered to Warner Bros Corporation.
  • Josh falling afoul of posters on the message board at 'lemonlyman.com' was taken from Aaron Sorkin's own experiences dealing with the message board at the TV site televisionwithoutpity.com.
  • Laura Dern and Richard Schiff were both in the feature film I Am Sam. Laura was in the first Jurrasic Park and Richard was in the second Jurrasic Park film "The Lost World: Jurrasic Park."

Goofs Edit

  • When he's talking to Leo outside, Bartlett mentions drinkers at the Middle Temple honoring Princess Elizabeth. However, the date he mentions is 40 years after Queen Elizabeth died, and 60 years before Princess Elizabeth (daughter of George III) was born. (James I also had a daughter, Princess Elizabeth)

Quotes Edit

C.J. Cregg:  Could you do me a favor? I just got faxed a letter from Tabitha Fortis. She says she's not comfortable going ahead with the dinner next week unless she gets to chastise the administration for backing off it's commitment to banning land mines. I'm sure its just a matter of hand-holding. Would you ask Sam to talk to her?
Toby Ziegler:  I'll do it.
C.J. Cregg: I thought Sam 'cause he's more familiar with land mines.
Toby Ziegler: I'll talk to her.
C.J. Cregg: Why?
Toby Ziegler: 'Cause. 
C.J. Cregg: Is it possible you've got a little touch of the poet? Or would like a little touch of the poet?
Toby Ziegler: Yes.
C.J. Cregg: Okay, then learn something about land mines, would you? We don't want to cancel. About 300 of the finest minds in the country are coming, plus some Congressmen.
Toby Ziegler: It'll be fine.
C.J. Cregg: Knock 'em dead, de Bergerac.


President Bartlet: I don't know, Leslie. I think we might be talking about a .22 caliber mind in a .357 magnum world.


Sam Seaborn: By the way, my Princeton Tigers could whip your Cal Bears any day of the week.
C.J. Cregg: At what?
Sam Seaborn: Logarithms, possibly.


CJ Cregg: Let me explain something to you, this is sort of my field. The people on these sites: they're the cast of One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest. The muumuu wearing Parliament smoker? That's Nurse Ratched. When Nurse Ratched's unhappy the patients are unhappy. You? You're McMurphy! You swoop in there with your card games and your fishing trips...
Josh: I didn't swoop in! I came in exactly the same way everybody else did.
CJ: Well, now I'm telling you to open the ward room window and climb on out before they give you a pre-frontal lobotomy and I have to smother you with a pillow.
Josh: You're Chief Brom...
CJ: I'm Chief Bromden yes at this particular moment. I'm assigning an intern from the press office to that website. They're going to check it every night before they go home. If they discover you've been there, I'm going to shove a motherboard so far up your ass...what?!
Josh: Well, technically, I outrank you...
CJ: So far up your ass!!


President Bartlet: I've been meaning to tell you, you've done really well this week with the open-mike thing.
C.J. Cregg: Thank you.
President Bartlet: Didn't turn out too bad.
C.J. Cregg: No sir, it didn't turn out too bad at all. In fact, the whole country's talking about whether Ritchie's smart enough to be President. And you didn't take hit, 'cause it was an accident. You know, it occurs to me that even your choice of language was interesting. "A .22 caliber mind, in a .357 magnum world." That's unusual for you, a gun metaphor.
Bartlet doesn't look up, seeming to be engrossed in whatever he's reading.
C.J. Cregg: Toby mentioned to me that when each interview was over, all the interviewers wanted to talk to you about was Ritchie, and you took a pass each time. Until Philadelphia.
Now Bartlet slowly looks up at her.
C.J. Cregg: Mr. President, is it possible you saw that the green light was on?
He slips the glasses off and gives her an unreadable look.
C.J. Cregg: That was Old School.
He turns back to look at her.
C.J. Cregg: Go knock 'em dead.

Cast Edit

StarringEdit

Special Guest StarsEdit

Guest StarringEdit

Co-StarringEdit

References Edit

"The West Wing" The U.S. Poet Laureate (2002)
The West Wing Episode Guide

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