West Wing
A Proportional Response

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A Proportional Response
Office and he's consorting with a prostitute. Sam takes great umbrage at the word "consort" and talks about how he likes this woman as a friend, and she poses no threat to the President. Okay. But then he goes on to say that as a result of his friendship she may start living within legal bounds and ensure herself a greater future, and isn't that what they're supposed to be doing in the White House? Yeah, Sam, I'm pretty sure Leo will be putting you in charge of federal outreach to sex trade workers real soon now. C.J. is similarly unimpressed with this line of argument, and sarcastically remarks that he's there to "help [Laurie] see the error of her ways." Sam reiterates that he's there because he likes Laurie, and that he's not sleeping with her, and that it isn't tawdry. C.J. says she doesn't care what it is, she cares what it looks like. Sam snaps, "And I care what it is! And I think it's high time you all spent a little less time looking good, and a little more time..." C.J. cuts him off: "And a little more time being good? Yeah, I've heard that one before." C.J. tells him there's one other thing, and Sam indicates that he's "resenting the hell out of this conversation." C.J. says, "It was tough to tell from your tone of voice." He wants to know what the one other thing is. C.J. tells him, "I'm your first phone call." Sam: "When?" C.J.: "Before. Now. In the future. Any time you're into something and you don't know what. And you can't tell me you thought there was nothing to it, because you sat down with Josh and you sat down with Toby. Any time you're into something and you don't know what, you don't keep it from me! I'm your first phone call. I'm your first line of defense. You have to let me protect you and you have to let me protect the President!" Sam asks if that's what this is about. C.J. stands up and responds, "What this is about, Sam, is you're a high-profile, very visible, much-noticed member..." Sam: "You just said three things that all mean the same thing." Hmm. Perhaps this is not the time to nit-pick her speech, Sam. He asks if he can go now, and states that he thinks it's about her, and letting "character cops win in a forfeit because [she] doesn't have the guts, or the strength, or the courage to say, 'we know what's right from wrong and this is none of your damn business.'" C.J. looks slightly wounded and says, "Really? Strength, guts, or courage." Sam snaps, "Yes!" C.J. looks down, snatches her glasses and as she sits down, says, "You just said three things that all mean the same thing." She puts on her glasses and looks at her computer screen and begins typing. (Probably: Die, Sam, die!) Sam can see he's gone a bit too far and tries to talk to her but she dismisses him. As he opens the door to leave, he turns and tries to ask casually about what she thinks the target for the retaliatory strike will be, but C.J.'s not having it and keeps typing as she tells him that she really doesn't know. "The Commandant of the Second Division doesn't tend to include me in his thinking." Sam says, "I'll see you later." C.J. snaps, "Count on it." As Sam leaves his office and rounds a corner in the hallway, he pounds the wall hard enough to make bystanders turn their heads.

In the Situation Room, Admiral Fitzwallace and some bald army guy are huddled together holding up their coffee cups, and Fitzwallace says, "This is different coffee than we usually have." It's such an oddly commercial moment that I half expect Juan Valdez to stroll in with his donkey, but instead Leo and POTUS hustle in. POTUS sits down, keeping his posture unusually stiff, and asks what they've got. Fitzwallace replies that they have three retaliatory strike scenarios, operational at the President's command, no prep time needed. Fitzwallace indicates that all three scenarios are comprehensive, meet the requirements of proportional response, and pose minimum risk to American personnel and assets. The Admiral starts to describe the first scenario, known as Pericles I. (Bartlet, the über-nerd, must have named this operation, given that Pericles was a right-wing Democrat in Athens, which seems to be the way Jed is feeling these days.) Before the Admiral can get very far, Jed asks: "What is the virtue of a proportional response?" Fitzwallace is confused, and Jed repeats: "What is the virtue of a proportional response? Why's it good?" Fitzwallace and Leo look at each other. POTUS continues: "They hit an airplane, so we hit a transmitter, right? That's a proportional response." Fitzwallace tries to go back to his presentation, and Jed continues: "They hit a barracks, so we hit two transmitters." Fitzwallace agrees that that's roughly right. Jed says, "This is what we do. I mean, this is what we do." Leo quietly says, "Yes sir, it's what we do. It's what we've always done." Jed snaps, "Well, if it's what we do, if it's what we've always done, don't they know we're doing it?" Leo tries to get him to look at the plan for Pericles I; Jed says he's looked at it: "It's two ammo dumps, an abandoned railroad bridge and a Syrian intelligence agency." Fitzwallace offers that these are four highly rated targets. POTUS points out that the Syrians know they're going to go after those kinds of targets, and that the areas have been abandoned for three days, which they know from satellite reconnaissance. Jed's getting more wound up as he says, "They did that, so we did this. It's the cost of doing business. It's been factored in. Right? Am I right, or am I missing something here?" Leo's trying to interject as the voice of reason, but Jed talks over him. Fitzwallace says, "No sir. You're right, sir." POTUS: "Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response?" Fitzwallace admits, "It isn't virtuous, Mr. President. It's...all there is, sir." POTUS insists that it's not." Leo tries to get a word in edgewise, but Fitzwallace interrupts, and asks Jed, "Just what else is there?" It's Terminator time: "The disproportional response. Let the word ring forth, from this time and this place, gentlemen, you kill an American, any American, we don't come back with a proportional response. We come back with total disaster!" He bangs the table. Some military guy way down the table asks POTUS if he's suggesting that they "carpet-bomb Damascus." Jed roars, "I am suggesting, General, that you, and Admiral Fitzwallace, and Secretary Hutchinson, and the rest of the national security team take the next sixty minutes and put together an American response scenario that doesn't make me think we're just docking somebody's damn allowance!" With that he storms out, leaving a slightly bewildered Leo to face the chiefs.

The next shot is of an old painting of some guy on a horse. I'm probably supposed to know that it's Teddy Roosevelt or somebody like that, but I'll just plead Canadian-ness here. Strega probably knows. The camera pans down the painting to rest on the face of a young man we've never seen before. He's looking a tad apprehensive as he waits in a large empty conference room. Josh walks in with Donna at his elbow. He's giving her a lunch order as he walks toward the young man: "I would like salad, I would like soup of some kind, and if you were to run across a sandwich of some kind, then hang the expense. And I would like a bottle of water." Donna's got it and she hands Josh a file saying, "This is Charles Young," and whizzes out. Josh doesn't introduce himself but just says, "I'm supposed to vet you." Charles is confused: "I beg your pardon?" Josh repeats himself, "Vet you. I'm supposed to vet you -- investigate to discover if there are problems." He finally introduces himself and asks whether the young man goes by Charles. Turns out it's Charlie. He sits and invites Charlie to do the same, but Charlie prefers to stand. Just then, Josh sees Donna rushing past the door in the hallway and calls out to her that she can forget the salad, he's not going to eat it anyway, but that he would like a bottle of water as soon as is humanly possible. Josh turns his attention back to Charlie and tells him to have a seat i

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