West Wing
A Proportional Response

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A Proportional Response
efing last night. He rambles on about how studied the report the night before in his reading room, and rattles off the names of some other military craft. Charlie whispers something to Josh, which I'm guessing is, "Is the President always like this?" Josh looks a little surprised and says, "Tell him." I guess that's not what Charlie said. Someone tells POTUS it's ten minutes to air and Jed says, "For want of a pair of a glasses..." C.J. hands him hers and he gamely tries to read with them but says, "Oh crap, I can't see anything with these." Josh is still urging Charlie to tell POTUS whatever it is he said to Josh. Charlie pipes up, "Mr. President?" The whole room falls silent as everyone nervously regards the newcomer with the cojones to say anything to POTUS in his present mood. Charlie happens to be standing in front of a monitor that's hooked to a camera that's on POTUS, so behind Charlie we can see Jed, who's actually across the room. Neat staging. POTUS rips off C.J.'s glasses and stares at Charlie, as Charlie tries to tell him that he mentioned reading the Phoenix report in his study the previous night. POTUS doesn't get it and snarls, "What of it? Who is this?" Mrs. L gets it right away and dispatches Nancy to tell someone to look under the papers on the coffee table in the President's study. She gives POTUS a slightly weary look. Josh says, "Mr. President, this is Charles Young..." POTUS dismisses them with a wave and says abruptly, "I don't have any time for new people now." Charlie looks a wee bit disappointed, and Josh succeeds in not revealing too much with his own expression. Leo looks over toward Charlie and Josh and says under his breath, "All right, that's it." He asks Jed for a minute of his time.

Jed and Leo go into Leo's office. Jed asks him what he needs. Leo points out that Jed's gone through everyone who works for him and everyone who's married to him and he doesn't know who else he could get mad at, so he's afraid the American people could be next. Leo adds that when they're done with bombing announcement, Jed's going to be sending Abby some flowers. Jed looks petulant but doesn't argue, just nods. He sighs and launches into a long diatribe. Leo, you might want to pack a lunch. Actually, we all might want to do that. "Did you know that two thousand years ago, a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world, free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civus Romanus: 'I am a Roman citizen.' So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens...where was Morris's protection? Or anybody else on that plane? Where was the retribution for the families? And where was the warning to the rest of the world that Americans shall walk this earth unharmed, lest the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of mankind comes crashing down on your house? In other words, Leo, what the hell are we doing here?" Leo says, "We are behaving the way a superpower ought to behave." POTUS snaps, "Well, our behaviour has produced some crappy results. In fact, I'm not a hundred percent sure it hasn't induced it." Leo doesn't know what he's talking about, and Jed rages, "I'm talking about two hundred and eighty-six American Marines in Beirut! I'm talking about Somalia! I'm talking about Nairobi!" Leo snarls at Jed, "And you think ratcheting up the body count is going to act as a deterrent?" It seems that Jed thinks that's damn right. Leo tells him that in that case, POTUS is just as stupid as the people who think that capital punishment is going to deter drug kingpins, "...as if drug kingpins didn't live their day-to-day lives under the possibility of execution. And their executions are a lot less dainty than ours, and tend to take place without the bother and expense of due process. So, my friend, if you want to start using American military strength as the arm of the Lord, you can do that. We're the only superpower left. You can conquer the world like Charlemagne...but you better be prepared to kill everyone. And you better start with me, because I will raise up an army against you, and I will beat you!" Jed's calmed down a little and says, "He had a ten-day-old baby at home. We're doing nothing." Leo insists that isn't true, that they're destroying four highly rated military targets. POTUS: "And this is good?" Leo: "Of course it's not good. There is no 'good';. It's what there is. It's how you behave if you're the most powerful nation in the world. It's proportional, it's reasonable, it's responsible, it's merciful. It's not nothing. Four high-rated military targets." Jed's getting wound up again: "Which they'll rebuild again in six months!" Leo's really yelling now: "Then we'll blow'em up again in six months! We're getting really good at it." Jed's quiet for a bit and sighs heavily. Leo says in a normal tone of voice, "It's what our fathers taught us." Jed says gravely, "Why didn't you say so?" and cuffs him on the arm a bit. As POTUS wanders over to a chair, he says, "Oh, Leo...when I think of all the work you put in to get me to run and all the work you did to get me elected...I could pummel your ass with a baseball bat." Leo laughs and they both crack up totally. Thank God the yelling part of this exchange is over, because I've had it with typing the HTML codes for italics in every blasted sentence. Leo decides to tell POTUS about what Bertram Coles said about him. Jed's amused and asks, "Bert's calling me out?" Leo confirms, "Apparently the people in Bert's district are so patriotic that if the President of the United States himself were to show up, they'd kill him." They crack up some more and POTUS says, "Ziegler must be ballistic!" Leo grins and says, "Toby is on it." Suddenly POTUS asks, "Oh by the way, who was that kid before, the one who figured out where my glasses were?" Leo's face straightens up and he explains, "Well, if you want him, that's your new body man." Jed says, "What's his story?" I still can't quite resolve this super-hawkish, thunder-of-God, arm-of-the-Lord aspect of Jed's personality with the bookwormy, tree-hugging, Latin scholar aspect, but at least it's interesting. Thank God some television writers know how to write a complex, multi-dimensional character, instead of making everybody a cartoon for various neuroses. David E. Kelley, I'm glaring in your direction.

In the Oval Office, everybody's cooling their heels waiting for Jed and Leo to return. Toby's perched on the desk fiddling with a pen. C.J. comes up and stands behind Toby's right shoulder. She asks if he knows anything about as story going around about the Secret Service investigating Bertram Coles. Toby says he doesn't. C.J. tells Toby that Maggie Greeenwald is quoting him as saying the Secret Service investigates all threats made against the President, and that it's White House Policy not to comment. "Did you say that?" Toby says, "Yeah. Hey, you don't suppose that's how the story got started, do you? You know what, C.J., you tell Bert Coles that Toby Ziegler said there's a new sheriff in town." C.J. says nothing but smirks at him. Ride 'em, cowboy! ["deborah, for heaven's sake. You're a married woman!" -- Wing Chun]

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