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Awesome: The West Wing

President Bartlet:

  • First, his entrance line,
    John Van Dyke: Then what is the first commandment?
    President Bartlet (entering): I am the Lord your God, thou shalt worship no other God before me.
    • Don't forget his followup: "Boy those were the days."

He goes on to verbally bitchslap a group of arrogant Religious Right pundits, telling them how an extreme Christian group sent his granddaughter a doll with a knife stuck through its throat after she gave an interview discussing her views on abortion -
President Bartlet: You'll denounce these people, Al. You'll do it publicly. And until you do, you can all get your fat asses out of my White House. CJ, show these people out.

This example, by the way, is his very first appearance in the series. Just sayin'.

  • Religion is popular CMOA fodder for President Bartlet; being a devout Catholic, he doesn't have patience for Strawman Political religious forces. His smackdown to a Dr. Laura-like radio talk show host about her condemnation of homosexuality using numerous quotes from the Bible itself and a rather large faux pas that she's made ("When the President stands? No one sits.") worked rather well.

    (After being distracted from his prepared speech by seeing her in the crowd at a talk radio reception)
    Bartlet: Forgive me, Dr. Jacobs. Are you an M.D.?
    Jacobs: Ph.D.
    Bartlet: In Psychology? ... Theology? ... Social work?
    Bartlet: I'm asking, 'cause on your show, people call in for advice and you go by the name Dr. Jacobs on your show. And I didn't know if maybe your listeners were confused by that, and assumed you had advanced training in Psychology, Theology, or health care.
    Jacobs: I don't believe they are confused, no sir.
    Bartlet: Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an "abomination."
    Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
    Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.
    Jacobs: 18:22.
    Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? (Pause) While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important, because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building when the president stands, nobody sits.

  • The scene in "Two Cathedrals" when, standing alone in the National Cathedral after Mrs. Landingham's funeral, he bitterly condemns God himself in untranslated, unsubtitled Latin.
    Bartlet: You're a son of a bitch, you know that? She bought her first new car and you hit her with a drunk driver. What, was that supposed to be funny? "You can't conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God", says Graham Greene. I don't know whose ass he was kissing there, because I think you're just vindictive. What was Josh Lyman, a warning shot? That was my son. What did I ever do to yours but praise his glory and praise his name? There's a tropical storm that's gaining speed and power. They say we haven't had a storm this bad since you took out that tender ship of mine in the North Atlantic last year. 68 crew. You know what a tender ship does? It fixes the other ships, doesn't even carry guns. Just goes around, fixes other ships and delivers the mail. That's all it can do. Gratias, tibi ago, Domine. Translation  Yes, I lied! It was a sin, and I've committed many sins. Have I displeased you, you feckless thug?! 3.8 million new jobs, that wasn't good? Increased foreign trade, bailed out Mexico, 30 million new acres of land for conservation, put Mendoza on the bench, we're not fighting a war, I've raised three children and that's not enough to buy me out of the doghouse?! Haec credam a Deo pio? A Deo iusto? A Deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem! Tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui! Officium perfeci! Cruciatus in crucem - eas in crucem! Translation  (stops at the altar, pulls out a cigarette, lights it, takes one defiant puff, and stubs it out inside the National Cathedral) You get Hoynes.

The best thing about that scene is that Jed's speaking to God on equal terms. And yet really, who else is his equal, as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world? The fact that Martin Sheen didn't win the Emmy for "Two Cathedrals" has got to be one of the most insane award snubs EVER.

  • "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" ends with an American plane being shot down by Syria; on board was President Bartlet's physician, of whom he was very fond. Leo, who's former military, is worried that the militarily inexperienced President is going to be nervous about retaliating, but his response terrifies Leo.
    President Bartlet: I am not frightened. I am going to blow them off the face of the Earth with the fury of God's own thunder.

  • His Redemption in the Rain scene in "Two Cathedrals": in the middle of a powerful thunderstorm, and to the tune of Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms," he decides to hell with his critics: his MS revelation notwithstanding, he's running for reelection. Without saying a single word. We don't hear what he says in response to the question "will you seek a second term?" until the next season. It's not needed thanks to the posture he adopts just before the camera stops rolling, but the next season's dialogue is a direct translation of the pose:
    President Bartlet (casually): Yeah. And I'm gonna win. (He does.)

  • In his campaign for re-election, Bartlet gives several opportunities for a crowning moment, so let's consider them together.
    • President Bartlet insults Ritchie on an open mike, which sends the staff into paroxysms, but the Ritchie staff bungles the situation so badly that everyone comes out thinking the President was right. Only CJ figures out that the President did it on purpose.

  • The debate: Ritchie opens saying that the President will attempt to justify increased taxes and a large federal government by throwing a "big word" at them: 'Unfunded Mandate'. The moderator invites President Bartlet to respond:
    President Bartlet: Well, first of all, let's clear up a couple of things. "Unfunded mandate" is two words, not one big word.
    • As his staff looks on in awe, the President continues to wallop his ass. As summed up by CJ -
    "That's not Uncle Fluffy."
    • Bartlet then continues by laying into Ritchie, countering his anti federal spending stance with a list of all the money Ritchie's state has received in pork barrel spending and ending with another zinger:
    "Now, I'm supposed to be using this time for a question, so here it is: Can we have it back please?"
    • Let's just say that the entire debate was a Curb-Stomp Battle, with Bartlett owning Ritchie's ass from start to finish.

  • Related to the above, later that night the Deputy Communications Director is explaining to someone that the White House staff had thought Bartlet was going to have to fall all over himself being nice to Richie in order not to seem arrogant, but that polling convinced them that he was going to be seen that way no matter what.
    Sam Seaborn: And then, that morning at 3:10, my phone rings, and it's Toby Ziegler. He says, "Don't you get it? It's a gift that they're irreversibly convinced that he's arrogant. 'Cause now he can be."

  • Bartlet and his election opponent Governor Rob Ritchie (R-FL) happen to meet in the lounge outside a fundraiser they're both attending for charity. President Bartlet is in a morose, contemplative mood because earlier that night, a Secret Service agent he knew had accidentally gotten killed trying to intervene in an armed robbery. When he mentions it, Ritchie responds in a somewhat exaggerated Southern drawl:
    Ritchie: Crime. Boy, I don't know.
    Bartlet pauses before returning to the subject of the campaign
    Bartlet: We should have a great debate, Rob. We owe it to everyone. When I was running as a governor, I didn't know anything. I made them start Bartlet college in my dining room. Two hours every morning on foreign affairs and the military. You can do that.
    Ritchie: How many different ways you think you're gonna find to call me dumb?
    Bartlet: I wasn't, Rob. But you've turned being un-engaged into a Zen-like thing, and you shouldn't enjoy it so much is all, and if it appears at times as if I don't like you, that's the only reason why.
    Ritchie: (Offended) You're what my friends call a superior sumbitch. You're an academic elitist, and a snob. You're, uh, Hollywood, you're weak, you're liberal, and you can't be trusted. And if it appears from time to time as if I don't like you, well, those are just a few of the many reasons why.
    Bartlet seems to brush this off, and gets up when he hears the music signaling the end of the break. At the door, he turns to Ritchie:
    Bartlet: In the future, if you're wondering, "Crime. Boy, I don't know" is when I decided to kick your ass.

  • There's President Bartlet's decision to accept a congressional censure:
    President Bartlet: There's another reason... I was wrong. I was, I was just... I was wrong. Come on, you know that. Lots of times we don't know what right or wrong is but lots of times we do and come on, this is one. I may not have had sinister intent at the outset but there were plenty of opportunities for me to make it right. No one in government takes responsibility for anything anymore. We foster, we obfuscate, we rationalize. "Everybody does it." That's what we say. So we come to occupy a moral safe house where everyone's to blame so no one's guilty. I'm to blame. I was wrong.

  • In the episode "In The Room" Bartlet shuts everyone up with six words: "This plane is going to China!" Did we mention he was paralyzed from the neck down when he said it? Followed by a heartbreaking moment of dignity when he pushes his own wheelchair in to the press briefing.

  • There's that marvelous scene in the first half of "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen," when Josh sees Bartlet in action for the first time, explaining in a town hall meeting why he voted against a bill that would have helped local dairy farmers:
    "Today for the first time in history, the largest group of Americans living in poverty are children. 1 in 5 children live in the most abject, dangerous, hopeless, back-breaking, gut-wrenching poverty any of us could imagine. 1 in 5, and they're children. If fidelity to freedom of democracy is the code of our civic religion then surely the code of our humanity is faithful service to that unwritten commandment that says we shall give our children better than we ourselves received. Let me put it this way: I voted against the bill because I didn't want to make it harder for people to buy milk. I stopped some money from flowing into your pocket. If that angers you, if you resent me, I completely respect that. But if you expect anything different from the President of the United States, you should vote for someone else."

President Bartlet/ Leo McGarry

  • In episode 19, "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet," the crew have been worn down to the breaking point by a year of mostly lost battles, a 42% approval rating, and a feeling like nothing they're doing matters. At the end of the episode, Leo and Bartlet have a heated argument that swiftly turns into a shouting match, each blaming the other for leading them down this path. It looks like it's headed for a CMOS, but then something breaks. Whispering that he "doesn't want to feel this way anymore," Bartlet informs Leo he is no longer going to be concerned about making people mad, and, at Leo's urging, begins repeating the mantra, "this is more important than reelection...I want to speak."
Leo, thrilled to see his friend re-energized and upbeat again, goes back to his office and tells the previously downcast staff that they are going to make some radical changes, and no longer toe the line. The whole staff returns to the enthusiasm they had at the beginning of the year, and strike out with newfound purpose, not five minutes after everything seemed at its bleakest. Cue audience fist-pumping.
  • Season 1, Episode 3: Bartlet has been on the warpath after the downing of a military passenger jet carrying medical staff (and Bartlet's personal physician) by the Syrian government. Minutes before he has to deliver a national address, Leo drags the raging President into a room and the two of them have a good old fashioned shouting match about the virtues of a proportional response, the harsh realities of national security, and the necessity to behave as a responsible, merciful and powerful nation until the President calms down and fully accepts the role and duty he has to perform. There have been other times the fate of the world and the Presidency have simply boiled down to these two old friends arguing with each other, but this was the first, and possibly the most awesome.

President Bartlet / Josh:

  • Josh and President Bartlet share credit for "Shutdown." The Republican-controlled Congress has managed get the Federal Government shut down for having no budget, and everybody blames the President. Josh, bouncing back from his funk, convinces the President to walk to Congress, stopping to commiserate with tourists. This flusters the Speaker of the House so much that he huddles with his allies for what feels like hours as the President cools his heels in the lobby. You can feel the public opinion shifting. When the President's delegation leaves before the Speaker manages to stick his head out of his conference room, it's all over for the Speaker.
    • Also bonus points for their innovative ways of dealing with the shutdown. One of the many things affected by the shutdown was an imminent state dinner with the British Prime Minister, which would no longer be possible as all the wait staff would be on leave. The solution? Cut the guest list down to Bartlet, the PM, and their wives, with Abbey doing the cooking.

Christopher Mulready

  • Newly-minted, conservative, Justice Mulready's conversation with Charlie at the end about affirmative action:
    Charlie: "...affirmative action's about a legacy of racial oppression."
    Justice Mulready: "It's about compromising admissions standards."
    Charlie: "That's bull —- Excuse me. It's about leveling the playing field after 300 years—-"
    Justice Mulready: "See, this is where the liberal argument goes off the rails. You get stuck in the past. Now, you want to come back at me with: Grading is based on past performance, but admission should be based on potential and how a candidate may thrive with this sort of opportunity. And studies show that affirmative action admits have a higher disposition to contribute to society."
    Charlie: "Hang on, I've got to write this down."

  • His introduction has him debating Toby on the Defense of Marriage Act, Toby's every position against the act being questioned and challenged and when Toby gets riled up into ad hominem attacks (as he is wont to) Mulready reveals that he's against the act but for different reasons and wanted to make sure it was supported for the right reasons (plus it's fun to mess with Toby).

    • That entire episode was a CMOA. Not only do they manage to get the extremely left-wing judge that they wanted appointed to the Supreme Court, but they also get Mulready, who's about as close to an Affably Evil Magnificent Bastard as a judge can get. The fact that he and their judge are Friendly Enemies who get along very well, and will both contribute great debate to the Supreme Court's decisions only makes it better.

  • Mulready gets a CMOA in virtually every scene he's in. His interview with President Bartlet, where he essentially dares him to appoint a judge to the Supreme Court who is not safe, middle-of-the-road choice, but instead someone who is visionary whose interpretation of law will last into the decades, is another.

President Bartlet / Charlie

  • A smaller-scale and subtle moment, but no less awesome thanks to Fridge Brilliance: In "Stirred," President Bartlet does Charlie's tax return. Think about that for a second: not only is the President the kind of guy who will happily do one of his employees' tax return for him—he says he actually enjoys it—but Charlie has managed to persuade the President of the United States, a Nobel Laureate in economics, to do his taxes.
    • That plot turns into a rolling snowball of awesome when the president finishes the return:
      Charlie: They're saying I owe the federal government money?
      President Bartlet: And you don't even need a stamp. Hand it over.
      Charlie: There's a mistake.
      President Bartlet: Whatever. Cough it up.
    By the end of the episode, though, the President tells Charlie he's so impressed how much Charlie gave to charity, he's making him a gift of the DVD player Charlie was going to buy with his tax refund.

  • The CMOA for their relationship: After sending Charlie on an exhaustive and nerve-fraying hunt for the just-perfect Thanksgiving carving knife, one that can be passed on for generations from father to son, Charlie asks why if it's such a big deal, Bartlet doesn't already have one. Bartlet then points out that he does... and now he needs a replacement, because he's giving it to Charlie. Charlie doesn't recognize the insignia "PR" on the blade. Bartlet tells him they were made by "a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere," and belonged to Bartlet's great-great-grandfather. Who gave them to his great-grandfather, who gave them to his grandfather, who gave them to his father, who gave them to Bartlet. And one day Charlie will give them to his son.
    • Not to take away from the moment, but you also see by the end of the show that Bartlet did in fact give it to his son. Son-in-law, but his son.

C.J. Cregg

  • C.J. Cregg gets her CMOA in a third-season episode in which a White House social function is interrupted by news of a terrorist bombing in the Middle East which kills two American students. An entertainment reporter is covering the evening. C.J. changes from evening wear to business wear and stonewalls the press until POTUS can speak with the dead boys' parents. The entertainment reporter's story implies that C.J. (1) didn't know what was going on, and (2) was more concerned with changing her clothes. Later in the Press Room, C.J. completely humiliates the reporter by exposing her ignorance of veto override procedure and the number of Representatives in Congress, advising her to "get the notes from a classmate". The reporter confronts her afterwards:
    C.J.: I changed my clothes because I didn't think it was appropriate to talk about the death of two teenagers while wearing a ball gown, and you knew that. Because you're stupid, but you're not stupid, you know what I'm saying? Security's going to take your press credentials. You'll call my office every day and I'll decide if you get into the room. I'm taking your spot on Pebble Beach. You can do your stand-ups from Lafayette Park.
    Sherri: Who the hell...
    C.J.: One more word out of your mouth and every local station in town but yours gets an exclusive with the President. Hunting season on me is over.
    Sherri: *purses her lips and stomps away*
    C.J.: And the chemical abbreviation for table salt is NaCl.

  • From "In The Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II":
    "Obviously thereís one story thatís gonna be dominating the news around the world for the next few days. And it would be easy to think that President Bartlet, Joshua Lyman, and Stephanie Abbott were the only people who were victims of a gun crime last night. They weren't. Mark Davis and Sheila Evans of Philadelphia were killed by a gun last night. He was a biology teacher and she was a nursing student. Tina Bishop and Belinda Larkin were killed with a gun last night. They were twelve. There were thirty-six homicides last night. 480 sexual assaults. 3411 robberies. 3685 aggravated assaults. All at gun point. And if anyone thinks those crimes could have been prevented if the victims themselves had been carrying guns, Iíd only remind you that the President of the United States was shot last night while surrounded by the best trained guards in the history of the world."

  • In "Ways and Means." Bartlet had revealed his MS and a special prosecutor had been appointed to investigate whether he had done anything illegal by covering it up during the campaign. The special prosecutor was a calm and deliberate guy, and C.J. realized it would be better for them to have an opponent who would come after them out of pure spite (so it would seem more like a partisan attack) - like, say, the Republican-controlled Congress. She starts dropping hints to the press about how much they respect the special prosecutor, to the point that even Democrats were asking her not to seem quite so eager to work "with" him. After a few days of C.J. playing basically the entire country, Congress gets fed up and says they're not going to wait for Bartlet's "hand-picked" special prosecutor and are going to start holding hearings - just like C.J. wanted.

  • In the season six episode "Third-Day Story", while Josh and Toby are running around like headless chickens screwing up just about everything they turn their hands to, CJ quietly and competently handles everything thrown her way and saves their hides repeatedly, to boot. No wonder she's the one promoted to Chief of Staff; she's proven she can handle the job already!

Leo McGarry

  • In "A Proportional Response," President Bartlet wants a much stronger response to the shooting down of an American jet than the "proportional response" his advisers recommend, but Leo sets him straight:
    Leo: You think ratcheting up the body count's gonna act as a deterrent?
    President Bartlet: You're damn right I...
    Leo: Then you are just as stupid as these guys who think capital punishment is going to be a deterrent for 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.

  • Due to the timing, probably one of the defining moments for the character in our memories. As the vice-presidential debate looms, everybody is anxious about Leo's performance in the practices but want to keep him calm. They also want to keep the expectations low but leaking it out themselves would be too obvious, looking bad to the press and embarrassing Leo. Unfortunately, it gets leaked without their control, now the expectations are low but they're worried about how Leo will take it. Then the debate actually comes.

He knocks it out of the park.

Then he reveals he was the leak. He sent out a secret video of himself performing subpar on purpose to lower expectations, because he knew that Josh would never be willing to embarrass Leo that way... and then proceeded to humiliate his opponent in true Leo fashion.

Josh Lyman

  • "Mandatory Minimums": an irate senator, furious about a speech President Bartlet is making and promising to his staff that he'll launch a legislative agenda that will completely cripple the President, calls Josh. Toby and Sam are trying to help brace him for the threatening call he's about to receive, after having to stand idly by and be dressed down by the Senator's staff a few days ago.
    Sam: I'm just saying you're probably rocked back from your meeting last week.
    Josh: A little.
    Sam: They threatened you ... They made you feel powerless and you're a little off your game. A little gun shy.
    (Josh's assistant hands him the phone)
    Toby: Josh, if you need us, we're standing right here.
    Josh: Hi Senator, why don't you take your legislative agenda and shove it up your ass? hangs up'
    Crowd (reacting to the President's speech): wild applause
    Josh: Turns out I was fine. nonchalantly tosses the phone to Donna

  • To a Democratic congressman voting against the President's crime bill:
    "See, you won with 52 percent, but the President took your district with 59. And I think it's high time we come back and say thanks. Do you have any idea how much noise Air Force One makes when it lands in Eau Claire, Wisconsin? We're gonna have a party, Congressman. You should come; it's gonna be great. And when the watermelon's done, right in town square, right in the band gazebo. You guys got a band gazebo? Doesn't matter; we'll build one. Right in the band gazebo, that's where the President is going to drape his arm around the shoulder of some assistant D.A. we like. And you should have your camera with you, you should get a picture of that, 'cause that's gonna be the moment you're finished in Democratic politics. President Bartlet's a good man, he's got a good heart, he doesn't hold a grudge. That's what he pays me for."

  • Charlie had been interviewing for a low-level position at the White House, and got noticed to be the President's personal assistant. While he is still in shock about that, the President walks in an introduces himself to Charlie with "Do you want to help us with this work?", which simply blows Charlie's mind even further. As he is standing in the Oval Office, all around him the networks are setting up for a live broadcast by the President. Josh notices that absolute incredulousness/amazement/awe/whatever that is on Charlie's face at where he is and what he is about to do, and Josh says the CMOA line which shows he knows exactly how Charlie feels:
    "It doesn't go away."

  • The NSA gives Josh a card that will help him get to safety in the case of a nuclear attack. When Josh finds out that neither his assistant Donna nor any of his senior staff co-workers save for Leo got the same thing he gives the card back.
    "I can't keep this. I think it's a white flag of surrender. I want to be a comfort to my friends in tragedy. And I want to be able to celebrate with them in triumph. And for all the times in between, I just want to be able to look them in the eye. Leo, it's not for me. I want to be with my friends, my family, and these women."

Toby Ziegler

  • In A Proportional Response A hostile Democratic congressman has just said on his local radio: "Folks down here are patriotic, fiercely patriotic. The President better not be planning on making any visits to this base. If he does, he may not get out alive." Toby goes apeshit at this gross disrespect from a member of their own party, but is told that there is nothing he can do about it. So what does he do about it? Nonchalantly tell members of the White House reporters "The Secret Service investigates all threats made against the President. Itís White House policy not to comment on those investigations."
    • There are no further explanations, but his comments get quickly circulated, with the implication that 1) Said congressman is probably scared shitless that the Secret Service is on his case for saying something stupid and supposedly harmless, 2) Other politicians and his constituents are probably going to view him as damaged goods from now on.
    Toby: You know what, CJ? You tell Bert Coles that Toby Ziegler said there's a new sheriff in town.

  • "In Excelsis Deo":

    Bartlet: (Wondering why Toby is arranging a funeral) Whatís going on?
    Toby: A homeless man died last night; a Korean War veteran, who was wearing a coat that I gave to the Goodwill. It had my card in it.
    Bartlet: Toby, youíre not responsible for Ö
    Toby: An hour and twenty minutes for the ambulance to get there. A Lance Corporal, United States Marine Corps, Second of the Seventh. The guy got better treatment at Panmunjom.
    Bartlet: Toby, if we start pulling strings like this, you donít think every homeless veteran would come out of the woodworks?
    Toby: I can only hope, sir.

  • "He Shall, from Time to Time". In respect to a line in the State of the Union speech:
    Bartlet: What's on your mind?
    Toby: The era of big government is over.
    Bartlet: You want to cut the line?
    Toby: I want to change the sentiment. [pause] We're running away from ourselves and I know we can score points that way, I was a principal architect of that campaign strategy right along with you, Josh. But we're here now, tomorrow night we do an immense thing; we have to say what we feel, that government, no matter what it's failures in the past and in times to come for that matter, government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one...gets left behind. An instrument of good.
    • This moment was so awesome that it actually inspired Will Bailey's first Awesome Moment, when he cites it to Toby as one of the reasons to radically redefine American foreign policy so they can go stop a massive African genocide.

  • In "17 People", he takes the President to task over his failure to reveal his MS:
    Bartlet: Toby's concerned that the peaceful solution I brokered in Kashmir last year was the result of a drug-induced haze.
    Leo: I was there with him. So was Fitz. So was Cashman, Hutchinson, Berryhill...
    Toby: Well, that's fantastic.
    Leo: Toby.
    Toby: None of you were elected!
    Bartlet: I was elected, they were appointed. The Vice President was elected. He has the constitutional authority to assume my—
    Toby: Not last May. He didn't last May when you were under general anesthesia.
    Bartlet: That's because I never signed the letter, but I don't think I got shot because I got MS.
    Toby: No, I don't think you did either, sir. I meant that during a night of extreme chaos and fear when we didn't yet know if we'd been the victims of domestic or foreign terrorism, or even an act of war, there was uncertainty as to who was giving the national security orders, and it was because you never signed the letter. So I'm led to wonder, given your condition and itís lack of predictability why there isn't simply a signed letter sitting in a file someplace. And the answer, of course, is that [chuckles] if there was a-a signed letter sitting in a file someplace, somebody would ask why. The Commander in Chief had just been attacked, he was under a general anesthetic, a fugitive was at large, the manhunt included every federal state and local law enforcement agency. The Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware National Guard units were federalized. The KH-10s showed Republican Guard movement in southern Iraq. And 12 hours earlier an F-117 was shot down in the no-fly, and the Vice President's authority was murky at best. The National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State didn't know who they were taking their orders from. I wasn't in the Situation Room that night, but I'll bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that it was Leo. Who no one elected! For 90 minutes that night, there was a coup d'ťtat in this country.

Sam Seaborn

  • "The Short List": Sam vets a potential Supreme Court justice.
    Sam: In 1787, there was a sizable block of delegates who were initially opposed to the Bill of Rights. This is what a member of the Georgia delegation had to say by way of opposition; 'If we list a set of rights, some fools in the future are going to claim that people are entitled only to those rights enumerated and no others.' So the Framers knew...
    Harrison: Were you just calling me a fool, Mr. Seaborn?
    Sam: I wasn't calling you a fool, sir. The brand new state of Georgia was.

  • In the episode "Six Meetings Before Lunch", after Mallory O'Brian has been badgering him all day about a position he doesn't even really hold, he's bailed out by Leo (who reveals the truth) before Sam turns to Mallory and says:
    "Mallory, education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don't need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That's my position. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet."
    • This is like porn for speechwriters and playwrights.

  • Sam Seaborne is arguing with the newly-hired White House Associate Counsel, Ainsley Hayes, who happens to be a hardcore conservative Republican, over the general policy of the president, and follows her to her office. There, both he and Hayes find a bouquet of dead flowers (and a card which calls her a very nasty word). Realizing immediately who sent the bouquet, Sam rushes to confront them, defending a woman he constantly disagrees with, and doesn't even like, because it's the right thing to do.
    Sam Seaborn: "You know what, guys? When I write something, I sign my name. Here, I'll show you." (grabs Joyce's desk blotter, dashing everything on it to the floor, and begins writing on it with a red marker)
    Steve Joyce: "SAM!"
    Sam Seaborn: "Do you have any idea how big a harassment suit you just exposed us to? She just... She works here. Which is more than I can say for either one of you." (he flips the blotter over so they can see what he has been writing. It says, "You're fired. S. Seaborn.")

    • Which leads to Lionel Tribbey getting his own moment of awesome after they protest.
    Lionel Tribbey: "Oh yes, he can. Leave here, and don't ever come back."

  • In "Isaac and Ishmael", Sam (the resident expert on terrorism) gives a terse, biting speech on why terrorism—as terrifying as it may seem—will never be a true threat to society, since terrorists have always failed at furthering their causes. Also a Moment of Awesome for the writers, considering said episode was written just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
    Girl: You know a lot about terrorism?
    Sam: I dabble.
    Girl: What are you struck by most?
    Sam: It's 100% failure rate.
    Girl: Really?
    Sam: Not only do terrorists always fail at what they're after, they pretty much always succeed in strengthening whatever it is they're against.
    Boy: What about the IRA?
    Sam: Brits are still there. Protestants are still there. Basque extremists have been staging terrorist attacks in Spain for decades with no result. Left Wing Red Brigades from the 60s and 70s, from the Bader-Meinhoff gang in Germany to the Weatherman in the U.S., have tried to overthrow capitalism. You tell me. How's capitalism doing?

  • Sam combines one with a CMOH in "Transition"; when Josh gets so stressed and exhausted that he's screaming at the staff, Sam tells him firmly that Santos can't do this job without Josh, and Josh has to be at his best to make that happen, so Josh is going to take a vacation or else.

Matt Santos/ Arnold Vinick

  • The debate between Santos and Vinick in the seventh season had enough awesome for both of them. It was, in essence, a 1 hour long CMOA for the series which refused to not let each side of the campaign get their moments.
    • And remember that the whole thing was performed live, twice. As it ends you can hear Alan Alda say in some disbelief "We got through the whole thing!"

  • Santos and Vinick share a CMOA even after the campaign, when President-elect Santos offers Vinick a job as his Secretary of State.

Cliff Calley

  • During the MS hearing, when he gives a Republican Congressman a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for making Leo admit he fell off the wagon during the first Bartlet campaign.
    Cliff Calley: That's where you're going with this?
    Rep. Darren Gibson: Yeah.
    Cliff Calley: Just to embarrass the guy.
    Rep. Darren Gibson: Just?
    Cliff Calley: Leo McGarry's sobriety isn't the subject of these hearings. These hearings are to investigate if any rules, ethical or otherwise, were broken by Jed Bartlet while he was running for President.
    Rep. Darren Gibson: That's nice, but I live in the actual world, where the object of these hearings is to win.
    Cliff Calley: No, it's not.
    Rep. Darren Gibson: It's the object of the majority.
    Cliff Calley: Not while I'm the majority counsel it's not; this is bush league. This is why good people hate us, this, right here, this thing... And if you proceed with this line of questioning, I will resign this committee and wait in the tall grass for you Congressman, because you are killing the party.

Will Bailey

  • Will Bailey shattering a glass window with Toby's pink superball in rage, after years of Toby doing the same thing with no effect.
    Toby: "That window's a game-day player."
    (later)
    Josh: "[Will's] really that invested in this?" *shatter*
    • Also sets up a Brick Joke - later, when the window has been repaired, Will steps into his office, notices it, and gently touches the (unsecured) glass. Hilarity Ensues

  • His response to a snotty reporter during a press conference, who asks why Will's keeping the campaign alive when his candidate's dead.
    Will Bailey: Chuck Webb is a seven-term Congressman, who as chairman of not one but two Congress subcommittees, has taken money from companies he regulates. He's on the board of the NRA and once challenged another congressman to a fistfight on the floor over an amendment to make stalkers submit to background checks before buying AR-15s, AK-57s, streetsweepers, MAC-10s, MAC-11s. He has joined protests designed to frighten pregnant women.
    Reporter: What's your point?
    Will Bailey: There are worse things in the world than no longer being alive.

  • Will calling down a rainstorm to help get his now living impaired candidate elected over his fully armed and operational opponent.

Matt Santos

  • Matt Santos, in the only commercial his meager fundraising efforts in New Hampshire can afford:
    Santos: Good evening. I'm running for President and if you don't know know who I am, I wouldn't be surprised. I've been shut out of tomorrow night's debate for suggesting that it actually be a debate and this is the only ad I can afford. I got in this to improve a broken school system, to fix entitlement because they're going bankrupt, to expand health coverage because it will save money if fewer people in up in emergency rooms. What I found is that Presidential campaigns aren't about these things. They're about clawing your opponents' eyes out as long as you don't get tagged for it. So how about this: I will never say anything about my opponents or anything about anything without saying it myself, right into the camera. You might not get to hear much of me but when you do, you'll know I stand by it. I'm Matt Santos and you better believe I approve this ad.

The Democratic members of the House Of Representatives'''

  • Let's face it, even the house members in his own party were sometimes a problem for the President and the internal struggles dragged their image down. So they got a collective crowning moment when they surpassed the tricks of the Speaker to avoid a vote with "Operation Sleepover".

Ainsley Hayes

  • Her first appearance begins with her being looked down upon for being a Blonde Republican Sex Kitten, and put up against Sam Seaborn on national TV. She immediately destroys him and barely bats an eyelash while doing so. Whether or not you agree with her politics or not, one of the most awesome moments in TV history for pretty blonde women.
  • Her discussion with her radical Republican friends after her introductory episode, after they assume she did not take the job.
    Man: Did you meet anyone there who isn't worthless?
    Ainsley: Don't say that.
    Man: Did you meet anyone there who has any - ?
    Ainsley: I said don't say that. Say they're smug and superior. Say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders, but don't call them worthless. At least don't do it in front of me. The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified. Their intent is good, and their commitment is true. They are righteous, and they are patriots. And I'm their lawyer.
  • In "17 People", Sam is giving Ainsley a hard time because he's found out that she will be speaking in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment on a panel at Smith College. He can't understand why she is opposed to the ERA because she is a woman, and she finally gets sick of his badgering her over it:
    Sam: How can you have an objection to something that says-
    Ainsley: Because it's humiliating! A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man? I am mortified to discover there's reason to believe I wasn't before! I am a citizen of this country; I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old white men. The same Article 14 that protects you protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure. And with that: I'm going back down to the mess, because I thought I may have seen there... a peach.

Charlie Young

  • From the 19th episode of the fourth season, after a few shots are fired at the White House, everyone is being held where they were by Secret Service agents.
    President Bartlet: Where's Charlie?
    Leo: He's somewhere in the building.
    Ron Butterfield: We're holding people where they are right now.
    Bartlet: But if he's heard what happened he's gonna be trying to get here.
    Butterfield: We've got to hold everyone for a moment so we can secure the -
    Bartlet: No, I'm telling you that if Charlie heard there were bullets he's gonna overpower whoever's trying to -
    [Charlie bursts in.]
    Charlie: Sorry, Mr. President.
    • Thirty seconds later, Debbie does the same thing.

  • From "20 Hours in America, Part 2". C.J. has been trying to find a new "Big Brother" for a delinquent teenager, Anthony, whose previous mentor was killed at the end of Season 3. She had approached Charlie once before; Charlie had declined because of his busy work schedule. However, he changes his mind during the following scene:
    C.J.: I can take you home now.
    Anthony: [under his breath] I don't need a babysitter.
    [Charlie passes by on his way somewhere.]
    C.J.: I'm sorry?
    Anthony: I said I don't need a babysitter, bitch. Are you deaf?
    [Charlie turns around.]
    C.J.: [timid] Well, I don't think you do need a babysitter, I-
    [Without stopping, Charlie grabs Anthony by the collar and pins him against the wall.]
    Anthony: Yo, what the hell's the matter with you, dog?!
    Charlie: This is Miss Cregg. She's the White House Press Secretary and senior counselor to the President. And if she wasn't, she would still be Miss Cregg. I don't mind your not respecting people. I mind your doing it out loud. I mind your doing it in this building. You want to be a punk, fine. But I don't think you've got the size for it. You want to go to juvy, get out, deal and kill cops, ok. But every time you do a crime, you get caught. So I think you're gonna have to do something else. Nine o'clock on Saturday mornings, I eat breakfast at Cosmo's on Delaware. I come here for an hour, do office work, and then I go to St. Jude's for an hour to play basketball. You can go to juvy, or you can be at Cosmo's, nine o'clock on Saturday morning. It's entirely up to you.
    [Charlie turns and walks away.]

  • In "Election Day (Part 1)", Charlie explains to CJ why he's been harassing her to find a new job: he wants to keep working with her. As he puts it:
    Charlie: You're a smart, savvy woman who could easily consider world domination for a next career move.

  • In "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics," Charlie encounters a man who once knew him as a waiter at an "exclusive club" (ie, no minority members). The man is in the embarrassing position of being fired from his position as a U.S. ambassador (for his own indiscretions), but he still wants to feel empowered, dammit. When Charlie is... less than deferential to his ego in polite conversation (like pointing out he's a hypocrite for saying he hates exclusive clubs when he obviously joined one in the first place), the man asks to speak to Charlie's "supervisor," not understanding who he is talking to:
    Ken Cochran: I'm sorry to do this, but I'd like to speak to your supervisor.
    Charlie Young: ...Well, I'm personal aide to the President, so my supervisor's a little busy right now looking for a back door to this place to shove you out of. But, I'll let him know you'd like to lodge a complaint.

Donna Moss:

  • In Disaster Relief, Josh has been relieved of many of his responsibilities and Leo in particular is freezing him out, all as a result of a recent high profile screw-up by Josh. As he sits in his office, depressed and aimless with nothing to do - which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to a compulsive over-achiever like Josh - Donna brings in a battered-looking box and starts unpacking it one folder at a time, saying the name of each folder as she puts it on his desk. When Josh asks what she's doing, she explains that these are all the important but not earth-shatteringly important things that usually get put aside because he's too busy to work on them.
    • What makes this so awesome is not that she's being supportive - lots of Josh's friends have done that. It's that she supports Josh by finding him a way that he can still be Josh.
  • Her quitting in "Impact Winter". At that point she was aware that she'd fallen hopelessly in love with Josh and that it wouldn't go anywhere, and she had the potential for much more than being his assistant, and so breaking away from him was the best thing she could do for herself both personally and professionally. Actually doing it took a lot of guts.
  • The entire episode "The Stackhouse Filibuster". She notices something off about a couple of seconds of B-roll, works out why he's so devoted to the filibuster, and recalls the loophole that lets them help him out, thus resolving the whole episode.

Admiral Fitzwallace:

  • In "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet", when discussing the policy on homosexual people serving in the military:
    Major Tate: Sir, we're not prejudiced toward homosexuals.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: You just don't want to see them serving in the Armed Forces?
    Major Tate: No sir, I don't.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: 'Cause they impose a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.
    Major Tate: Yes, sir.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: That's what I think, too. I also think the military wasn't designed to be an instrument of social change.
    Major Tate: Yes, sir.
    Admiral Percy Fitzwallace: The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn't serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the United States Navy and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff... Beat that with a stick.

Amy Gardner

  • In the episode "Privateers", Abbey asks Amy to "Save me" from a woman who's about to have a go at her over an issue. By "Save me", she means she wants Amy to walk her in the opposite direction. Amy opts to casually tear the woman apart in about four sentences instead.

Senator Stackhouse

  • Stackhouse, age 78, with a head cold, stands up without leaning on anything and talks non-stop for over 9 hours straight to stop the passage of a huge health care bill that does not have the amendment he wants on Autism, because his grandson has autism.

    CJ: (in voiceover) If you ever have a free two hours and are so inclined, try standing up without leaning on anything and talking the whole time. You won't make it. I wouldn't make it. Stackhouse wasn't supposed to last 15 minutes. He's 78 years old. He has a head cold. This bill is going to pass. Well, somebody forgot to tell Stackhouse, Dad, cause he just went into hour number eight.

And later-
CJ: Tonight, I've seen a man with no legs stay standing, Dad, and a guy with no voice keep shouting. And if politics brings out the worst in people, maybe people bring out the best. Because I'm looking at the TV right now, and damn if 28 U.S. senators haven't just walked onto the floor to help.

Abbey Bartlet

  • The moment when she cuts off the president's tie moments before an important debate, thereby giving him a justified reason to enable his tie-related superstitions.

Secret Service

  • They get several in reaction to the shooting at the end of Season 1, including doing a 180 without stopping in the presidential limousine, practically invading George Washington Hospital with frightening efficiency, and storming into a press appearance with the Vice President and pulling him out of the room flanked by an eight man huddle in about five seconds. The look on Hoynes' and his audience's faces is priceless.
    Special Agent Ron Butterfield: We got the President in the car. We got Zoey in the car. And at a hundred and fifty yards and five stories up, the shooters were down nine point two seconds after the first shot was fired.
  • In Season 1, the timing when they burst into the bar after Josh pressed Zoe's panic button is priceless:
    [Some obnoxious dudes are harassing Zoe and insulting Charlie and Sam]
    Josh: [obviously fake cheer] How's everybody doin'?
    Frat Boy: Oh look, more fairy boys!
    Josh: What? Oh, this is too good to be true. Yeah, uh, you guy's don't realise it, but you're having a pretty bad night.
    Frat Boy: Oh really? And who's going to give it to use, huh?
    [Three Secret Service guys bust through the door with drawn guns and badges]: Federal agents!

Meta Awesome (spoilers)

  • Not only did the showrunners base Matt Santos on Barack Obama - in 2004 - the real-life Josh (Rahm Emanuel) succeeded the real-life Leo (Leon Panetta) as Chief of Staff, and Santos offered opponent Vinick the position of Secretary of State, as Obama did for opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton. Keep in mind that the show had its finale in 2006.
    • Also, Santos' election opponent Senator Vinick was pretty transparently based on Senator John McCain. And this was still better than two years before either of them announced they were candidates, or anyone even thought either of them might run in 2008, let alone win their primaries.
    • Oh and now it just rolls on with both Rahm Emanuel and Leon Panetta being more major politicians under Obama (With Rahm Emanuel now being mayor of Chicago, and Leon Panetta switching from the CIA to the Sec. of defense).
  • The entirety of "Isaac and Ishmael" is an awesome moment for the writers, just for being one of the few truly great Very Special Episodes in mainstream television. Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Sorkin set out to make a West Wing episode about the highly controversial subject of Islamic terrorism, and managed to turn out a terse, intelligent, well-acted story that never once feels preachy or overdramatic, and manages to demolish nearly every prevalent myth about terrorism. It's a frank, honest discussion that never pulls its punches, but it manages to be poignant, heartwarming and (in a few places) surprisingly funny. How many Very Special Episodes can you say that about?
  • The last ten minutes of "Commencement" are utterly mesmerizing, with the various subplots all reaching a climax to Massive Attack's "Angel", and leading up to Zoe's kidnapping.

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