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President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet (Martin Sheen)
The President of the United States. Originally intended as a Recurring Character, the writers rewrote the role after Martin Sheen's performance and he essentially became the protagonist. Bartlet started as a dark horse candidate who entered the race to keep the other Democratic contenders honest and wound up in the Oval Office. He's a very decent man who values his staff like family and sincerely tries to make the best decisions for the country; when these fail or come with a human cost, he's troubled deeply. He deliberately concealed that he has multiple sclerosis; in spite of the scandal this causes, he wins a second term. He holds a Nobel Prize in economics and is a devout Catholic.
- Absent-Minded Professor: Lampshaded.
- His inability to remember the names of several White House staffers is Played for Laughs. Later, it results in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when, during the final episode, he thanks each of the staffers personally on his way out of the White House, and remembers each of their names correctly this time. Doubles as an Actor Allusion, as Martin Sheen himself is awful with names.
- Lampshaded in "In The Shadow of Two Gunmen", in which Bartlet's inability to remember names is illustrated in the flashbacks when he is unable to get the names of the people who will become his senior staff straight. At the end, when he's comforting Josh over the death of his father, Bartlet finally gets their names right... then sheepishly points out that Josh has to be a little bit impressed that he was able to do so.
- Abusive Parents: His father was physically and emotionally abusive. It's suggested that he's such an overachiever because, on some level, he's still trying to get his dad to stop hitting him.
- As the Good Book Says: Bartlet's encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible lets him kick ass.
- Badass Boast:
- "Now, I have a Nobel Prize in economics, and I'm telling you guys, you have no clue what you're talking about". He then goes on to threaten the two warring parties, employees and employers of the trucking industry: The former with a forced enlistment of every employee to the US army and the latter with a nationalization of the entire trucking industry. "You have 47 minutes, gentlemen", indeed.
- Also, when meeting with Bob Ritchie the Republican candidate he'll face for re-election: "In the future, if you're wondering, 'Crime. Boy, I don't know' is when I decided to kick your ass."
- Badass Bookworm: He is really into science, history, and various other areas of knowledge. He is also quite often the smartest person in any room and/or building he steps into.
- Not to mention his Nobel Prize in economics. This dude's a bona fide bookworm.
- Badass Grandpa: He's not grey-haired, but he does have a granddaughter. And whooo boy do NOT mess with him or anyone he cares about. After all, he is the President of the United States.
- Benevolent Boss: He cares a great deal about his staffers and never asks for a resignation in spite of the many times they screw up barring his need to fire Toby in Season 7.
- Berserk Button:
- Also, don't say anything bad about his father.
- And for the love of God, don't involve his daughters in politics.
- To a lesser extent, using the Bible to justify acts of violence or hatred. Bartlet is a devout Catholic and a very smart man (He's fluent in Latin!) so, as seen in the Pilot Episode and in the episode "The Midterms", he gets particularly frosty when people use scripture to justify bigotry.
- Beware the Nice Ones: The senior staff call his non-offensive, good for all time zones, nice guy persona 'Uncle Fluffy'. You don't want to be on the wrong side of the argument when the President is not Uncle Fluffy.
- Blood from the Mouth: In the Presidential limo after Rosslyn. This is the first sign that he's been shot himself; he was otherwise in high outrage over Butterfield's insistence on getting him to the White House despite Butterfield being shot in the hand.
- Breakout Character: His first line in the series—"I am the Lord your God, thou shalt have no other God before Me"—could reasonably be rewritten as "Hello, I'm Martin Sheen and I've stolen this entire show." His performance so impressed the creators that the whole show was reframed around the role of the president.
- The Chains of Commanding: Especially with regards to the military.
- There's a meta example in "Noel." Sorkin notes in the commentary track that they had to keep redoing the aftermath of Josh blowing up from PTSD because Martin Sheen kept trying to have Bartlet help him.
- The Chessmaster: He literally plays chess like a master, but also pulls off some ingenious moves against China, India, Qumar, and his political opponents.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Snarker-In-Chief.
- Deus Angst Machina: He's the freaking President, and isn't the type to be callous about all the crap he's exposed to. What did you expect?
- Establishing Character Moment: Season 1 Episode 1, we don't see any of Bartlet until right at the end, and you'd be damn sure it's him squashing an argument reciting the first commandment.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": As is to be expected when you're the president.
- A Father to His Men:
- He considers the members of his senior staff to be a family. Though he makes his authority clear and they treat him with deference and always use his official titlenote they have a very warm relationship and Bartlet is willing to forgive mistakes as long as it's clear the lesson is learned.
- In regards to the military specifically, particularly when talking to a sailor on a hurricane-rocked ship which, sadly, is revealed later to go down with all hands. Later, his first question about operations in Kazakhstan is about winter gear and responds to the stares by pointing out that they will be going there in winter, possibly for a long time, between two armies who know quite well how to deal with the regional conditions, after America's last two major conflicts have been in Africa and the Middle East—so yes, he does think it is important to know what kind of coats his troops will have. He may not have had military experience before, but he's very serious about taking care of his troops.
- Glasses Pull: He wears reading glasses, so he gets to do this when he looks up from some important document. Or when he's just been informed that Butterball has a turkey hotline.
- Good Is Not Soft: He's the President, not Santa Claus. Bartlet isn't above secrecy or ordering assassinations if it's for the greater good. Despite his warm, fatherly demeanor, he does not take kindly to insubordination; more than one advisor has been abruptly let go (or in Toby's case, arrested for treason—although he was pardoned) for disobeying him.
- Gratuitous French: He speaks four languages, and none of them is French."J'accuse! J'accuse, mon petit fromage!"
- The Greatest Story Never Told: The public only gets to see a filtered sliver of the amazing things he does in any given episode.
- Happily Married: Well, mostly happily. The Presidency can really strain a marriage, but he and Abby very much love each each other.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Leo.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Some of his decisions.
- Insufferable Genius:
- He tries to be humble, but he very often is the smartest person in the room, and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure facts that he likes to point out to people who aren't as fascinated or who have more important things to do.
- It's also his primary defense mechanism. When Bartlett wants to avoid a subject, he'll generally rattle off some trivia and then either change the subject or filibuster his way right out of the conversation.
- Like an Old Married Couple: With Leo. Thoroughly lampshaded when they wind up having a candlelit dinner (a French chef's in town and Abby isn't) and Bartlet complains that "we never talk any more" while Leo is on his cellphone.
- My God, What Have I Done?: He blames himself for Leo's first heart attack, since it happened right after a disagreement that ended in Leo's firing. Abbey assures him that it isn't—it would have happened regardless.
- Nice to the Waiter: When he snaps at Charlie on their first meeting, Josh is quick to assure him that this is very out of character for him.
- No Badass to His Valet: With both Charlie, Mrs. Landingham and, to a degree, Debbie. They like him quite a lot, but being around him for the whole working day means they get to enjoy being irreverent about his quirks and absurdities.
- Overprotective Dad: He takes unwarranted glee in doing things like clearing out a restaurant Zoe wanted to eat at just by showing up with his own protective detail, and when she starts dating Charlie, one of Bartlet's first comments is "the 82nd Airborne works for me."
- Papa Wolf: It's generally accepted that if you mess with anyone in his family or with any he considers friends, you will bring down the wrath of the President of the United States on your sorry ass. Believe me, he WILL toast your ass. This also extends to Americans in general. At the beginning of the series he argues that they ought to resurrect the idea of "Civvus Romanus", that an American should be kept safe by the knowledge that destruction would be visited on anyone who would harm them, anywhere in the world.
- Parental Substitute:
Bartlet: [takes out knife case from his drawer] Charlie, my father gave this to me, and his father gave it to him, and now I'm giving it to you. Take a look.
- To the staff. He treats Josh, Sam, and Toby as sons and refers to Josh as such when questioning God about the horrible things that have happened to the cast. And during a flashback to the campaign trail, Bartlet wants to skip out on a victory speech in Iowa to give Josh company on the flight to Mr. Lyman's funeral. He also thinks of CJ like a daughter and brooks no argument about assigning her protection when she gets death threats.
- His relationship with Charlie deserves special mention. He gives Charlie a carving knife that's been handed down from fathers to sons in the Bartlet family since the Revolutionary War.
- Pretty Boy: In his younger days he definitely falls into this category
- Rage Against the Heavens: He does this in "Two Cathedrals". In the National Cathedral. While switching in between English and Latin.
- Real Award, Fictional Character: He has a Nobel for economics.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: For the entire country.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red, with Leo.
- Smart People Know Latin: Though it also helps that he's Catholic and considered the priesthood. This appears most memorably in "Two Cathedrals", but shows up throughout the series.
- Smart People Play Chess: At one point he plays Sam and Toby at the same time, wandering between offices. And, naturally, while he is also concentrating on a crisis.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Several times, most notably in "Two Cathedrals" with impassioned tirade towards God for supposedly killing Mrs. Landingham. Not only is he conversing with God in both English AND Latin (dead language points) he "spits" in God's face by smoking a cigarette and crushing the butt inside the church he's in.
- Sophisticated as Hell: The president is the character who swears the most.
- Team Dad: He's occasionally overprotective, often proud of his subordinates, and everyone wants to avoid disappointing him. Amusingly, in interviews, John Spencer always said that he was actually the Team Dad, which would make Bartlet the Team Mom, while Martin Sheen said it the other way around.
- Tranquil Fury: When Bartlet's Presidential Challenger Bob Ritchie's reaction to a Secret Service Agent getting killed is a detached "Crime, Boy, I don't know", a calm Bartlet informs him that that was the point where he decided he was going to kick his ass in the election.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Jed keeps trying to win his father's approval, despite the fact that his dad is dead and was a Jerkass of a father. Toby thinks it's hurting his Presidency.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Bartlet's decision to hide his MS, as well as his reaction to the implications of doing so, culminating in a showdown between Toby and Bartlet in the Oval Office. It took Bartlet a long time to admit that he had done something wrong, but he eventually accepted a Congressional censure (which was partly forced on him by threatening to embarrass Leo, but Bartlet acceded ultimately because he thought he deserved the censure).
- To a lesser extent, his treatment of Hoynes, particularly in the first season's cabinet meeting. In the third season, it's revealed that Hoynes let Bartlet stand as the nominee by keeping Bartlet's MS a secret, making Bartlet's behaviour even more egregious.
Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer)
Leo is one of Bartlet's oldest friends and the man who convinced him to run in the first place. He's an experienced political operator, having been Labor Secretary in a previous administration, and served in Vietnam; in fact many think that he could have run himself if he didn't have a history of alcoholism and painkiller addiction. He often acts as a moderator on Bartlet's impulses and the experienced man in the Sit Room.
- Accidental Misnaming: He's not named Gerald. Only to Lord John Marbury, though. Most likely because Marbury knows just how much it irritates Leo.
- The Alcoholic: Formerly. He has one or two relapses in the flashbacks, pointing out that he will always be an alcoholic, and as such "can't have just one drink."
- Always Someone Better: Invoked by Bartlet himself. "You got a best friend? Is he smarter than you? Would you trust him with your life? That's your Chief of Staff." At several points throughout the series, Bartlet admits that he feels that Leo would make a much better President than himself.
- The Atoner: Based on his past alcoholism and played subtly, but profoundly, throughout the series. Right down to a near Redemption Equals Death style moment in Bartlet for America.
- Badass Boast: He once threatened the Vice President to stick to the President's agenda or 'he'll play celebrity golf for the rest of his career', but the best one has got to be his threat to the Qumar ambassadorYou think the President's afraid that if he admitted complicity in [terrorist]'s death he would lose votes in this country? To sweep all 50 states, the President would only need to do two things: Blow the Sultan's brains out in Times Square then walk across the street to Nathan's and buy a hotdog.
- Benevolent Boss: He even allowed the staffer who leaked his history of painkiller addiction to keep her job after she explains why she did.
- The Character Died with Him
- Colonel Badass: A former Lt.Colonel in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
- The Comically Serious: Every other staff has their own little insane idiosyncrasies, which Leo weathers with his completely no-nonsense attitude. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a sense of humor.
- The Conscience: Made particularly clear in the season 6 episode "365 Days," when Leo returns after recovering from his heart attack and calls everyone out for trying to play it safe during the last year in office.
- The Consigliere: Specifically mentioned in the season two episode The Leadership Breakfast as a War Consigliere.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: He once threatens to hide a bunch of snakes in C.J.'s car over a strange photo-op she scheduled for the President."You'll never know how many there are or if you got them all out!"
- Don't Make Me Destroy You: If you thought that Toby or Josh were tough customers, becoming a big enough nuisance to gain an audience with Leo will result in him, in no uncertain terms, threatening to end your career and/or your life if you don't do exactly as he demands, and he doesn't care if you're the Vice President or the Sultan of an oil-producing country.
- A Father to His Men: While Jed has a father/child relationship with just about everybody on the staff, Leo's is rather singularly targeted to Josh, who in a vast number of ways follows in Leo's footsteps.
- Leo's instincts are less overt than his best friend's, but he is not any less caring. He personally welcomed and oriented Ainsley Hayes into the White House, and reinstated the girl who turned over his drug-treatment files to his political opponents.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Bartlet.
- Honest Advisor: Established as this quite early when he tells Bartlet in no uncertain terms that he, Leo, will personally oppose him if Bartlet orders a military strike out of vengeance. And he'll win.
- Jerkass Fašade: He maintains a mild one.
- The Lancer: To Bartlet.
- Like an Old Married Couple: With Bartlet.
- Married to the Job: He tells his wife that his job is more important than his marriage to her after it causes him to forget their anniversary. They divorce not long after that.Mrs. McGarry: It's not more important than your marriage!Leo: It's more important than my marriage is right now.
- The Not-Love Interest: To Bartlet.
- The Mentor: To Josh. Also CJ.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Several decades late. When debating on whether or not the US should sign a war crimes treaty, Leo's Admiral friend in the Navy bluntly informs him that one of Leo's bombing runs in Vietnam had actually been against a civilian target, thus putting him at risk of prosecution should the treaty be signed. Leo, who had always thought he only attacked military targets, is horrified.Leo: Why did you tell me that?Admiral: Because you'd be charged and tried for a war crime.Leo: Why did you tell me that?!Admiral: ...All wars are crimes.
- Number Two: The Chief of Staff's job. He represents Bartlet in diplomatic and Situation Room meetings.
- Off the Wagon: Never during the series proper, although there are a couple of times when Margaret worries that he might due to a particular stress. During the first campaign, however, he took one drink of scotch with some donors he was negotiating with, and that led to him going all-out on his minibar after they left. A pretty good illustration of "you can never have one drink."
- Old Money: Implied. At one point, Bartlet half-seriously suggests that Leo could fund a ten million dollar program completely out of pocket and still have plenty left over.
- Only Sane Man: He is often seen with a part-harried, part-baffled expression on his face at the antics of the younger staff.
- Overprotective Dad: Downplayed example.
- Parental Substitute: To Josh after Josh's father dies.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: When actor John Spencer died of a heart attack. Ironically, the character himself had suffered a non-fatal one a couple of seasons earlier.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Most noticeably the Blue to Bartlet's Red, but also the Blue for the senior staff as a whole.
- Shipper on Deck: For Toby and Andy.
- Sitcom Archnemesis: Leo can weather Congress, his staff, political crises and personal tragedies, but Lord John Marbury is one of the few people who can truly exasperate him. And Marbury most assuredly knows this.Leo: Ah, we don't encourage smoking in this part of the world.Marbury: Really? Well in this part of the world (gestures to himself), it's positively encouraged.
- Leo: Who'd you get?Marbury: (offscreen) Gerald!Leo: Oh, God.
- The Spock: If a cold decision needs to be made or a justification for one given, it will fall to Leo. He even applies this to himself early on in the spirit of "the needs of the many," where he tries to talk Bartlet and the staff into not rigorously defending him, allowing him to resign, etc. when his previous painkiller addiction is outed.
- Team Mom: He looks out for the well-being of the staffers and is the one who most often tells them to knock it off when they're misbehaving. Amusingly, in interviews, John Spencer always said that he was actually the Team Dad Bartlet was the Team Mom, while Martin Sheen said it the other way around.
- Undying Loyalty: To Bartlet.
- The Unfettered: A unique example, as Leo is second only to Bartlet for being the most lawful and decent person in the West Wing... until you threaten the President. Leo will do anything to defend the President and/or destroy you to protect his friend.
- What Could Have Been: In-Universe. Other characters of the series (Josh and even Bartlet in flashbacks) imply that Leo could have run for President himself - impressive military and public record - if not for his alcoholism.
Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford)
Leo's Number Two, "the guy The Guy counts on." Josh is young, confident to the point of arrogance at times, and relentless in pursuing the Bartlet agenda with Congress. Sometimes this has great results and sometimes this backfires terribly. Leo is like a father to him. Josh eventually leaves the White House to run Matthew Santos as a dark horse candidate for President.
- Afraid of Blood: Hearing graphic descriptions of surgical procedures makes him feel physically ill.
- Alpha Couple: With Donna.
- Badass: Nicknamed "Rambo" for the nerve of his attacks. He once sent a dead fish to the office of a Senator being difficult on some legislation about fishing rights. (And as a nod to the inspiration for his character, Rahm Emanuel, who is nicknamed "Rahmbo".)
- The Big Guy: Shares this role with CJ. She's The Enforcer, he's the attack dog.
- Breakout Character: Though it started in Season 2, by the final seasons it became pretty much The Josh Lyman Show, with everyone else featured in only about half the episodes and the lame-duck Bartlet Administration itself taking a backseat to Josh's quest to pass the torch.
- Can Not Spit It Out: He can't ask women out properly, which Donna points out in relation to Joey Lucas and Toby in relation to Amy.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: There's one notable incident in Season 1 where Donna finds him in his office disgustingly hung-over.
- The Charmer: Even has his own groupies in-universe.
- The Chew Toy: Bad things from the outside happen to him a lot. He shoots himself in the foot almost as much.
- Combat Pragmatist: When it comes to politics, Josh doesn't much care what he has to do, so long as he wins.
- The Consigliere: To Santos.
- Cynicism Catalyst: He never quite got over the guilt from his older sister's deathin a house fire. He got out quickly, but she couldn't find him and went back inside to look for him.Donna: His sister died in a fire while she was trying to babysit him. She tried to put it out, he ran outside. He went off campaigning, his father died. He wakes up in a hospital and discovers the President's been shot. He goes through every day worried that somebody he likes is going to die and it's going to be his fault.
- Deadpan Snarker: Quite possibly the snarkiest character in the series and that, my friends, is saying something.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: Prone to this. Perfect example is the secret plan to fight inflation.Bartlet: Are you saying that not only have you invented a secret plan to fight inflation, but now you don't support it?
- Dogged Nice Guy: A non-romantic version with him and Matt Santos. Santos wants out of politics now that he's seen how frustrating and dirty it is. Josh continually pleads with him not to go, and then manages to convince him to run for President—even showing up at Santos' house in Texas once On Christmas, no less.
- Establishing Character Moment: In the pilot episode, pretty much everyone thinks he's going to be fired for shooting his mouth off and offending many Christians on a TV appearance. This is one of many times that Josh's competitive streak combines with snark in bad ways for his boss.
- His first appearance in the pilot is him asleep at his desk. Vacuuming his office, a sign that this isn't abnormal, doesn't wake him up. His beeper instantly does.
- Expy: A brilliant young lawyer who isn't afraid to be ruthless and pragmatic. Issues with his father, an incredibly sarcastic personality, a tendency to act without thinking, a far more relaxed approach to work than His colleagues, Idealistic underneath a cynical facade and an equally smart, attractive female co worker with a potential relationship. You could be forgiven for mistaking Josh for Tom Cruise's character Danny Kaffee from the Sorkin penned A Few Good Men.
- Very forgiven, given that Bradley Whitford made his Broadway début in the role of Jack Ross in the same play. His second Broadway role occured a couple months into the theatrical run when he switched characters to, that's right, Danny Kaffee.
- Genius Ditz: Except when holding the Idiot Ball.
- Guilt Complex: A massive unjustified one due to the number of bad things that have happened to friends and loved ones.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Josh goes through more breakdowns, and Freak Outs than the rest of the cast combined, complete with developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder courtesy of his Cynicism Catalyst and the shooting.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Sam.
- Honest Advisor: As Leo's own Number Two and someone who regularly staffs the President. He's unafraid to argue his positions to Bartlet.
- Honor Before Reason: Once Josh starts running Santos' campaign, Bartlet calls him up to suggest Santos go after Bartlet's gubernatorial record. Josh dutifully writes the numbers down and then sets them on fire.
- Hot-Blooded: He gets very worked up, very easily. Oftentimes this leads to him insulting whoever he's trying to negotiate with.
- Iconic Item: His backpack.
- Informed Ability: For a supposed political genius, he sure screws up a lot politically, starting with the pilot episode. Bartlet even points this out during one of these screw-ups. By the end of the third season, Josh has been fired (Leo talks Bartlet down), responsible for a catastrophic campaign screw up (the finale of the second and start of the third season), and finally told by the President of the United States that the White House's best move would be to fire Josh and hire his girlfriend in his place. It's hinted that Josh has great instincts but gets wrapped up in his need to win. His crowning moment is when during the Santos campaign when he controls his urges to jump on the nuclear reactor accident. Bruno expected Josh to overplay the incident, but Santos does nothing publicly per Josh's orders and even pushes back on Josh when Josh's patience starts getting the better of him, and it ends up making Vinick look bad. It's also Josh who encourages Bartlet to ride and then walk to Congress during the shutdown stand-off, and then leave after waiting for the Speaker Haffley to let them in. Within minutes, Josh helped Bartlet look good and Congress bad, forcing Haffley to finally make a deal and end the shutdown.
- Informed Judaism: Lampshaded by the very much not Informed Judaism Toby.Toby: There's an ancient Hebrew word for Jews from Westport; it's pronounced "Presbyterian."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He likes to mock people, has a short fuse, and makes a hobby of trolling Donna, but he really cares about his friends and shows it whenever they're in trouble.
- Like an Old Married Couple: With Donna.
- Like a Son to Me:
- Leo is quite clearly Josh's father figure—Leo's opinion matters to Josh more than anything else, and he'll do anything to please Leo or protect him.
- Though it's more implicit Bartlet called him "my son" in the episode "Two Cathedrals".
- The Masochism Tango: With Amy and Mandy.
- Manipulative Bastard: They're all politicians, but Josh is the most underhanded when it comes to getting what he wants. Josh notes this early in the first season when telling a congressman, "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."
- Master of the Mixed Message: One moment he's rushing across the Atlantic ocean to be by Donna's side, the next he's treating her as just another employee.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Blames himself for Leo's death.
- Oblivious to Love: Both Donna and Amy.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Josh completely flips his lid at Bartlet in "Noel" for not taking his advice on a relatively minor matter. Although Josh flips his lid often, the fact that he does it to the President in the Oval Office is a serious signal to the characters present that Josh is not himself, as a capstone to all of the other irrational behavior he'd been displaying as a result of undiagnosed PTSD.
- Platonic Life Partners: With Donna for a surprisingly long time.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: He's the Red Oni to basically everyone you put him next to.
- Shipper on Deck: For Toby and Andy.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Most of his relationships involve a lot of contention and argument.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Not at God, but at the Capitol Building after he makes a huge mistake and gets put in the doghouse in a big way.note
- The Spock: While not as much as Leo, he's definitely colder, more calculating and more ruthless than others in getting stuff done.
- Stepford Snarker: At times, but especially when he's in the midst of a gradual breakdown from PTSD. Particularly evident when he talks to Stanley the trauma therapist, who calls him out immediately.
- Troubled, but Cute: A mild version.
- Tsundere: Towards almost everyone, but especially his love interests.
- Undying Loyalty: To Leo, who was an old friend of his deceased father and now something of a Parental Substitute.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Has his moments.
- UST/ Will They or Won't They?: With Donna. They do.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: His father died in the primaries before the show began, and he's transferred his desire to please his loving father to Leo and Bartlet.Leo: [after dressing Josh down] What are you doing?Josh: I thought you wanted to hug me.Leo: Boy, did you read that wrong.
- Workaholic: Josh's very first scene in the entire series has him sleeping on his desk, completely oblivious to a cleaning lady's loud vacuum cleaner outside his office, but he wakes up the moment he hears a beep on his pager.
Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff)
Toby is Bartlet's head speechwriter. His most prominent quality is his irascibility (he doesn't say good morning, he "growls something inaudible"). At any given point in an episode, you can usually count on him to be mad at Congress, a Federal agency, other people in the West Wing, and sometimes even Bartlet himself. This is because Toby is actually one of the most idealistic people in the West Wing—he believes that the Administration can do an incredible amount of good and is disappointed whenever they compromise.
- Amicably Divorced: So much so that he impregnates his ex-wife. He also continues to wear a wedding band.
- The wedding band was an example of Throw It In. When Sorkin first told Schiff that he didn't think Toby was married, Schiff said that no he wasn't, and it was Sorkin's job to find out why he still wore the ring. For what it's worth, Schiff's own personal interpretation was initially that Toby's wife had died several years before and he had thrown himself into politics out of grief.
- Bad Boss: Not so much "bad" as he has extremely high standards and a short temper that makes him difficult to work for even if you do live up to them.
- Badass Bookworm: Reads the Constitution for fun.
- Berserk Button: People who claim to be knowledgeable but aren't really annoy him.
- Big Applesauce: Is a very proud New Yorker and has attended over 400 Yankee Games.
- Brooklyn Rage: A native of Brighton Beach.
- Buffy Speak: Provides the page quote. "Do you wanna tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing??"
- Commander Contrarian: This is a staple of the Bartlet/Toby dynamic from the very beginning to the very end and ultimately a spectacular degree of insubordination in this realm is what gets Toby fired.
- The Eeyore: His ex-wife cites this as the reason why she divorced him, and why she can't marry him again. He is deeply disturbed by it.
- Grumpy Bear: Subverted; Toby's grouchiness comes from being even more idealistic than everyone around him and constantly being let down by the universe.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Right from the first episode, he tears into the representatives from the Christian Right after spending a lot of time telling Josh to be meek and apologetic (which Josh points out after the fact).
- Deadpan Snarker: His main trait
- Heroes Want Redheads: His ex-wife has red hair.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He has a tendency to get carried away with his own stubborn self-righteousness to the point where it does him and his cause more harm than good.
- In "The State Dinner", his insistence on including a confrontational denunciation of Indonesian human rights abuses in a speech toasting the Indonesian President causes offence to the Indonesian diplomats, leading to one of them refusing to help get a friend of Toby's out of an Indonesian jail.
- His single-minded determination that the bipartisan breakfast in "The Leadership Breakfast" address key issues rather than being a simple media event leads him to make several key tactical errors in front of an old friend who is now working for the Republican Senate Majority Leader, who proceeds to use them against the White House.
- Honest Advisor: To Bartlet. Although it causes friction, it's a valued quality and the reason why Leo kept him on the original campaign staff.
- Iconic Item: His rubber ball only shows up in a few episodes (most notably in "17 People") but there's no fan of the show who doesn't know what Toby's ball is, and what it means.note
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Yet another reason he's had a hard time making friends.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Abrasive as he may be most of the time, he will stick up for his friends and has genuine sympathy for people—meeting a worried stranger in a bar after a long, frustrating day prompts him to come up with a plan to make college tuition tax-deductible. And he and Josh call the guy up later to talk to him about it, after they're both home.
- The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Has a gigantic crush on the U.S. Poet Laureate (who is beautiful as she is artistic) and jumps at the chance of meeting her.
- Like Brother and Sister: With CJ.
- Martyr Without a Cause: Bartlet accuses him of this, though it's left ambiguous whether the President is merely speaking from a bruised ego. After numerous attempts to resign, Toby turns in his papers for the last time.
- The McCoy: He's the one who most believes in the power of the Government to be a source for good.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: It's something of a Running Gag that whenever he gets cheerful or happy, his colleagues get nervous.
- Papa Wolf: After his twins are born.
- Pet the Dog: Hoooo boy.
- Platonic Life Partners: With CJ.
- The Quiet One: He is the most soft-spoken of all the senior staff, but once something annoys, frustrates, or downright pisses him off, he can quickly go into Suddenly Shouting.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Near the end of the series, he leaks the existence of a military shuttle—a serious federal offense— because he thinks Bartlet is dithering on using it to rescue astronauts from the crippled space statione. He later admits that he also wanted to start a conversation about the militarization of space, which he personally opposes.
- Sarcastic Devotee
- Serious Business: For him, many, many topics, even Sesame Street.
- The Smart Guy: Everyone in the Bartlet Administration is smart, but Toby's intellect is shown to be the only one that rivals the President's.note
- The Snark Knight: There are a number of Youtube montages dedicated to Toby's best lines. And noises.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: He may be gruff, sarcastic, and bad-tempered, but when a homeless serviceman dies wearing a coat that Toby had donated to charity, he pulls out all the stops to find his next-of-kin and arrange a proper military funeral.
- Troll: If he doesn't think he needs you or if you mess with Sesame Street, he'll really screw with you. Partly to win and partly for laughs.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Sam and CJ.
- Yiddish as a Second Language: His father spoke it as a first language, and Toby has admonished staffers for misuse of words.Toby: (to Donna) Please don't bring the Yiddish when you don't know what you're doing.
Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney)
The public face of the Bartlet Administration. She frequently clashes with the other senior staff members over what the public does and does not need to know. She has to walk a fine line between keeping the country informed and protecting the Administration's interests; on a few occasions, the other staffers have deliberately concealed things from her to her outrage. C.J. is very good at dealing with the press and finding the best way to angle the story. In the sixth season, following Leo's heart attack, C.J. is appointed White House Chief of Staff, a post which she is initially unsure about, but which she soon settles into very well.
- Berserk Button: Institutionalized mistreatment of women, as seen in "The Women Of Qumar" and "Enemies Foreign And Domestic". In the latter, she has an epic moment of quiet, calm rage.Reporter:: I'm sorry, C.J., but you're not outraged by this?CJ: Outraged? I'm barely surprised. This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive a car. They're not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a close relative, they're required to adhere to a dress code that would make the Maryknoll Nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for robbery, rape, and drug trafficking, they've no free press, no elected government, no political parties, and the royal family allows the religious police to travel in groups of six, carrying nightsticks and they freely and publicly beat women. But "Brutus is an honorable man." Seventeen schoolgirls were forced to burn alive because they weren't wearing the proper clothing. Am I outraged? No, Steve. No Chris. No, Mark. That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace. Bonnie, then Scott.
- She justifies it quite brilliantly by saying that if America showered Apartheid governments with riches the way it did its Arab allies, black people would set the White House on fire.
- Beta Couple: She and Danny. Though there's just as much UST as Josh and Donna, they make their feelings for each other plain in the first season and any lack-of-resolution after that is due to Dating Catwoman.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Her relationship with the press corps is seen as too friendly by many, but on some occasions, a few reporters pushed her a little too hard and she hit back hard.
- Her method of retaliation usually involves giving people the rope to hang themselves in public without her actually attacking. Rest assured by the end of a C.J. spanking, you will be hurt.
- The Chick: Averted.
- Played straight in some episodes. "The Women of Qumar" as one example.
- Then she became Chief of Staff ahead of the boys.
- Corpsing: After spending half an episode mocking Marion Coatsworth-Hay, when the woman finally introduces herself, CJ, veteran of the White House Press Room, loses her marbles and spends a good 2 minutes failing to control herself.
- Dating Catwoman: She falls in love with White House reporter Danny Concannon, but since his job is finding out the things the Administration doesn't want the public to know, and her job is to keep that information secret at all costs... well, you can imagine how that goes. It ends happily: she leaves the White House at the end of Season 7 with Danny for L.A, and they wind up married with a child.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Daddy's Girl: Figuratively, see Bartlet's Team Dad entry above.
- Embarrassing First Name and/or Embarrassing Middle Name: C.J. stands for Claudia Jean. Only Bartlet gets to call her "Claudia Jean".
- Embarrassing Nickname: Her Secret Service codename is "Flamingo", much to her chagrin.
- Guile Hero: During the MS investigation, she deliberately provokes the House Republicans into setting up an investigative committee because it will be better politically to be investigated by people who obviously and publicly hate the President, so that their case will be appear (and actually be) less credible—rather than the special prosecutor, who is respected by both parties for being fair-minded and just.
- Unlike Toby, Josh, or Leo, CJ stands out because as Press Secretary, she has no real power or authority, and yet she plays politicians and journalists like two-dollar banjos with frequent regularity.
- Gretzky Has the Ball: Sometimes this is for real, and sometimes she's just getting a rise out of her sports-fan colleagues.
- Height Angst: Lots of jokes through the 7 seasons, but a few that come to mind are the episode when Sesame Street comes to the White House resulting in Big Bird jokes toward CJ and when CJ takes over as Chief of Staff and and chides the interior designer who tries to give her a small desk.
- The Lad-ette: Frequently seen to share a beer with the guys and waits impatiently to be invited to their Thanksgiving football day in one episode. At several points she has to tell the guys to stop protecting her, because as Press Secretary she's meant to be the President's first line of defence.
- Like Brother and Sister: With Toby.
- Locked Out of the Loop: This happens to her on occasion and she does not like it.
- Mama Bear: Towards the White House Staff, of course, but also towards the press corps. She secretly adores them and will move mountains to protect them (often from themselves). As former Press Secretary Tony Snow (under the second President Bush) said, their relationship is adversarial, not antagonistic. They're on different sides of the same side.
- Manipulative Bastard: Towards the press corps (and the entire political community); but never towards her colleagues.
- Ms. Exposition: Since her primary role on the show — up until Season 6, when she's promoted to Chief of Staff — is basically to explain what's going on to the press corps she tends to fill this role.
- Nerves of Steel: As seen by Josh and Toby's disastrous performances, this is a requirement for standing in front of the White House Press Corps every day.
- The Nicknamer: Likes to tag her colleagues with appellations like "mi amore" and "schmutzypants."
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Very few people call her Claudia Jean.
- Platonic Life Partners: With Toby.
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The Energetic Girl to Danny's Savvy Guy; he stands firm and unflappable against CJ's sometimes rather tempestuous personality, which in the end may be precisely what makes their relationship work.
- Shipper on Deck: For Toby and Andy.
- Stepford Snarker: Even in the most stressful situations (like on the night Bartlet and Josh have been shot) she will still make sarcastic comments through her Heroic Safe Mode.
- Statuesque Stunner: Job-wise (her nickname is The Enforcer). It helps that she's also 5'11.note
- Streisand Effect: Is a master at avoiding these kinds of fiascos. When the President or the other staffers want to fight and openly debunk knucklehead misinformation, C.J. will advise them to ignore it and let it fade into obscurity.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Her love of goldfish was the first fact about her that popped into Josh's head when Danny Concannon asked him about her. Danny misunderstood, and bought her an actual goldfish pet as a present. (C.J. named the goldfish "Gail", and it remained in her office for the rest of the show.)
- Tsundere: To Danny.
- Unexpected Successor: When Leo is incapacitated by a heart attack, he recommends only one name for his replacement: C.J. Not Josh or Toby, the guys who are far more involved with the down-and-dirty politics, but C.J. And boy does she prove she was right for the job.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Toby.
Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe)
Sam Seaborn was originally envisioned as the protagonist of the show until Martin Sheen upstaged absolutely everyone. Sam is intelligent but sometimes dangerously idealistic. Rather than grumping like Toby, Sam tends to jump into situations without thinking for his principles. However, he is a very skilled wordsmith and lawyer. His role dwindled until Rob Lowe left in Season 4. He is Toby's Number Two.
- Adorkable: Very smart, very pretty, hilariously awkward.
- Alliterative Name
- Back for the Finale: Returns to work for Josh as his Deputy Chief of Staff.
- Beware the Nice Ones: He is second only to the President as being an all-round really nice guy, and just like the President, you really don't want to piss him off to the point that he decides to kick your ass. Even Toby and Leo recognize that it's better to leave him pissed so he'll go destroy his enemies.
- Big Brother Worship: With Toby. During The Stackhouse Filibuster, CJ asks who his favorite writer is. He replies simply, "Toby."
- Break the Cutie: The second season brings grim tidings for everyone, but by the finale, Sam is almost catatonic.
- Deadpan Snarker/Take That Me: "I'm turning into one of the funnel people."
- Gone Horribly Right: He arranged the purchase of an antiquated oil tanker for a major oil company, securing his partnership at a major law firm, but after realizing the low cost of the ship is due to the fact that it lacks modern technology and will eventually crash (causing an environmental disaster) and fails to convince the execs that a better ship is better than a liability shield. It seems like a flashback to explain why he joined Bartlet, but it's also a Chekhov's Gun—the oil tanker crashes in season 2, and Sam knows that there's no way to sue the company because the liability shield he crafted was too good.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Josh.
- Honor Before Reason:
- If it's right, Sam will support it regardless of how bad it may turn out.
- And whenever Leo messes with him and Mallory, Sam will stick by whatever ridiculous misunderstanding occurs until Leo himself calls it off, like when Leo and Jed give Sam a pointless assignment just before a date, or when Leo gives Mallory a draft of a pro-school-voucher paper Sam wrote for opposition prep.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: It works against him more often than not.
- In season one, he "accidentally slept with a call girl" and continues to remain friends with her. The scandal breaks at the end of the first season and Sam offers to resign.
- This is also how he joined Bartlet in the first place. Josh visited him on the day where Sam realized that moving up in his law firm meant being the worst kind of lawyer.
- Kid-Appeal Character: You know, for a show about White House staffers where most people are at least in their twenties.
- The Klutz: In one instance, his teleprompter draft of a speech includes the words "the country is strangernote than a year ago and puts a # in the middle of another word, prompting Bartlet to ask "is the pound sign silent?"
- Earlier, he's given the job of leading a tour of a third grade around the West Wing containing Leo's daughter, wherein he shows himself to be massively unqualified (for instance, he doesn't realize the Roosevelt Room is named after Teddy Roosevelt, despite there being a gigantic portrait of TR in the room). When the teacher of the class calls him out on it, he snaps at her, revealing several embarrassing things about himself, including the whole "slept with a callgirl" thing, then exasperated, asks her to point out Leo's daughter so that he can at least try to impress her. The teacher then reveals that SHE's Leo's daughter Mallory, and that she's not impressed
- Physically, as well: he bangs a shin on a box while going to a meeting at 5AM (but keeps going) and is shown falling out of bed to answer his phone.
- "I heard a 'clang' and an 'ow', and figured it must be Sam Seaborn."
- And when surprised by Mallory, he throws a champagne flute into the trash.
- He crews on racing yachts as a hobby, and has a reputation of falling overboard.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Kind of. Sam is incredibly knowledgeable in many fields, but he's not omniscient, and when he comes across a topic he has no clue about (which is more often than you think), he tends to run his mouth and sound intelligent while doing so. Then there are the times when he gets caught, and that's when you Pass the Popcorn and watch him get his ass kicked.
- Legacy Character: Bartlet predicts that Sam will be President some day. Subverted by Sam's failed campaign for congressman. He ends up right back where he started, although he's hardly eking out a living as a laywer—when Josh asks that he return to politics, Sam says that his current salary would make Josh vomit. (Nevertheless, writing a fanfic where Sam doesn't become President is tantamount to heresy.)
- The McCoy: Even in a cast of idealism, Sam reigns supreme.
- Nerds Are Sexy: Being played by Rob Lowe helps...
- Nice Guy: Generally. He does, however, become a Dogged Nice Guy towards Laurie, essentially forcing his friendship on her.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A Republican "friend" manipulates him into making an anti-Bartlet ad a news story so that it's played for free on every news outlet, despite everyone telling Sam beforehand that it's a trap. Leo jokes later that at least Sam went at it full force, "like there's a Sam Seaborn-shaped hole in the wall."
- Person as Verb: Does it all the time.
- Pretty Boy: There is a reason why Rob Lowe is the page picture for the Pretty Boy Index.
- Put on a Bus: Due to Rob Lowe leaving the series. He's written out via a failed congressional bid.
- The Bus Came Back: Josh wrangles him back in to be his deputy chief of staff in the forming Santos administration... but Sam holds Josh's dire need (but not want) to go on a vacation to unravel after a harrowing campaign for Santos as a condition after Josh explodes on a subordinate over something inane.
- Shipper on Deck: For Toby and Andy.
- Skilled, but Na´ve: It may be part of his idealism. In season one, he's well aware of the fact that his meetings on Don't Ask, Don't Tell are worthless time-wasters, and despite backing the President in 100,000 Airplanes and writing the draft text, he does tell Bartlet that they can't use the idea and the material in the speech. He's also the one who encourages Bartlet to order the release of a drug lord in order to secure the safety of American prisoners, pointing out that the hostages were taken while the drug lord was in jail, making the difference between releasing him and continuing to have him held in a Colombian jail utterly pointless.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: He can be somewhat easily manipulated by political opponents, and he always takes it hard when something or someone he admired is shown to be flawed.
Media Consultant Mandy Hampton (Moira Kelley)
Mandy is a professional political and publicity consultant, initially working for a Democrat who wanted to primary Bartlet before changing his mind. Leo hired her as Media Consultant to help with staging events and the like. Her character didn't fit in with the rest of the senior staff for various reasons and she vanished at the end of the season.
- Amicable Exes: With Josh, more-or-less. They still argue a lot but it's not really romantic or ex-romantic.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Her relevance gradually diminished and her last appearance is talking about Bartlet's forthcoming lecture at Rosslyn. She vanishes somewhere between then and the shooting, never to be seen or spoken of again. (They were thinking about putting her into a later episode, but this didn't happen.) The complete lack of acknowledgement that she had ever existed led to the fans' nickname of "Mandyville".
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Frequently, Mandy would argue for the option that was more politically expedient and easier to spin positive, then be overruled by the rest of the staff doing what would feel better morally. For example, arguing for the Ivy-league moderate Supreme Court nominee (who doesn't believe in the right to privacy) over the liberal Hispanic who went to night classes for his law degree.
- Drives Like Crazy: Her first appearance is getting pulled over while arguing on her cellphone. She also drives up an over a curb while leaning on the horn before getting out and yelling at her now-former boss for essentially letting her go without telling her first.note
- Foil: She was intended to be one for Josh, but Donna soon took that role.
- Noodle Incident: The circumstances that led her to break up with Josh and leave the Bartlet campaign were apparently acrimonious, because she mentions hating him and her explanation for the below-mentioned memo is not "it was my job" but "I was still mad". But the details are never explained, probably due to her being written out.
- Stress Vomit: After learning that the FBI negotiator she'd convinced the President to use in resolving a standoff was shot, she bolts to get sick in the nearest ladies' room.
- What the Hell, Hero?: For writing (while in Senator Russel's employ) a scathing memo on how to beat Bartlet. The memo's emergence and how accurate it is gets her shunned for a while.
Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff Donna Moss (Janel Moloney)
Josh's secretary. Originally a bit part, like the other assistants, but the chemistry between the two actors turned her into a regular. She started as quirky and naive, often asking Josh things about government workings so he could explain it to the audience. Over the course of the series, she became savvy and self-confident to the point where people wondered why she was still working for Josh.
- Adorkable: Examples include spending part of an episode politely but firmly telling a bird tapping on her window to go away, raising her hand to speak the first time she's contributing to a senior staff discussion in the Oval Office, and the way in which she tells C.J. the names of the turkeys she must choose to be pardoned for Thanksgiving.
- Alpha Couple: With Josh.
- Canada, Eh?: It is discovered by everyone (including her) that she's technically Canadian thanks to a border clarification shifting her hometown from Minnesota to Manitoba. She immediately becomes concerned over all of the times she's made fun of the queen-saying "we don't do that sort of thing"
- Crazy-Prepared: As Josh's subordinate, she takes pains to be ready for whatever bizarre situation he lands himself in.
- Dating Catwoman: During the MS scandal she dated the republican in charge of the investigation.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Type 2.
- Dumb Blonde: Massively subverted.
- Fake Guest Star: "Guest starred" in every single episode of Season 1, leading to...
- Promotion to Opening Titles: By Season 2.
- Genki Girl: Just look at how she got her job.
- Girl Friday: To Josh.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: When Josh gets shot.
- Idiot Ball: During the MS scandal, she lied under oath about whether or not she keeps a diary.
- Like an Old Married Couple: With Josh for years before they even share a kiss.
- Platonic Life Partners: With Josh for a surprisingly long time.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: She tends to look very pitiful whenever she's begging Josh for a favor or he's telling her that the latest crisis has just ruined her day off.
- Servile Snarker: In one episode she has to get a big lunch order for Josh and he doesn't take his stuff during the walk-and-talk, so she proclaims "No no, I'll carry it!" in a sarcastically chipper way.
- Subordinate Excuse: She stayed Josh's secretary for six years, to the point where she became overqualified for the job and had numerous outside offers, because of her feelings for him. Eventually got fed up with being taken for granted and left to work for Russell's campaign, but this ended up working wonders for their relationship.
- Took a Level in Badass: She started her career as a country girl fresh off the bus, by the end of the series, she's spent years as gatekeeper for one of the most powerful men in Washington, which (as is pointed out by someone who tries to hire her away from him) was a graduate-level course in power politics. In the end, she becomes Chief of Staff for the new First Lady.
- UST/ Will They or Won't They?: With Josh. They do.
- The Watson: Josh (and sometimes other staffers) explain why they're handling issues a certain way or what bureaucracy requires, largely for the benefit of the audience.
Personal Aide to the President Charlie Young (Dulé Hill)
Charlie applied for a job as a White House messenger to support himself and his little sister and was hired as Bartlet's bodyman instead. It didn't take long for them to form a father-son relationship. He doesn't usually participate directly in the political shenanigans, but he's very protective of Bartlet.
- Badass: Do not underestimate this young man, intellectually or physically. He can outsnark the President, outprank the Press Secretary, and once overpowered several Secret Service agents holding him during a lockdown the instant he thought the President was in trouble.
- Berserk Button: Do not disrespect any of the people who work in the White House in front of him. Just don't. Disagree with them respectfully, fine. Denigrate them, and he'll throw you into a wall and explain in no uncertain terms that they deserve your respect because of the stress and challenge of their position, if for no other reason. And you really, really don't want him to hear you calling C.J. Cregg a bitch.
- And seriously, don't put Zoey in danger.
- Heroic Safe Mode: He becomes very distant after learning the shooting at Rosslyn was not aimed at the President but at him, because he was dating Zoey. He comes out of it at the end of "The Midterms."
- Hidden Depths:
- Would you believe he's The Prankster and a Badass? Not to mention that he often spots minute details that are the key to a critical problem way before any of the other staff (who are pretty much geniuses themselves) do. Case in point, in his debut when he deduces the location of the President's missing glasses, and figuring out that that the President lied about his MS on a medical report for his daughter's college application, and thus grounds for impeachment. He manages to do this when A) he had not been told of the President's conditionnote , and B) he had not been told there was going to be investigation! note Charlie may just be the smartest guy on the team.
- He got past the whole Secret Service Presidential Protective Detail to make sure the President was not in danger when shots were fired into the White House compound.
- It's All My Fault: Rarely brought up, but he blames himself for his mother's death since he'd ask her to switch shifts that night.
- Like a Son to Me: With Bartlet, even more so than the rest of the staff.Bartlet: Charlie, My father gave this to me and his father gave it to him and now I am giving it to you. [hands Charlie a knife case] Take a look. The fully tapered bolster allows for sharpening the entire edge of the blade.Charlie: It says 'PR'. I thought I knew them all but I don't know the manufacture.Bartlet: Yea, these were made for my family by a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere. [beat] I'm proud of you, Charlie."
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: With Zoey. Although it's just dating, the relevant persecution tropes apply.
- Married to the Job: He's told at the start that he'll be working a lot of really long days, and it does interfere with his social life, particularly his relationship with Zoe.
- Promotion to Parent: His father abandoned the family and his mother, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty shortly before the series. Charlie finds a job instead of college so that he can take care of his little sister.
- The Quiet One: He reacts to many situations and statements by facial expression only.
- Rags to Royalty: Cinderella style. Granted, he remains poor throughout the series (one episode notes that he donates part of his paycheck to charity) but by the end of Bartlet's second term his resume is so impressive it's pretty clear that he's made it to the big leagues. Late in the final season it's mentioned that he's finally starting law school (part of a deal made with Bartlet in the first season).
- Servile Snarker: He even manages to outsnark Bartlet!
- The Stoic: Combines with the above a lot. He tends to have a lot of nonchalant or Non Sequitur reactions to the staffers' crisis of the week when they beg him to see Bartlet.
- Teen Genius: Becomes young adult genius. When applying for college, he has enough A.P. credits that he's basically going to start as a junior.Sam: Charlie, just how smart are you?
Charlie: I've got some game.
- Token Minority: Added to the cast after they realized everyone was white. The Unfortunate Implications of having the only black character of the main cast being the President's valet also worried Josh when he was interviewing Charlie.
- Undying Loyalty:
- To Bartlet, and the White House in general to a lesser extent. He refuses legal immunity during the MS investigation despite the fact that he could be bankrupted, because he thinks that taking it would imply Bartlet's guilt. After he graduates, he tries to find a loophole to Bartlet's edict that he find a real job because it would mean leaving him. (He gets it when C.J. hires him as an assistant.)
- As well, he is a complete Determinator in getting Debbie Fidderer hired as Bartlet's secretary despite both her and Bartlet's reluctance, because she is the one who recommended him for his job (and recommending him instead of some politician's kid got her fired).
- Also to Zoey. Even after they break up, he's still loyal.
- Wrong Side of the Tracks: Comes from Southeast D.C. Doesn't hesitate for a second to kick some ass for the team when a fight starts.
Deputy Communications Director; Chief of Staff to the Vice President Will Bailey (Joshua Malina)
First seen refusing to end a Congressional campaign for a candidate who had died. Will's dogged idealism impressed Sam, and when Sam agreed to stand in for a special election, he sent Will to the White House as his replacement. Despite his initial idealism, Will accepted Bob Russell's job offer and left the West Wing, becoming a more pragmatic and somewhat antagonistic force to the other senior staffers as he pushed the Veep's agenda.
- Adorkable: Especially during his early days in the White House. He insists on not crossing the "holy line of demarcation" into the West Wing and goes down in incoherent flames the first time he encounters the President.
- Amazon Chaser: Mildly. He alludes to having Wonder Woman fantasies. Later, while dating Kate Harper, he says that he finds her knowledge of things she would have to kill him for and probable ability to carry it out strangely attractive.
- Deadpan Snarker: He goes toe-to-toe for snark with Toby.
- Determinator: Once caused a rainstorm by raising his fists and commanding the heavens.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Hates when his sister calls him Willie.
- FaceľHeel Turn: While not exactly becoming evil, Will's decision to abandon the Bartlet administration in order to run the campaign of the generally incompetent and unlikable Bob Russell's presidential campaign gives him a two-season long arc as an antagonist to more sympathetic characters like Josh and Toby.
- Field Promotion: Is rather abruptly "dragooned" by CJ to be Communications Director for the White House. Roughly two years earlier he had been running a winning campaign for the House of Representatives. He had no preparation whatsoever for the job, but he's a talented speechwriter (the best in the series, after Sam) and manages okay. Eventually.
- Geeky Turn-On: Provided much fetish fuel for geeky girls of all stripes.
- Grumpy Bear: Becomes this not long after accepting the job in the White House—he's still principled (mostly) but quashes his idealistic tendencies so as to be more effective.
- Jerkass Has a Point: While 'jerkass' is harsh, he's not incapable of defending his decision to support Bob Russell's candidacy to the others, particularly Toby:
- In "No Exit", after putting up with an episode's worth of self-righteous haranguing from Toby as to why he shouldn't be fighting to get Bob Russell the presidency (and almost a season's worth of hostility before that), Will angrily suggests that Toby just hates the possibility of anyone else taking over after Bartlet and demands to know why, instead of staying and taking potshots at Will and Russell, Toby doesn't go out and find a better candidate himself if he feels that strongly about fighting to get the best man possible into the Oval Office. Toby has no reply.
- Pragmatic Hero: He fights tooth and nail to get Bob Russell nominated as the Democratic Party candidate for president primarily because he believes that any Democrat's better than a Republican. This gets him a lot of hostility from Josh and especially Toby, who are more idealistic.
- Screw Destiny: In regards to not only putting a Democrat on California's permanently-Republican 47th Congressional seat, but one who dies during the campaign. The reason he meets Sam at all is because Sam calls to say that he needs to stop. Yet, through a confluence of his campaigning, opposition apathy, and weather, Will forces a special election.
- Skilled, but Na´ve: He's an excellent writer and campaigner, but like any other new staffer, is initially overwhelmed by the magnitude of his workplace.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: For Sam, until he develops his pragmatism.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Initially. The idealism goes stealth, but it's still there in his belief that Bartlet and Leo saw something worthwhile in Bob Russell, other than being the only candidate that Congress would confirm without a fight. Which is not entirely unearned, as Bartlet frequently seemed more tolerant and respectful (although not exactly fond) of Russell than his previous Vice President, and often defended him to his more skeptical underlings.
Cmdr Kate Harper, Deputy National Security Adviser (Mary McCormack)
Nancy McNally's assistant, introduced near the end of season 5. She plays a key role in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and essentially takes over McNally's role as "sit room crisis person," but as a member of the main cast rather than a recurring character.
- Action Girl: Heavily implied. She's also the West Wing equivalent of this; a good chunk of her screentime is dealing with some kind of crisis in the Situation Room.
- Category Traitor: Mild version. She votes for Vinick rather than Santos, to Will's dismay.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Tends to (non-seriously) suggest military interventions in response to slights against her friends.
- Mysterious Past: She used to work for the CIA, apparently had a rough time in Cuba.
- No Social Skills: In her early appearances particularly, she often gives off the impression of someone who is very awkward and not very good at communicating with other people, which appears to have something to do with her past in the CIA and the secretive nature of her work there. She gets better as the series goes on.
- Only Sane Woman: Sometimes, particularly in the episode where an international crisis happens on the border... with Canada.
- Sixth Ranger: Added to the main cast late in the fifth season, but as her duties are centered around the military and the Situation Room and she knows many things that are restricted knowledge even from characters with codeword clearance, she lacks the True Companions kind of relationship that most of the senior staff have. (She and Will eventually start up a romantic relationship, but neither of them seem to be sticking around for the Santos administration towards the end of the series.)
Deputy Press Secretary Annabeth Schott (Kristin Chenoweth)
"That little pixie from the Taylor Reid show." Anna applies for the post of Deputy Press Secretary when Toby takes over the job and teaches him how to present himself as less like himself (i.e. friendly and engaging to the press). She serves as his assistant and later joins the Santos campaign as Leo's aide.
- The Cast Show Off: Bursts into song at the start of "Welcome To Wherever You Are".
- Height Angst: From the opposite end as C.J. There are a lot of sight gags involving her lack of height—she's invisible behind the press podium, and one scene has her and C.J. walking side by side down a hallway.
- The Password is Always "Swordfish": Leo uses her email to leak his bad debate practice tape and advises her not to use the name of her cats as her password.
- Shorter Means Smarter: She's absolutely tiny, but extremely savvy about publicity and public speaking.
- Sixth Ranger: Debuted right into the opening titles of the sixth season. Her top resume item is making the career of an obnoxious right-wing pundit who plagues C.J. for a few episodes.
- Southern-Fried Genius: She doesn't have Ainsley's strong accent, but she's a NASCAR fan from the South.
- Stage Fright: Although she's happy to talk to the press in the communications bullpen, she can't make herself brief from the actual podium and does several circuits around the press room.
- UST: With Leo, a bit. She lampshades it to his face in "Mr. Frost".
- Annabeth: I just think it's better whele we're spending so much time together that we try and keep our distance whenever possible.Leo: Keep our distance?Annabeth: Because of the tension. *walks out*Leo: ....What tension?
Other White House Characters
Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson)
Hoynes and Bartlet have a troubled relationship. Both men resent each other from the Democratic primaries: Hoynes had been the front-runner until Bartlet unexpectedly overtook the pack, and Bartlet had to beg him to be veep to secure Southern votes. Despite their antagonism, Hoynes does prove useful to Bartlet on several occasions. He resigns due to a sex scandal near the end of Season 4.
- The Alcoholic: It's revealed that Hoynes has his own issues with the bottle, stemming from his rowdy college days. He hasn't taken a drink since then, but he runs an A.A. meeting because he was so disturbed by what it was like.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Still seething from Bartlet stealing the Presidency from him — even moreso once he found out about Bartlet's medical condition, and was obliged to drop out of the race anyway. Unfortunately for Hoynes, he's not as good at listening to other people as Bartlet and his messy personal life compounds his political problems.
- The Casanova: Shown to have slept with many women. This is what leads to his political end, not once but twice.
- Friendly Enemy: To varying degrees with the President's senior staff, particularly with Leo and Josh. With Leo, although the two lock horns frequently they nevertheless have a more cordial relationship than Hoynes and Bartlet due to their shared experience with alcoholism. Josh, meanwhile, was Hoynes's Chief of Staff and briefly his campaign manager while Hoynes was a senator running for President, and despite Josh moving to Bartlet's campaign there's still residual respect on both sides. To a lesser extent, while they interact less often he also seems to get along quite well with Sam on the few occasions they do interact, while C.J and Toby usually approach him with little more than the respect and politeness that his position demands.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He withholds his delegates to try and strike a deal with Santos, but when another Democrat throws his hat into the ring on primary night, this threat loses its teeth.
- Jerk Ass / Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He goes back and forth between these two tropes, from episode to episode. One notable incident on the better side is when a fellow politician in his AA meeting suggests that Leo's presence might draw unwanted attention. Hoynes responds that it's his meeting, and if he wants Leo there then Leo stays.
- Oh Crap!: The look on his face in the Season 2 opener when a squad of Secret Service agents storm into a photo-op, grab him by the arms, and practically carry him out of the room because of the Rosslyn shooting.
- Smug Snake: Throughout his career. He's too careful and tries to steer too often into the political winds to win enough support for the Democratic nomination in the first place, and he's not nearly careful enough in concealing his extramarital affairs.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Bartlet had told him (along with the First Lady) he would only serve one term thanks to the MS. When Bartlet tries to blame Hoynes for outing him by preparing to run (setting off the chain of events that led to Toby figuring it out) Hoynes is incensed and points out that Bartlet never said that he'd changed his mind until he announced it on national television.
- Worthy Opponent: Bounces between this and The Starscream with President Bartlet. He makes absolutely no secret of his desire to become President and feels that Bartlet holding the office is an obstacle. But he ran a clean campaign during the primary and kept Bartlet's MS disclosure to himself when he could have let the press know and rekindled his own election hopes when Bartlet let him in on the secret... mainly because Bartlet chose him for the V.P. spot because he thought Hoynes had it in him to be a good President and there was a better-than-normal chance that Bartlet could die in office. That still does not stop Hoynes from being insubordinate at times when he feels snubbed and put on the sidelines when there's governmental heavy lifting to be done.
- In fact, he wants to be seen as The Dragon to Bartlet himself, but despite his own extensive government and public experience, he is sidelined and his input ignored in favor of Leo and other staff members, being shoved into the stereotypical role of Vice Presidents attending funerals for third world dictators and inquiring daily into the President's health.
National Security Adviser Dr. Nancy McNally (Anna Deveare Smith)
First appearing in the second season premiere. Dr. McNally is an expert in foreign policy, mainly the parts about people threatening America, so she's usually seen in the Situation Room. She advises Bartlet and Leo through several crises, from domestic terrorism to the civil war in Kundu.
- General Ripper: Parodied. She half-seriously proposes nuking the Middle East because "I've had it" and Fitz calls her "Dr. Strangelove."
- Not That Kind of Doctor: The show doesn't specify what her Ph.D. is in, though.
- Put on a Bus: Kate Harper's introduction basically marks the end of her role as a character. She does appear during the transition between Bartlet and Santos, though.
- Remember the New Guy: A mild case. There were been several big national security and/or foreign crises in the first season, but she's not played as a new character in "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen."
- The Spock: She often favors a hardline approach and accepts the need to cooperate with abhorrent governments like Qumar.
Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (John Amos)
"Fitz," as Bartlet and Leo call him, is a veteran of the Sit Room and international crises. He's a steady and solid adviser who helps Bartlet make some of the really tough calls and deal with the aftermath.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Not really. But he will go off on irrelevant tangents during tense or otherwise serious situations (like when waiting to receive intel) to get a reaction out of the President or Leo.
- Embarrassing First Name: Most people call him "Chairman". Bartlet Calls him "Fitz".
- Establishing Character Moment: This little waiting-for-news-in-the-Sit-Room exchange in "A Proportional Response."Fitz: I've been thinking something.
Fitz: This is different coffee than we usually have.
- Good Is Not Soft: He's a decent man, but he's a strong proponent of assassinating Sharif and never sugarcoats any news.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: He's in the middle of telling a joke when he's...
- Killed Off for Real: At the end of Season Five, he's killed by a bomb in Gaza.
- Nice to the Waiter: Shown as treating men under him in a rather fatherly way and respecting their opinions and intelligence.
- Put on a Bus: For Season 2 and most of Season 3, he's conveniently out of the country when a crisis occurs. Eventually he comes back.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The President has authority over him, but his opinion is always thought through well, and Fitzwallace is thoroughly committed to doing his job properly without any thought to politics.
- Retirony: He'd actually been in retirement for a little while when Bartlet asked him to join the Congressional delegation to Gaza.
- Those Two Guys: With Nancy McNally. She calls him "Admiral Sissymary".
Associate White House Counsel Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter)
Ainsley impresses Bartlet when she beats up Sam on a political talk show, so he hires her into the Counsel's office. She's a Republican, so this causes no small amount of friction with the other staff—especially Sam, and they argue a lot. Even though she disagrees with the Administration politically, she is impressed with their decency.
- Adorkable: Shows signs of this.
- Affably Antagonistic
- Big Eater: Her frequent snacking is a running gag.
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: The Trope Namer.
- Captain Obvious: When she's nervous.
- Character Tics: Her roundabout way of speaking.
- Ainsley: "I'd like to do well on this, my first assignment. Any advice you could give me that might point me the way of success would be, by me, appreciated."Tribbey: "Well, not speaking in iambic pentameter might be a step in the right direction."
- Defeat Means Friendship: It was precisely because she puréed Sam on live television that the President decided to give her a job in the White House.
- Dumb Blonde: Subverted. A number of people (including her Republican "friends") assume she's this, but she is very sharp.
- Enemy Mine: To the forces of stupidity and absurd partisanship.
- Establishing Character Moment: Albeit kind of a botched one. She's intended to be shown thoroughly showing Sam up in a televised debate, but the way the scene is written she only "wins" because she keeps interrupting Sam whenever he tries to get a word in. In her defense, Sam misspoke early on (in his usual attempt to sound smart when he's actually talking out his ass), and she pounced on it with righteous fury.
- Hero Killer: A non-lethal version. Her Establishing Character Moment was kicking Sam Seaborn's ass on live television, on a program that Sam had repeatedly trumped over other Republicans.
- Hypocrite: In one episode, Ainsley and Sam get into an argument about elitism, during which Ainsley decries Ivy League elitist Democrats. Sam points that not only is Bartlet's alma mater (Notre Dame) not part of the Ivy League, but that Ainsley herself graduated from none other than Harvard Law.
- Motor Mouth: It's a nervous habit; she's much more coherent when she isn't stressed.
- MSNBC Conservative: At one point, she concedes that the ACLU might be correct in that national school uniforms might be unconstitutional. When she's in the room the show stays well away from emotionally-charged issues like abortion and gay rights, though she did argue about gun control with Sam.
- There's is a scene she's in where Lionel Tribbey calls out that she worked for a Supreme Court Justice who was intolerant of gay people, black people, unions, women, and poor people. However, since it's established in this scene that Tribbey is a little intense and intimidating, her lack of a response is treated sympathetically, with Leo coming to her (and the Justice's) defense.
- Southern-Fried Genius: She has a strong accent and doesn't appreciate people making cracks about the South.
- Strawman Political: Generally averted but sometimes played straight. See MSNBC Conservative above.
- Strawman U: Despite being a born and bred Republican, she went to the extremely liberal Smith College, before studying law at Harvard.
- Token Enemy Minority:
- In-universe, most people assume that the job offer is a stunt to make Bartlet look bipartisan, but he genuinely wants to have a few "smart people who disagree with him" in the White House.
- Out-of-universe, she was added in response to criticism that the show constantly portrayed Republicans as the bad guys.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Muffins and Fresca.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Sam Seaborn.
Executive Secretary to the President Delores Landingham (Kathryn Joosten)
Mrs. Landingham has been working for Bartlet since he was New Hampshire's governor and long before. As such, she is affectionally unimpressed with him and his senior staff, but she'll give them a cookie if they behave well. She is very loyal to Jed, and very patriotic despite having lost both of her sons in Vietnam; she takes her job very seriously.
- Cool Old Lady: One of the coolest, and all the moreso because it's never at the expense of her dignity.
- Death by Irony: She buys a car for the very first time and is killed by a drunk driver while driving home. Bartlet even goes so far as to call out God on that score.Bartlet: She bought her first new car and you hit with a drunk driver. What, was that supposed to be funny?(proceeds to rant against The Almighty. In the National Cathedral. In Latin.)
- Last Name Basis: All other assistants are "Donna" or "Carol" or "Bonnie" or what have you, but she is always "Mrs. Landingham." This is due to the fact that she's been looking after Jed since he was a young man, and he's simply always known her as "Mrs. Landingham" due to the age difference. She was his father's secretary, but she ended up becoming the chief maternal influence in Bartlet's life.
- Jed only calls her "Dolores" about twice in the show: In "18th and Potomac" just before she's killed and in the flashback to the first time they met, when she firmly corrects him.
- No Badass to His Valet: Basically the only person in the cast other than Abbie who is never intimidated by the President.
- Old Retainer: She was originally Bartlet's father's secretary.
- Team Mom: A bit of a tough love mom, but she's got a jar of cookies on her desk to give out when someone suffers a massive legislative defeat.
Vice President Bob Russell (Gary Cole)
Bartlet's second Veep. Russell is widely known as bland and mediocre; he was picked mainly by the Republican House because they figured he wouldn't be a threatening candidate in four years. Russell is aware of this and actively cultivates political reputation and capital as much as he can. He's the frontrunner in the primaries until Matt Santos overtakes him.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Toby and Will accidentally load Bartlet's teleprompter with a gag speech draft lambasting Russel for his overwhelming mediocrity. Bartlet improvises, but Russell sees it. He interrupts their profuse apologies to tell them that he found it hilarious and would like a copy.
- Drunk with Power: To a degree; his more Jerkass tendencies get increasingly pronounced the more he gets used to being both the Vice President and the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for President.
- Hidden Depths: Picked to fill Hoynes' spot as Veep, Russell was meant by Haffley to be a thorn in the side of Bartlet's administration AND a non-threat to Congressional Democrats who were hoping to run for President once Bartlet's second term ended. Russell spites both expectations by proving reliable to Bartlet as well as garnering front-runner status for the 2006 campaign.
- At one point, he's the only person in the entire administration to figure out which country performed an unannounced nuclear test in the Indian Ocean. Not Bartlet or Leo, not the CIA or NSA, Bingo freakin' Bob. His bland personal demeanour masks a mind as good as that of anyone else on the show.
- Self-Deprecation: He's well aware of how bland he seems and jokes that his secret service codename is simply "Bob Russell".
- Sleazy Politician: To an extent, and probably the most prominent example on the Democratic side.
- Strawman Political: Russell is basically the walking personification of every negative stereotype about modern politicians: he's dumb, bland, graspingly ambitious, has no firm ideological convictions, takes special-interest money by the forklift-load, and will do just about anything to win an election.
Executive Secretary to the President Deborah Fiderer (Lily Tomlin)
When she was Debbie DiLaguardia, she passed on Charlie's resume over the son of a prominent donor because she saw Charlie would be better and got fired for her troubles. Charlie seeks her out to take Mrs. Landingham's place. Despite a rocky start, Debbie takes to the job and becomes a reliable, no-nonsense gatekeeper of the Oval.
- Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Bartlet and Josh, most notably, don't like her new rules and regulations for Bartlet's time. However, she has very good reasons for doing so and her changes do make the day go much more efficiently.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Her name was mentioned in Season 1 as the staffer who recommended Charlie for his jobnote . When Jed finally accepts the need for a new secretary, Charlie calls her first.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: She's written inflammatory letters to the White House and claims to be an alpaca farmer when Charlie calls, but she's very good at her job and takes it quite seriously.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Hates being called "Deb," but she can't find a good way to tell Bartlet that.
- The Gambler: She begs to be let into the staff poker game and pulls out a wad of cash she's brought for the occasion when Bartlet tries to dissuade her. She cleans up.
- Honor Before Reason: She refuses to tell Bartlet why she was fired even when he tries to order her as the President. She was fired for hiring Charlie instead of a donor's kid. Bartlet finds out anyway when the guy who fired her accuses her of tattling on him outside the Oval Office.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Consciously takes this role. She creates new protocol for calls and staff meetings to ease stress on Bartlet's MS.
- In Vino Veritas: She took a Valium before her first interview to steady her nerves. When Bartlet asks why she was fired from the White House, she says "If you want to talk about getting screwed with your pants on..."
- Insistent Terminology: She wrote a letter to the White House in which she said "let's put arsenic in President Bartlet's drinking water and see if he delegates responsibility to the World Bank then" (on the subject of water safety). Bartlet decides that the fact that she called him President Bartlet shows class.
- Meaningful Rename: From DiLaguardia back to Fiderer, due to divorce.
- Photographic Memory: She's able to quote back market figures exactly several minutes and some emotional turmoil after hearing them. This is one of the several reasons that Bartlet decides to hire her after all.
- Refusal of the Call: Literally. She hangs up on Charlie and then closes the door in his face because she doesn't want to work for the White House again.
- Sassy Secretary: More this than Mrs. Landingham was.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Very much subverted; she's quite a different character from Mrs. Landingham.
The Other Senior Staff Assistants
Assistant to the Chief of Staff Margaret Hooper, Assistant Press Secretary Carol Fitzpatrick, and Communications Assistants Bonnie, Ginger, Cathy, and Elsie Snuffin.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Margaret, who practices the President's signature for fun, makes corny jokes, and eavesdrops, but who is incredibly loyal to Leo and keeps up with the insane hours he puts in.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Cathy disappears after Season 1.
- The Comically Serious: Margaret, in spades.
- Deadpan Snarker: Cathy.
- Hidden Depths: When Sam asks (half-seriously) for a condensed compendium of all human knowledge so he can fill in for Josh, he's told that they usually just ask Margaret.
- Gossipy Hens: The assistants all chat frequently, which is how they figured out who leaked Leo's rehab records to the Republicans.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Ginger, usually one of the sunniest of the staff assistants, is visibly shaking after the President is shot at the beginning of Season 1.
- Running Gag: Carol's lousy spelling.
- Sassy Secretary: All, but especially Margaret and Cathy.
- Say My Name: You could make a drinking game out of the number of times the senior staff yell for their assistants at the top of their lungs.Leo: Margaret!!C.J.: Carol!!Toby: Ginger!!Sam: Cathy!!C.J.: Margaret!!!
First Lady of the United States Abigail Anne "Abbey" Barrington Bartlet (Stockard Channing)
Abbey is a brilliant doctor. She helped Jed to manage and conceal his multiple sclerosis during the campaign and got into ethical trouble for doing so. She and Jed love each other very much, but being married to the President is not easy and they clash more than once over various decisions of Jed's.
- Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits: Sometimes comes up in the in-universe court of public opinion, as she's the nation's most visible working mother.
- The Confidant: To Jed.
- Deadpan Snarker: She has to be, to keep up with her husband. Half her time on the show is spent making snarky remarks about the vagaries of politics.
- Demoted to Extra: In Season 7, where she no longer appears in the opening titles unless she appears in the episode. She's also absent for quite a while in Season 5 as she is in New Hampshire, helping Zoe recover from her abduction and blaming Jed for Zoe being a target.
- Doctor's Orders: Frequently invoked, whether Jed has a bout of flu or is suffering an MS attack. It becomes a point of conflict later on when she thinks he's trying to do more than he's capable of.
- Happily Married: Usually, although they have several notable fallings-out over the course of the show. Presidential marriages are not easy.
- Heroic Sacrifice: She voluntarily gives up her medical license to ease the fallout from the MS scandal, in which she committed an ethics violation by medicating her husband. In season 5 she picks it up again to volunteer at a free clinic in Washington DC.
- Insistent Terminology: In the second season, she decides she wants to be called Dr. Bartlet again, because it's pretty frustrating that she's "more appealing" as a Mrs. rather than a professional title that she earned.
- Ms. Exposition: Whenever something medical is being discussed.
- Open Heart Dentistry: A mild case, probably not noticeable to most viewers. Her areas of expertise are internal medicine and thoracic surgery, but these fields require very different residencies and courses of study.
- Secret Keeper: For the President's multiple sclerosis. She discloses it out of necessity when he is shot at Rosslyn.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- She and Jed had a deal when he won the election: one term, because of his multiple sclerosis. She's very angry at him when he breaks it and retreats to their New Hampshire home for a while.
- She retreats to New Hampshire again in season five after Zoe is kidnapped, blaming Jed for making her a target. She's also there to help Zoe recover out of the Washington spotlight.
First Daughter Zoey Patricia Bartlet (Elisabeth Moss)
Bartlet's youngest daughter, entering Georgetown U near the start of the show. She struggles with being in such a high-profile family.
- Dating What Daddy Hates: Her French Jerk boyfriend, Jean Paul.
- Horrible Judge of Character: In regards to the aforementioned Jean Paul. It gets her kidnapped.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: Her and Charlie, though it's dating and not marriage. White supremacists try to kill Charlie at Rosslyn.
- Official Couple: With Charlie in the first couple of seasons, and again in season 6.
- Recurring Character: Never a member of the main cast.
- Satellite Character: To her father and Charlie, for the most part. We never find out what her major was or what job she got after graduation.
- Tsundere: Towards Charlie. She teasingly lampshades it in one episode when he says it's hard to tell when she's really okay with something or when she's just saying she is.
- The Woobie: It's no accident that not one, but two season cliffhangers revolve around danger to Zoey, the President's youngest daughter (and the one with the most screen time in the series).
Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt (D-MD) (Kathleen York)
Andy Wyatt is the incumbent Democratic Congresswoman of Maryland's 5th district. She's also Toby's ex-wife. They're usually reunited by politics, whether the White House wants her help moving things in Congress or if they'd prefer her to knock of whatever she and her Congressional allies are doing.
- Amicable Exes: With Toby. She doesn't want to marry him again, but she's okay with friendship and sleeping together. She also goes out of her way to try and get a pardon for him in the final season.
- Playing Hard to Get: Subverted. Toby thinks she's doing this because she wants to be chased, but she really doesn't want to marry him again and turns him down when he proposes.
- Recurring Character: Appears sporadically through all seven seasons.
- Spirited Competitor: Very keen on political fights. She even uses her pregnancy for one by not disclosing it during her campaign, deliberately bringing on an investigation.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: She leads a Congressional junket to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their vehicles are bombed, resulting in the death of two Congressmen and Fitz, as well as near death for Donna.
- Uptight Loves Wild: Subverted. She's considerably more cheerful than Toby, but while uptight may love wild, wild can't stand uptight.
Speaker Of The House Jeff Haffley (R) (Steven Culp)
Haffley replaces the previous Speaker and immediately makes a name for himself by forcing Bartlet to accept a thoroughly mediocre Veep. He pushes huge budget cutsnote to the point of a government shutdown; although this ultimately backfires on him, he continues to fight the Administration in other ways.
- Big Bad: He's about as close as the later seasons come to having a main antagonist, and can usually be counted upon to be behind any attacks on the administration or its policy.
- The Chessmaster: Fancies himself one. Compared to Bartlet AND Santos, he's not.
- Jerk Ass: Contrasted with the Republican Majority Leader, who is much less partisan.
- Putona Bus: Although a huge part of Season 5, he's rarely seen in Season 6 and disappears entirely in Season 7 - though he is given a bit of a final offscreen comeuppance when the Republicans lose control of the house, and the last we hear about Haffley is that he's out of a job.
- Recurring Character: Through season 5, much less so in the later seasons.
- Smug Snake: Very bright, and capable of using the Republican majority in Congress quite effectively, but unable to alter his plans, and extremely stuck-up and unlikeable in person.
- Villainous Breakdown: Has a minor one when the President pays him a surprise visit during the government shutdown. He takes such a long time being flummoxed that Bartlet leaves, which turns public opinion against him.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: He's an unlikable jerk, but his portrayal never becomes significantly worse than this. He's not evil, just very, very right wing.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: He congratulates Josh on a trade bill that will gut American tech jobs (something that Josh hadn't realized until it was too late).
Senator/Candidate For President Arnold Vinick (R) (Alan Alda)
A longtime Republican Senator from California. Vinick is a fiscal conservative who is moderate on social issues. He's respected on both sides of the aisle and Bartlet wanted to make him Ambassador to the U.N. Vinick quickly becomes the Republican nominee and runs a very strong campaign against Matt Santos, winning support even from Democrats with his straight talk and moderate stance on many issues.
- Affably Evil: Make that Affably Antagonistic. Sure, he's a Republican in a show focused on Democrats, but he's never portrayed as anything other than a decent guy.
- Brooklyn Rage: They Hand Wave this by saying that he was born in New York and moved to California during childhood.
- Cool Old Guy: Come on, he's played by Alan Alda.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Joins Santos' Administration as Secretary of State, and it's implied he's going to do quite a job in the position. Somewhat subverted, as they are shown several times in the campaign to have a strong mutual respect, and prior to running, they co-sponsored a bill together at one point.
- Hollywood Atheist: Subverted. He's set up as being one due to his wife's death, but later reveals that he'd given up on God after a thorough reading of the Bible years before.
- Honor Before Reason: Returning the briefcase to Santos instead of using it against him.
- I Lied: He falsely promises the head of a conservative coalition of reverends that he will appoint pro-life judges, reasoning that there's nothing wrong with lying to a liar. His staff disagrees. In general, it's implied that as a 25-year veteran of the United States Congress, he's gotten comfortable with telling the odd necessary mistruth:Sheila: [It] sends a very bad message to the big contributors if you vote against it/
Vinick: Hey, if you can't drink their booze, take their money and then vote against them, you don't belong in this business.
- Let's Fight Like Gentlemen:
- When his staffers find Santos' forgotten briefcase, which contains documents that make it appear that Santos is paying child support to a mistress, Vinick eventually returns it without exposing its contents.
- He also flatly refuses to contest the election on the ground of Leo's death, as he'd known Leo himself and finds the idea repugnant.
- MSNBC Conservative: Probably to be expected for a Republican Senator who served in California, which is largely liberal bar a few districts (like the one where Sam ran for Congress).
- Not Bad: It doesn't quite cross over into Worthy Opponent territory like it does for Santos, but Bartlett very grudgingly acknowledges Vinick's intelligence and morality on several occasions.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Very much so as a Senator and as a Presidential prospect. In fact, he's so impressive that lifelong Democrat Bruno Gianelli claims he might just work on his campaign for free.
- The Smart Guy: While he is a Conservative character in a Liberal setting, the show still shows Vinick as extremely intelligent and someone who would make a terrific President.
- What You Are in the Dark: The aforementioned briefcase moment. Vinick is clearly tempted by the thought of using its contents against Santos, particularly with the justification that "the voters have a right to know."
- Worthy Opponent: He and Santos view each other as this. Never more evident than in the debate episode.
Donna: [To Josh after seeing his speech declaring that he is going to run for President, while at the same time refusing to throw some recently discovered dirt at the Bartlet Administration] You got one year to convince me not to vote for him.
- More than one Democratic or White House character remarks that they could vote for him after seeing one of his appearances.
Congressman/Candidate For President Matthew Santos (D) (Jimmy Smits)
A three-term Democratic Congressman who wanted to quit politics after becoming disillusioned with Washington. Josh was unwilling to let his political talent go and persuaded him to run for President. Santos started at the back of the pack, but his earnest idealism combined with some outside circumstances gives him a very narrow win at the convention.
- Ace Pilot: A military fighter pilot, and flew his own plane during the campaign.
- Category Traitor:
- He'd probably be considered one if only anyone knew, as he's personally anti-abortion but still fights to keep it legal because he believes it's not the government's place to regulate this sort of thing.
- Also runs into this when trying to toe the line of representing Hispanic interests without looking like he only cares about Hispanic interests.
- Deadpan Snarker: Josh asks him about some weird rumors about his personal life once, specifically a wrecked bed in a hotel room. Santos' reply?Matt: ...His name is Bruce. He's a flight attendant for Air Lingas. They've gotta connecting hub out of Hamburg. At first it was long walks along the-[Josh immediately cracks up]
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The show makes no secret of the fact that Santos is based on Barack Obama. Two years before Obama was elected.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Matt is the latter, and he stepped up to deal with one of his brother's indiscretions that produced him a niece with one of his female staffers while he was mayor of Houston. Due to the nature of the situation, it looks like he is paying child support for an affair to an uninformed eye, which becomes a problem when his briefcase with his checkbook for that payment ends up left behind and is found by the Vinick campaign. Thankfully, Vinick is above that.
- Good People Have Good Sex: He and his wife break a hotel bed while on the campaign trail.
- It had a steel brace. When photos of the damage arrives at the campaign hotel, everyone immediately leans in for a closer look.
- Generic Guy: It's a problem on the campaign trail when his staff has to struggle to give him a distinctive image, rather than a likable guy who just happens to be running for President.
- Guile Hero: Why Josh is so taken with him. Even though Santos had just three terms in Congress, he took a Republican healthcare template, naturally hated by the Democrats, made it a bipartisan effort, and by the end turned it into something that the President could actually sign—without losing Republican support. And then there's the time where he makes Haffley think that the Democrats all went home so he could crash their vote on a bill....
- Happily Married: To his wife Helen.
- Mr. Fanservice: Invoked. A frequent complaint of non-Josh advisers is that his good looks and charm are all that people know about him.
- Not What It Looks Like: The aforementioned documents in the briefcase Vinick found. Santos is paying child support for his illegitimate nephew, due to his irresponsible brother having an affair with one of Matt's staffers while Matt was mayor of Houston.
- Spanner in the Works: For the Democratic party in general and particularly the Russell campaign. There are multiple instances of him being urged to quit "for the good of the party," which naturally fall on deaf ears. Tends to go against his advisers' recommendations sometimes. He's usually proven right in these decisions.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Gets this from Josh in New Hampshire when he says he intends to run a "keep 'em honest" campaign for a few months instead of going for a win. Josh, who gave up his job in the White House to run Santos' campaign, is not happy.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Has aspects of this, which Josh does his best to work around.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Some of his initial difficulties stem from the fact that what works to win a seat in the House of Representatives will not work to win the Presidency.
Chief White House Correspondent Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield)
A reporter for the Washington Post who has a thing for C.J. Naturally, this causes problems—the attraction is mutual, but they dance around each other's jobs a lot and the relationship takes quite awhile to get off the ground due to conflicts of interest.
- Badass Beard: Intrepid reporter with the guts to uncover the stories the Press Secretary wants to not be covered (and try to date her at the same time).
- Beta Couple: In Season 7, to Josh and Donna's Alpha Couple. Hell, probably C.J. and Danny in the whole series to Josh and Donna's Alpha Couple.
- Beware the Nice Ones: He's one of the most genial and well-meaning characters on the show, but he is still a veteran and savvy investigative reporter. He uncovers the Shareef assassination when only few dozen people at most knew about it.
- Dating Catwoman: Conflict of interest is almost inherent in their relationship.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Danny: ''How's the President?"C.J.: ''Off the record?"Danny: ''Of course."C.J.: ''He's fine."Danny: ''Well, wouldn't want that to get around."
- Commuting on a Bus: He leaves the Press Room for a while in the early half, comes back a while later, and takes off again until Season 7.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Takes seven years and a lot of false starts, but he finally gets C.J. in the end after years of pining.
- Intrepid Reporter: So, about Sharif's death....
- Recurring Character: Almost certainly the most appearing recurring character who didn't work for the President.
Director of the Women's Leadership Coalition and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Amy Gardner (Mary-Louise Parker)
Amy is introduced as a love interest for Josh and a women's issues wonk. Because of her single focus, Amy and Josh clash a lot. Abbey hires her as her Chief of Staff because Amy is good at working politics; she shows up in the next presidential campaign advising the Democratic field.
- Brainy Brunette
- Dare to Be Badass: Matt Santos gets her to join his administration by challenging her to stop "throwing rocks" and help him set some policy by being his Chief of Legislative Affairs.
- Deadpan Snarker: Has her moments.
- Defeat Means Friendship: An unusual case. While they are dating, Josh and Amy find themselves on the opposing sides of fight over a welfare-reauthorization bill which ends when Josh manages to get Amy fired. They stay friends throughout the rest of show (even briefly dating again).
- Amy: I fought you, I lost, I had a drink, I took a shower. 'Cause that's how it is in the NBA.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: The episode where she cuts Josh's phone cord and throws his cellphone in the soup so that she can beat him on a bill is played for laughs. Please imagine if the positions were reversed.
- Fish out of Water: As the First Lady's chief of staff. She's used to pushing her agendas hard and ruthlessly, which doesn't work in the White House.
- The Gadfly: As she puts it: "I'm crazy about the president, I've been crazy about him for longer than you've known who he was, and I'll keep poking him with a stick. It's how I show my love."
- Romantic False Lead: For Josh.
- Straw Feminist: Averted. Although Josh complains that she's narrowly focused on women's rights, she's working for a women's rights organization. All the issues she cites—abortion, sex trafficking, the dearth of women in high office—are given serious consideration as they are things which affect women in Real Life.
Josephine "Joey" Lucas (Marlee Matlin)
A deaf pollster and political operative who first appears trying to get support for her dead-fish candidate. Although Bartlet and Josh aren't impressed with him, they are with her, and employ her as a pollster and consultant for the MS scandal, re-election, and a State of the Union. Josh later hires her onto Santos' campaign.
- Aborted Arc: Bartlet and Josh suggest that she run for Congress. She never does.
- Gender-Blender Name: Her nickname leads Josh to assume that she's a man, and later Leo when Donna says Josh got a new suit "for Joey."
- Deadpan Snarker: "Your staff likes to decorate with hand lotion?"
- Heterosexual Life-Partner: With Kenny, her interpreter. They've been working together for almost a decade, and she says that trusting her means trusting him.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: Averted. When Josh is enthusiastic about restarting their UST in a late-season episode, she walks into the room visibly pregnant.
- Inspirationally Disabled: Notably averted, probably at the insistence of Matlin herself. Her disability is entirely irrelevant to her ability to do her job — she's a political genius, but so is most of the cast. Also notably, the senior staff takes her use of an interpreter entirely in stride.Joey: [through Kenny] Joshua Lyman, you have the cutest little butt in professional politics.Josh: [without batting an eyelash] Kenny, that really better have been her talking.
- Recurring Character: Unusually for the show, she made at least one appearance in all seven seasons. She also works in the White House for a short time.
- UST: With Josh, who tries to flirt with her in his usual ineffective way. Donna is a Shipper on Deck, but Joey doesn't pursue it because she can see Donna is in love with Josh.
Campaign Manager Bruno Gianelli (Ron Silver)
A seasoned political operative with an impressive string of wins on his resume, Bruno is brought on board the 2002 Bartlet campaign after the MS announcement stalls it.
- Brooklyn Rage: His accent is from New York City, and he's very cranky.
- Category Traitor: Accused of this by Josh when he turns up working for Vinick the Republican. Of course, Vinick being a social moderate able to work with both sides is why he is so appealing to progressives like Bruno, so it's not that far of a jump, but it does make Josh's life much more difficult.
- Combat Pragmatist: He'll do whatever it takes to win an election, so long as it's legal.
- Deadpan Snarker: It must be said that in a series where pretty much everyone snarks with their every breath, Bruno is the deadest, pannest, snarkiest of them all.Doug: [reading] "Let us shine a light on dark places in America: places where all hope has been banished, places where our founders' dreams are yet to be redeemed."
- Doing It for the Art: In-universe. When accused of selling out to Vinick, he says that he wouldn't mind working Vinick's campaign for free.
- Foil: To the White House staff's starry-eyed idealism.
- Grumpy Bear: Somewhat. He's a proud liberal and detests that Democratic candidates cower to the right when called such.
- Hired Guns: The political equivalent of a mercenary.
- Honest Advisor: Part of why Leo hires him.
- Kavorka Man: His skill as a political operative nets him a surprising number of lady admirers.
- Sarcastic Devotee: On a fairly snarky show, he's still one of the snarkiest.
- The Spock: Usually prioritizes winning over ideals.
Abdul ibn Shareef
Minister of Defence for Qumar, Abdul ibn Shareef is the younger brother of the reigning Sultan, and a supposed ally of US intelligence. In reality he's the leader of a major Bahji cell, and is behind numerous attacks on the USA, including an attempt at blowing up the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: He's the Sultan's younger brother, and a Prince of Qumar.
- The Big Bad: The closest thing the show ever has to one, serving as an Arc Villain for Season 3.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: After the revelation that he works with the Bahji.
- Cain and Abel: Played with. He and his brother, the Sultan, weren't close, and the Bartlett White House later uses that against Qumar after his assassination, leaking false reports that he is hiding out in Libya, plotting to overthrow his brother.
- The Fundamentalist: A member of an Islamist terrorist group that aims to strike out against the West.
- Villainous Legacy: Shareef is assassinated at the end of Season 3, but the fallout from his death continues throughout Seasons 4 & 5, culminating in Zoey's kidnapping by Bahji agents in the Season 4 finale.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Has a public face as an antiterrorist crusader and an ally of the United States, while actually leading the Bahji.