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    President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet 

President Josiah Edward Bartlet

Portrayed by: 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, 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. This is shown both directly in flashbacks and clearly stated throughout the show, and 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 Mrs. Landingham's ghost put it:
    Mrs. Landingham: Your father was a prick who could never get over the fact that he wasn't as smart as his brothers.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: He is not above ordering the Secret Service to clear out an entire hotel/restaurant just to have lunch with his youngest daughter.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Bartlet is religious, and there are several plotlines where his religion plays a role in his ethics and decision making, but his extremely thorough knowledge of the Bible lets him kick ass with anyone who attempts to use this trope against him.
  • Badass Boast: Pretty much constant. Although it is very awesome and very well-deserved.
    • "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.
    • He also speaks fluent Latin, going so far as to include an (untranslated) rage against God entirely in the language.
    • Not to mention his Nobel Prize in economics. This dude's a bona fide bookworm.
  • 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: He is typically calm and level-headed, but loses it spectacularly when confronted with certain things.
    • He will not tolerate any sort of criticism of his father, even though the man physically and emotionally abused him his entire life.
    • And for the love of God, don't involve his daughters in politics.
    • He is very sensitive to people using the Bible to justify acts of violence or hatred. Bartlet is a devout Catholic and a very smart man, 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 injured (probably because he was going into shock); he was otherwise in high outrage over Butterfield's insistence on getting him to the White House despite Butterfield being shot in the hand.
  • Blue Blood: He's descended, and takes his name, from one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, bringing him about as close to this trope as you can get in the USA.
  • 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 Bartlet snagged a much larger role in the show than was previously planned.
  • Bumbling Dad: He has three daughters, and all of them manage to exasperate him in some manner (this is a guy who tussles with Congress and international crises on a regular basis). The Bedouins called him 'Abu El Banat', meaning 'Father of Daughters' and gave him free tea. The tea was the least they could do.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Definitely not as eccentric as the likes of Lionel Tribbey or Lord John Marbury, but he has his moments. Infamously nerdy, he has a tendency to get so fixated on esoteric subjects—like the history of America's national parks—that he'll spend hours excitedly rattling off facts to his senior advisers while they struggle to stay awake. And he's been known to stop White House poker games to quiz his advisers on trivia like "How many punctuation marks are used in the English language?"
  • Catchphrase: "What's next?" The last words of the pilot episode.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Especially with regards to the military, as he has never served in uniform.
    • 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.
  • Character Tics: According to Mrs. Landingham, whenever Bartlet's made up his mind to embark on some definite course of action, he sticks his hands in his pockets, looks away and smiles. She points out to the young Jed that he's doing this when Jed decides to confront his own father about the question of equal pay for men and women in the school. Later in the same episode, after Bartlet has decided that it's going to be too hard on everyone to run for a second term, he has a visitation of sorts from Mrs. Landingham who died in the previous episode in which she repeats a Rousing Speech she made earlier in flashback. Bartlet then goes to the press conference, deliberately gets himself asked if he's going to run again...and sticks his hands in his pockets, looks away and smiles. Cut to black.
  • The Chessmaster: He literally plays chess like a master, but also pulls off some ingenious moves against China, India, Qumar, and his political opponents.
  • Code Name: Initially, his Secret Service designator is Eagle, but as of "He Shall, From Time To Time", it's Liberty, the same as President Shepherd in Sorkin's previous White House work, The American President.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Metaphorically kicks the Republican candidate for President from pillar to post and makes it look easy during their one and only debate.
  • 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?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Invokes this when the Syrians kill a group of military medical personnel, reasoning so that the rest of the world will know never to harm another American. (This episode is literally called "A Proportional Response", in reference to his staggering military overreaction.)
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": His wife once called him "Jethro" just to annoy him.
  • 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.
  • Excuse Me While I Multitask: As a sign of his profound intellect, he can often be seen doing at least 5 things at once, almost all of which involve tremendous mental power. The best example would be him playing two chess games with both Sam and Toby, discussing his reelection campaign and parental issues with Toby, all the while monitoring a military standoff between China and Taiwan. He wins both chess matches and the standoff, by the way.
  • Fatal Flaw: He needs people to like him, even being harder on his middle daughter because he felt that she favored her mother instead of him, and he takes every disapproval against him, imagined or otherwise, as a crisis he must rectify (e.g. him trying to campaign against an old rival running for a school board). It stems from his issues with his father, who hated him no how much he accomplished. Also, he's not immune to Pride; in spite of his rocky relationship with his VP, he refuses to take steps to mend it, and can't resist needling the guy in public. And why?
    Bartlet: You shouldn't have made me beg.note 
  • 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.
  • Freudian Excuse: His need to win people over probably stems from childhood. Young Jed was just never able to win his father's approval (the guy was a resentful, petty, mean-spirited jerk and his approval wasn't worth the effort, but Jed can't accept that).
  • Glasses Pull: He wears reading glasses, so he frequently does this when he looks up from some important document. Or when he's just been informed that Butterball has a turkey hotline. Sam subconsciously mocks him for this when standing in as him during debate prep (as he also wears reading glasses).
  • 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: Subverted. He speaks four languages, two of which are Latin and English, the other two are likely German and Old English. None of them are French.note 
    "J'accuse! J'accuse, mon petit fromage!"
    • He also utters the occasional lamentation in German.
      "Was willst du von meinem Leben?"
  • 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: The Presidency can really strain a marriage, but he and Abby very much love each each other and always land on their feet.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Leo.
  • Ideal Hero: He's the smartest guy in the room, compassionate to a fault, eloquent and funny, charismatic and personable, sincere in his beliefs, and uses his power never for personal gain, but to faithfully serve his nation, and sometimes even the world. For all the parts that he lacks or falters, he has the best staff to support him and counter his worst instincts.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Some of his decisions.
  • Insufferable Genius: Constantly.
    • He tries to be humble, but he very often is the smartest person in the room, and he has an encyclopedic 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 Bartlet 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.
      Bartlet: Yeah, and all that happened was I won a Nobel Prize and got elected President so I guess that decision didn't really pay off.
      Leo: Yeah.
      Bartlet: Should I run back and get my Nobel Prize?
      Leo: I think he knows you've got one.
  • The Klutz: Lampshaded by both Leo (who calls him this verbatim) and himself. The first thing we hear about him is that he rode a bicycle he borrowed from Leo into a cypress tree and sprained his ankle. It gets worse whenever he's angry enough not to consider his environment.
  • 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.
  • Like a Son to Me: Feels this way about most of the staff but three specific examples stand out.
    • It's never actually said out loud but he clearly sees Charlie this way, giving him his family heirloom Paul Revere carving knife which he specifically refers to as something that should pass from father to son.
    • During his Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter rant to God in "Two Cathedrals" he explicitly refers to Josh as "my son".
    • At one point when CJ is worried she's going to be fired Josh reassures her by telling her Bartlet sees her as one of his daughters.
  • 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.
  • No One Should Survive That!: After he is shot in the abdomen at the end of Season 1, he remarkably has no major internal injuries, prompting Abbey (a doctor) to remark that "The bullet seems to have gone out of its way not to hit anything".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: You can never shut the guy up, so when he pulls out a poker face (and not even an angry one at that), it's... disconcerting.
  • 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, he will bring down the wrath of the President of the United States to utterly toast your sorry ass, and you better pray to whatever god you believe in that one of his staff is there to rein him in before he decides to get real nasty. 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 able to walk anywhere in the world, free of fear, protected only by the knowledge that their nation would blow the living hell out of anyone who decided to harm them.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • To the staff. He treats Josh, Sam, and Toby as sons. He also thinks of C.J. like a daughter and brooks no argument about assigning her protection when she gets death threats.
      • Especially with Josh. After Josh's father dies, 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 directly refers to him as his son in the second season finale.
        Bartlet: What was Josh Lyman, a warning shot? That was my son.
    • Sam interestingly gets the Generation Xerox comparison; he at one pointnote  prophesises that Sam, who is rather similar to himself, will become president one day himself.
    • 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.
      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.
  • 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. Part of his Crisis of Faith.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: The president is the character who swears the most. Bonus for him being able to swear in Latin!
  • 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.
  • Twerp Sweating: He loves the fact that his position allows him to make his daughters' boyfriends incredibly nervous. He threatens to send the 82nd Airborne after Charlie should the young man ever upset Zoey. He later arranges to meet with Ellie's fiance in the presence of the Joint Chiefs of Staff so that the poor guy, a rather meek nerd, has to shake hands with a group of major Type-A personalities.
  • Verbal Tic: "Okay." Seemingly innocuous, but when said by itself the president has declared the conversation over. Overstaying one's welcome after he says this is done at considerable risk.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Has one of the most vitriolic and greatest friendships in television history with Leo McGarry. They can and will have tremendous arguments with each other, but their love for each other can be said to be even stronger than for their wives.
  • The Unchosen One: The series repeatedly shows how, during his first Presidential run, he had a snowball's chance in hell at winning the election (John Hoynes was younger, more connected, had a bigger profile, and was considered nigh-unstoppable) until his whole team came together. He never expected to win, and was terrified at the prospect of becoming the President, but goddamn did the guy pull through.
  • Unstoppable Rage: For a deeply religious man in his 60s and a self-avowed pacifist, when the man gets angry, he will not hesitate to destroy lives or carpet bomb nations. The scary thing is that very few people can stop him, partially because of his forceful personality, partially because of his justified fury and responsibility, and partially because who's going to say 'no' to the goddamn President? Topics that get him in a rage include harming American citizens and soldiers, harassing his family, or attacking his staff.
  • "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 

Chief of Staff Leopold Thomas McGarry

Portrayed by: John Spencer (Original), Sterling K. Brown (HBO Max Special)

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 ambassador.
    You 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 he finds out why she did it.note 
  • Berserk Button: Don't disrespect the office of the President of the United States (e.g., call President Bartlet anything but the President) where he can hear it, or even just of it. Ever.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: To his friends and strangers, he is the sweetest, most generous man next to the President himself. But to his enemies, he will ground them into fine dust if they even think of opposing 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In season one Josh refers to Leo as being "Boston Irish-Catholic", but all subsequent seasons refer to Leo as being a native of Chicago.
  • Establishing Character Moment: His is in Season 1's "He Shall, From Time To Time", when Bartlet tells him about the MS. Unlike almost every other staffer (with the exception of Donna), Leo doesn't get angry: he's just sad that Bartlet didn't tell him sooner, so he could have been a better friend, and when Bartlet says "I wanted to be the President", Leo says "That wouldn't have stopped me from getting you here." Then they turn to Leo's public revelation of his prescription drug abuse:
    Bartlet: When you stood up there today, I was so proud. I wanted to be with you.
    Leo: Nah. Nah.
    Bartlet: I tried to get up, but I fell back down again.
    Leo: I know the feeling.
    • Leo's introduction in the first episode is also our introduction to the series proper, as he walks through the chaos that is the White House, fielding questions from junior staffers with casual exasperation before strolling into the Oval Office, making a joke about the President in the Oval, and then walking out to resume fielding questions.
  • 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 because he respected her reason for doing so.
  • First-Name Basis: He may be the White House Chief of Staff and essentially the second most powerful person in the country, but he insists that everyone call him Leo, even the newest, youngest members of the team.
  • 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.
  • Killed Offscreen: Out of necessity, due to the sudden death of John Spencer. Leo has a fatal heart attack offscreen halfway through election night.
  • The Lancer: To Bartlet.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: With Bartlet.
  • Like a Son to Me: In "Requiem" Bartlet tells Josh that Leo felt this way about him.
  • 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: An interesting version. He serves as President Bartlet's sounding board and closest confidant, keeps the rest of the staff in line and when Bartlet gives orders it's Leo who makes sure those orders are carried out. But when President Bartlet is incapacitated, he cannot take charge since he isn't in the Presidential line of succession.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: You rarely get to see Leo tired, even when he likely puts in more hours than the other staff. So when he talks to the girl who outed his drug rehab and slouches into his chair, it's one of the few moments when we see him exhausted and spent. Especially notable, since he's doing this in front of a person who just tried to destroy him.
    • He treats everyone with respect and love, no matter where they come from, but he has an irrational hatred for Lord John Marbury.
  • Overprotective Dad: Downplayed example, but he is can get creative with his punishment when Sam tries to date his daughter.
  • 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.
  • The Reliable One: It's been said more than once in the series (including by the President) that Leo is the one who runs the government. When Zoey is kidnapped and the President invokes the 25th amendment that allows a Republican to become Acting President but causes a lot of uncertainty and tension, the one calming refrain repeated to everyone is that "Leo will know what to do"
  • Riddle for the Ages: His daughter is Mallory O'Brien. There are many possible explanations for why Mallory might choose to go by or might have a different name than her father but this is never explained.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Though he is devoted to President Bartlet, and will not tolerate anyone disrespecting the President, that doesn't stop Leo from needling Bartlet to his face:
    Leo: I just came back to catch up on some work. See how badly you screwed up this church thing in Tennessee.
    President Bartlet: I did the church thing in Tennessee okay. I did it without you.
    Leo: You mind if I make some calls, see if Tennessee's still one of the fifty states and stuff?
  • Shipper on Deck: For Donna and Josh. He is shown to be well aware of the tension between them, going so far as to allow Josh to leave the White House during a massive political crisis to fly to Germany when Donna is critically injured; he also seems to be more conscious of Josh's feelings for her than he himself is.
  • 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: Oh, I'm afraid we don't allow smoking in this part of the world.
    Marbury: Really? In this part over here (gestures to himself), we encourage it.

    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.
  • Workaholic: Notable for ruining his marriage, and that unlike the younger staff and the President, he never seems to get tired.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: He has only called the President 'Jed' once in the entire series to scold the President for not telling Leo about the MS. The rest of the time, it's 'Mr. President'.
  • Young and in Charge: A unique example only in the 2020 HBO Max Special, where he's played by Sterling K. Brown who was 44 at the time. Even if we were to timeshift all the other cast back to their ages during the original screening, this Leo would still be one of the youngest senior staff members.

    Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman 

Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman

Portrayed by: 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 Bureaucrat: 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.
  • Call-Back: Seen in two major events involving him. First when Donna is seriously injured and develops the same condition that killed his father, and again when Leo dies right when Santos is elected President, very similar to how Josh's father died on the night Bartlet won the Illinois Primary.
    • Also seen when he attempts to protect Leo's alcoholism from being revealed during a Congressional hearing, referencing the speech Leo gave him when he was diagnosed with PTSD a season earlier.
    Leo: Don't help me.
    Josh: I'm going to help you, 'cause you know why?
    Leo: 'Cause you walk around with so much guilt about everybody you love dying that you're a compulsive fixer?
    Josh: No, Leo, no. It's 'cause a guy is walking down the street and he falls into a hole, see.
  • Cannot 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 (after repeatedly warning him that he's a lightweight and can't handle heavy drinking).
  • The Charmer: Even has his own groupies in-universe.
  • The Chew Toy: Bad things from the outside happen to him a lot, notably getting near-fatally wounded at the end of season 1 and subsequently developing PTSD, his father dying on the night Bartlet wins the Illinois primary, and his sister's death in a house fire when he was a child while she was babysitting him - she tried to put out the fire while he ran outside. 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. He will threaten to bring in the President to campaign against his own party members if it means they get in line with what he wants to be done.
  • The Consigliere: To Santos.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: He never quite got over the guilt from his older sister's death in a house fire. He got out quickly, but she couldn't find him and went back inside to look for him. Another possible example of this is the events of the season 1 finale, where he was shot in the chest and very nearly died.
    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 has him asleep at his desk, early in the morning, while the other staffers are shown to be anywhere else but their offices. The custodians loudly vacuuming his office (a sign that this isn't abnormal) doesn't wake him up. His beeper instantly does.
  • Genius Ditz: Except when holding the Idiot Ball.
  • Guilt Complex: Has massive unjustified one due to the number of bad things that have happened to friends and loved ones. He blames himself when something happens to people he loves, even if it wasn't his fault (examples of this are Leo's death in season 7 or when Donna was gravely injured while on an assignment he gave her).
    Josh: I'm going to help you, 'cause you know why?
    Leo: 'Cause you walk around with so much guilt about everybody you love dying that you're a compulsive fixer?
  • Heroic BSoD: Josh goes through more breakdowns, and has more Freak Outs than the rest of the cast combined, complete with developing PTSD courtesy of the Rosslyn shooting, although there are heavy implications that he was already suffering from it as a result of his sister's death in a house fire when he was a child, and was triggered by the shooting.note  At the end of the fifth season when Donna almost dies on an assignment he sent her on, he shuts down and becomes incapable to focus on anything, leading to Leo allowing him to fly to Germany in the middle of a national crisis and see her in the hospital.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Sam. Some fans even romantically ship them.
  • 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: Zig-zagged. 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 nearly 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. He does come up with good solutions (such as realising that Bartlet can prevent an area from getting stripmined by declaring it a national park), he hires good people (most notably Donna) and he is a good judge of character when it matters. 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. Finally, Josh realises that the best way to handle Santos is not to handle him too much, but let him be himself; since this gets Santos elected, Josh earns that Chief of Staff position.
    • It's also implied by characters like Sam that Josh's job is incredibly chaotic, as he has to take an incalculable number of demands from an incalculable number of parties screaming and/or threatening for attention, somehow make them make sense, balance them out with the minuscule resources and time the White House has, make a coherent recommendation to the President, then execute the President's orders on a nation full of people who will never be happy with the deal they got. It would be fairer to judge Josh by the number of times he doesn't screw up.
  • Informed Judaism: Lampshaded by Toby, who is very much not.
    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 irritating Donna, but cares very deeply about the people he loves and protects them fiercely when necessary.
  • 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.
    • Bartlet refers to him as "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.
  • Mr. Exposition: Part of the purpose of his scenes with Donna in the early seasons was for Donna to ask him why [X important political issue of the week] mattered or was a problem, with him providing the answer.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Has developed an incredibly devoted fanbase. The basketball game in The Crackpots and These Women come to mind...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Blames himself for the death of both Leo and his sister, as well as Donna nearly dying at the end of Season 5, as he sent her on the assignment where she got hurt.
  • No One Should Survive That!: Somewhat subverted. He is shot in the chest at the end of Season 1, lacerating his pulmonary artery, which brings oxygenated blood from the lungs into the heart. He undergoes a 14-hour surgery and several different characters (including Abbey, a board-certified thoracic surgeon) remark on the unlikeliness of his survival, Sam commenting that "but for a brilliant surgical team and two centimeters of a miracle, this guy's [Josh's] dead right now".
    Leo: How did that bullet not kill you?
    Josh: Just lucky, I guess.
  • Oblivious to Love: To 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.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: You could make a drinking game out of the number of times Josh says something stupid (but not incorrect) and spends the entire episode paying for it. There's a reason why he's not allowed to do press briefings.
  • The Peter Principle: Played with. Santos tells him that he's better as a deputy chief of staff than at the actual job (when consoling Josh about CJ getting the job). only to name Josh as his chief of staff while run-in for president, something Josh shows some talent at.
  • 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.
  • Self-Harm: Implied. In the second season episode "Noël", he puts his hand through a window in his apartment while suffering from undiagnosed PTSD, in an attempt to cause himself pain to distract from the flashbacks he is having. There are also references earlier in the episode to the notion that he was suicidal, or at the very least considered the possibility of killing himself.
  • Shipper on Deck: For Toby and Andy.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Most of his relationships (especially with Amy) 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 as a defense mechanism when he is scared or in danger (notably when he's in the midst of a gradual breakdown from PTSD)). Particularly evident when he talks to Stanley, who calls him out immediately.
  • Troubled, but Cute: He's a complete and utter mess. The put-together look in his picture here is him at before nine in the morning – by lunch, he is usually pretty disheveled, and his office is a reflection of it.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Leo, who was an old friend of his deceased father and now something of a Parental Substitute. When Donna is seriously injured in the fifth season, he walks out of the White House (with Leo's permission) during a massive political crisis and flies to Germany to tend to her.
  • 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 

Communications Director Tobias Zachary Ziegler

Portrayed by: Richard Schiff

Toby is the White House Communications Director and 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.

  • Bad Boss: Not so much "bad" as he has a short temper and extremely high standards that makes him difficult to work for even if you do live up to them.
  • Badass Boast: "Paper's for wimps."
  • Badass Bookworm: Reads the Constitution for fun. Actually finds a typo in it.
  • Berserk Button: People who claim to be knowledgeable but aren't really annoy him.
    • White supremacists targeting Charlie, shooting the President, nearly killing Josh, and the White House's inability to punish them enrages Toby to the point that he, the White House Director of Communications, can't find the words to describe it.
    • Played for laughs, but don't try to talk to him during "The Jackal"
  • Big Applesauce: Is a very proud New Yorker and has attended over 400 Yankee Games.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Oh, he tries to deny it, but as the oldest staff member after Leo, he is very protective of Sam, Josh, and Charlie, but especially Sam.
  • Brooklyn Rage: A native of Brighton Beach.
  • Buffy Speak: Used to provide the page quote: "Do you wanna tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?"
  • Combat Pragmatist: Coupled with The Smart Guy, this is one of Toby's qualities that gets Bartlet re-elected. When they are up against Governor Ritchie, who makes a virtue out of dumbing down complex issues into sound-bites and slogans, the Bartlet team stumbles until Toby advises Bartlet not to try to copy Ritchie's style but to be about education. When Ritchie doubles down by accusing Bartlet of arrogance, Toby realises that since Ritchie fans are already irreversibly convinced that Bartlet is arrogant, it meant that Bartlet could actually be arrogant. In the debate, Bartlet goes off the leash, showing up the ways in which Ritchie deliberately fudged complex issues to make himself seem more folksy, so Ritchie looked like both a lightweight and someone who condescended to his own base.
    • Toby's pragmatism works in the opposite direction from Josh. While Josh will use every underhanded trick to win (without making the President look like the bad guy), Toby will insist that the President lives up to his greatest potential and ideals, as those are the greatest weapons he has against his opponents.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: His main trait.
  • 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.
  • Establishing Character Moment: His very first scene has him in an airplane, being instructed to switch his laptop off and not use his cellphone because it may interfere with the plane's navigational equipment as it lands. He responds by chiding the stewardesses and rattling off a bunch of facts about how impossible it would be for a little phone to flummox a top-of-the-line aircraft, and then demanding his peanuts, demonstrating what a stubborn, snarky, standoffish little smartass he can be. He also puts his phone down despite his snark.
    • In SE01 E03 "A Proportional Response", Toby is enraged when a hostile Democratic congressman a.) questions the President's patriotism and b.) hints that people in his district want Bartlet dead; however, Leo reminds him that they can't arrest the congressman just for being mean. So, Toby manoeuvres himself into a position where the White House press corps ask him about the congressman's remarks. He casually replies that the Secret Service investigates all death threats made against the President, adding that it's White House policy not to comment, thereby a.) sending a reminder to the congressman that you threaten the President of the United States at your peril, and b.) politically emasculating the congressman by depicting him as a irresponsible and borderline criminal whack job.note 
  • 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).
  • Heroes Want Redheads: His ex-wife has red hair.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Beneath that prickly exterior and grumpy personality lies a beating heart of pure love for his friends and fellow citizens. If he ever sees someone in trouble, no matter how low they are or seemingly meaningless the gesture may be, he will do everything in his power to help them.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: He has a tendency to get carried away with his own stubborn self-righteousness and arrogant conviction that he alone always knows best 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.
    • In "Shibboleth", his determination to start a political brawl over prayer in schools backfires on him when he backs a fiery, controversial nominee (who also happens to be Leo's sister) for a recess appointment at the Department of Education to provoke the issue. Unfortunately, it turns out that there are politically embarrassing photos of said nominee over-enthusiastically enforcing the law in relation to said issue, prompting a humiliating backdown.
    • This is discussed in "Here Today", when President Bartlet on having to fire Toby for leaking the story about the military space shuttle bitterly remarks at one point that Toby's arrogant self-righteousness was always likely to end up in a situation like this.
  • 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.
  • Hot-Blooded: Second only to Josh, Toby is the other staff member who won't hesitate to pick fights with the opposition out of righteous indignation. He tones it down in later seasons when this behavior gets him in trouble once too often.
  • 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.
    • When Judge Mendoza, who Toby is trying to get appointed to the Supreme Court, is in a police cell because the Connecticut police wrongly think he's a drunk driver, and he refuses to allow Toby to get him out because he wants to use the incident to demonstrate that the police are racist, Toby shows Mendoza that he understands exactly how humiliated Mendoza feels at having been arrested in front of his young son, and points out that if Mendoza is a Supreme Court justice, this is the kind of thing that is less likely to happen — but that will only ever happen if Mendoza swallows his pride and doesn't go through with his plan to humiliate the police in retaliation. It's politically convenient for Toby, but it's his sympathy for Mendoza's anger that convinces Mendoza to what Toby asks.
    • He becomes concerned about Josh in "Noël" after he becomes extremely angry in response to loud noises and demands Toby remove the bagpipe players in the lobby because he can "hear the damn sirens all over the building". He begins to recognize this as a red flag of Josh's PTSD, and although Leo states at the end of the episode that Donna was the one who initially raised her concerns to Leo, Toby is shown making comments about Josh's odd behavior to C.J. and it is likely that he came to Leo about it as well.
  • 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.
  • 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. He generally only does this in response to an incredibly unlikely or big win.
    • In a less comedic sense, when he's at a loss of words, it's a sign that he is in absolute rage or sorrow or both.
  • Papa Wolf: Despite his own fears that he won't be able to love his kids enough he very quickly steps into the role once they're born.
    Toby: ...if someone was hurting them I'd drop napalm on Yellowstone to get them to stop. Letting some prisoners out of jail wouldn't be nothing and I've known my kids for about 45 minutes.
  • 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 station. He later admits that he also wanted to start a conversation about the militarization of space, which he personally opposesnote 
  • Sarcastic Devotee: A prime example.
  • Serious Business: For him, many, many topics, even Sesame Street.
  • Sex with the Ex: So much so that he impregnates his ex-wife, although he is still in love with her and still wears 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.
  • 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.
    • The clearest example would be the beginning of "17 People", when Toby takes seven nights, and works out that something is going to prevent Bartlet from running for re-election (or at least Hoynes believes so), and that information is being kept from public knowledge. Toby interrogates and gets Leo & Bartlet to reveal the MS... all from a sly word from Hoynes "knowing something Toby didn't." So Toby set out to find out what it was.
  • The Snark Knight: There are a number of Youtube montages dedicated to Toby's best lines. And noises.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: He becomes downright spiteful towards Will and Josh at times in Seasons 5 to 7 when they leave the White House to run the campaigns of other Democratic politicians seeking to replace Bartlet, to the point where at times he seems to go out of his way to try and sabotage things for them. Part of it is due to his high standards viewing their candidates as unworthy successors to Bartlet, but another part of it is clearly bitterness and resentment at what he views as them leaving him behind.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: His treatment of Will and Josh aside, he's significantly more pleasant after the birth of his children. He outright smiles a lot more.
    • He's also much kinder to Josh when Josh is the only person to come visit him after his firing, to the extent that he becomes a behind the scenes advisor to the Santos campaign (although it's implied this is also because inactivity is driving him buggy and this is his outlet).
  • 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.
  • The Unfavorite: The President considers Leo and the rest of the staff to be his family, but Toby is the odd one out, mostly because Toby is the one person who does not hesitate to call Bartlet out on his crap when the rest of the staff will either let it slide or enable it. This is especially galling as Toby has been working with Bartlet the longest after Leo, and when appointing his senior staff, the President had to be harangued by Leo and Josh to pick Toby as the Communications Director. That said, there is tremendous respect and love between the two men.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Sam and CJ.
  • What Is This Feeling?: After the President gets shot by white supremacists, Toby goes into an extended, uncontrollable, seething rage that he cannot explain, wanting to see all the perpetrators and their ilk utterly destroyed, and is extremely frustrated at no action has been taken by the authorities. Bartlet summarizes the feeling by equating the assassination attempt as a lynching on Charlie, and that he shares Toby's rage. This is notable for Toby, as he is supposed to be a master communicator, and yet he is at a loss for words.
  • 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 

Press Secretary / Chief of Staff Claudia Jean 'C.J.' Cregg

Portrayed by: 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 when reporters cross her or the administration she hits 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.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Despite being the lowest ranking member of the senior staff, she bosses her colleagues (and occasionally the President) around like she owns the place, partially due to her personality, partially due to being the Only Sane Employee.
  • The Big Girl: In size and in role. When things go wrong, she is the President's first line of defence, and she is very good at it.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Almost comically nearsighted, as the flashback in the two-part Season 2 opening In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen shows – she could not drive herself home when she broke her glasses, was unable to identify Toby from less than five metres away without them, fell into the pool because of her poor eyesight and mistook the pool maintenance house for her actual house.
    Toby: C.J.?
    C.J.: Yeah?
    Toby: House is over there.
    C.J.: Okay.
  • Corpsing: In-Universe. 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: after Bartlet's presidency ends, she leaves 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.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Occurs when she has to get emergency root canal, leading her to say stuff like:
    "I had woot canaw."
    "I have to cancew the bweifing."
    "Pwease be vewwy carefuw. Twy vewwy vewwy hahd not to destwoy us."
    "A sekwet pwan to fight infwation?!"
    "He said the Pwesident was wong to make secwetawy O'Weawy apowogize."
    "The Pwesident needs to be bweifed on the events of the day."
  • Embarrassing First Name and/or Embarrassing Middle Name: C.J. stands for Claudia Jean. Only Bartlet gets to call her "Claudia Jean".
  • 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. (This is also the origin of her Secret Service codename, Flamingo).
  • 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.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: This happens to her on occasion in the very early days of the administration 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) when necessary; 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", much to their varying amusement and irritation.
  • 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.
  • Slapstick Knows no Gender: Several of the physical jokes in the series involve CJ pratfalling like an idiot. Case in point, her literal introductory scene, where she trips while on a treadmill because she was checking her beeper.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: Hilariously averted in the one time she accidentally falls into her pool and exits less like a swimsuit model and more like a wet cat.
  • 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: invoked 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. (The goldfish was named "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., who does an incredible job.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Toby.
  • WASP: Averted – she states in Season 1's The Crackpots And These Women that, like all of the senior staff but Toby and Josh, she's Catholic.

    Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn 

Deputy Communications Director Samuel Norman Seaborn

Portrayed by: 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.

  • Alliterative Name: Josh jokes about this in a flashback to the Bartlet campaign when Sam was engaged to Lisa, asking him if the reason she broke off their relationship was because her name would have become "Lisa Sherborn-Seaborn". Sam also constantly wears monogrammed shirts reading "S.N.S" (the N stands for Norman).
  • 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 towards the end, Sam is crushed by the revelation that the President lied to the people closest to him about a degenerative illness.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: When asked where he wrote what may very well have been one of the best speeches in the entire series, his answer? "In the car."
  • Deadpan Snarker/Take That Me: "I'm turning into one of the funnel people."
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Has a more benign one when trying to figure out why the peace-loving President is playing brinkmanship by sending a fleet to protect Taiwan from China, after planning to sell Taiwan a bunch of high-tech missiles and ludicrously expensive warships that also run the risk of falling into Chinese hands... before figuring out that the President never intended to sell the weapons to the Taiwanese.
  • Glasses Pull: Much like President Bartlet, he wears reading glasses, causing him to do both this and the reverse, as whenever he's getting serious about work, out come his glasses.
  • 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. (Although many people have commented that their relationship seems to border a little on non-platonic on occasion.)
  • 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.
    • He can be extremely rash when it comes to moral issues he feels strongly about, not stopping to consider the consequences until it is too late.
  • 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.
    • However, there is also an underlying joke that Sam is somewhat of a womanizer, making far more innuendos and casual references to sex than anyone else in the show (except maybe Josh, although he does it to be annoying).
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Almost the entire point of the joke when Sam gets his ass pureed by Ainsley Hayes.
    Josh: Toby, come quick. Sam's getting his ass kicked by a girl!
    Toby: [sprinting after Josh] Ginger get the popcorn!
  • Kid-Appeal Character: You know, for a show about White House staffers where most people are at least in their twenties.
  • The Klutz: Both physically and verbally.
    • Earlier, he's given the job of leading a tour of a fourth 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
    • 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.
    • A very, very good example of this is when he assumes Ainsley is a "dumb blonde republican" and gets his ass kicked spectacularly on national television, much to his coworkers' delight.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Name: Sam SEABORN keeps falling off yachts...
  • Mr. Fanservice: A nerdy speechwriter with a penchant for tight sweaters and razor-sharp suits. Was seen shirtless in the Pilot.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Of all the characters' relationship storylines, he probably has the most.
  • Nice Guy: Generally. He does, however, become a Dogged Nice Guy towards Laurie.
  • 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.
  • Shipper on Deck: For Toby and Andy.
  • Skilled, but Naive: 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.
  • Smart People Play Chess: He's one of the people who regularly play chess with the president.
  • 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.
  • "World's Best" Character: He is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most skilled writer in the entire Bartlet administration. He can craft the literal best speech of the entire series, at a moment's notice, on one of the busiest days of his life, in the car.

    Media Consultant Mandy Hampton 

Media Consultant Mandeline Hampton

Portrayed by: Moira Kelly

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. There is some romantic tension between them, but it is somewhat weak and forced.
  • 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 took the role almost immediately.
  • 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 

Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff Donnatella Moss

Portrayed by: 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.

  • Alpha Couple: With Josh.
  • Audience Surrogate: Particularly during the early seasons when she was less familiar with governing and policy. Josh's answers to her questions helped audience members to understand what was going on.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: She got her job as Josh's assistant by showing up at the office and acting like she'd been assigned to him. Josh saw through her immediately but was so impressed by how eager she was to join the campaign that he decided to hire her anyway.
  • Break the Cutie: Almost dies at the end of Season 5 when she is gravely injured by a car bomb on a diplomatic mission to Gaza she is sent on by Josh in response to her demanding more responsibilities. It is heavily implied that she develops PTSD from the incident, although it is not discussed nearly as in depth as Josh's own PTSD in the second season.
  • Canada, Eh?: Everyone (including her) is shocked to learn 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". Josh finds a grandfather clause which allows her to return to her US citizenship, but not before Abbey Bartlet sets up a display of the Canadian national anthem in her honor.
  • 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. Also, almost every boyfriend she has throughout the series is a republican.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Type 2.
  • Dumb Blonde: Massively subverted. She is brilliant and shown to be seven steps ahead of Josh on many occasions.
  • Fake Guest Star: "Guest starred" in every single episode of Season 1, leading to...
  • Genki Girl: Just look at how she got her job.
  • Girl Friday: To Josh. He jokingly calls her this once.
  • Heroic BSoD: When Josh gets shot.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In the flashback to when she started working for Josh, when asking for her reasons for being there Josh asks whether or not her boyfriend has just dumped her. Donna retorts that that's a private matter and none of his business. Josh in turn retorts that Donna was moments before caught answering potentially private and confidential calls she had no business answering all in the hope that Josh would not realise he never actually hired her: "Your boyfriend broke up with you?"
  • 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.
  • Say My Name: Josh and Donna frequently yell each other's names at the top of their lungs. The former keeps up with the Running Gag while the latter has to contend with a boss that more often than not would spend the entire night in his office, eventually falling asleep at the desk or the floor of the same.
  • 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.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: When she is inside a car that gets bombed at the end of Season 5 and wakes up in a hospital, having been evacuated by helicopter to Germany due to her critical condition. It happens again in the same situation when she develops a pulmonary embolism and nearly dies again, waking up in the ICU after an extremely risky surgery.
  • 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. This is lampshaded in one episode, where she asks Josh a question and then proceeds to provide the explanation herself, leaving him bemused.
    • Over time she is this less often, partly because the writers got more confident about not needing to explain to the audience how government worked. By Season 4, not only does she no longer need to have things explained to her, she can anticipate what Josh wants her to do before he's even told her that he wants her to do it.

    Personal Aide to the President Charlie Young 

Personal Aide to the President / Deputy Special Assistant to the White House Chief of Staff Charlie Young

Portrayed by: 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.

  • Awesome by Analysis: Charlie's skill at deductive reasoning could rival Sherlock Holmes'. 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.
    • In his debut, he deduces the location of the President's missing glasses, without barely any context other than the President mentioning he had read some documents the night before (the glasses were under some papers).
    • The more impressive feat is him figuring out much later that the President lied about his MS on a medical report for his daughter's college application, and thus creates grounds for impeachment. He manages to do this when A) he had not been told of the President's condition (He had only been told by Zoe to keep an eye out for symptoms, not what specific disease the President had), and B) he had not been told there was going to be investigation! (Only that the President and Leo were meeting with White House lawyers.)
  • Badass Bureaucrat: 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.
  • Everyone's Baby Sister: While they never treat him with kids gloves, the senior staff can be very protective of Charlie, him being one of the youngest and least experienced members of the team. When Bartlet was being investigated, everyone kept pestering Charlie to get immunity to shield himself.
  • The Ghost: His sister, Deana, is often mentioned but never appears in person. Even the one time we see a picture of her has her face obscured.
  • 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?
    • 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. Secret Service personnel are some of the hardest, toughest, scariest human beings on the planet, and Charlie can get past them.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl: Apparently his youngest sister and her friends managed to utterly whup his butt at basketball one time.
  • 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 manufacturer.
    Bartlet: Yeah, 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A humorous example. When Bartlet suggests inviting a Republican to work at the White House, and Charlie's response is that 'Theirs is the party of inclusion', Leo remarks that Charlie, making a joke, at the President, in the Oval Office, is a sign of just how bad the President's idea is.
  • 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).
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Zoey told him about Bartlet's Multiple Sclerosis at some point before "Bad Moon Rising" so he could watch for symptoms. Jed and Leo's reactions make it clear they were unaware that he knew about the diagnosis.
  • Servile Snarker: He even manages to outsnark Bartlet!
  • Stereotype: The only black character of the main cast is the President's valet which Josh lampshaded while he was interviewing Charlie.
  • 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.
  • 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 Fiderer 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 

Communications Director / Chief of Staff to the Vice President William Bailey

Portrayed by: 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.

  • 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: By way of introduction as Sam's replacement, Will successfully gets a Democrat elected to the California 47th congressional district, a notoriously Republican district that the Democrats have long since given up on. The true Determinator part comes in when Will's candidate dies, and Will still managed to force a run-off election through smart campaigning, a lot of luck, and sheer refusal to give up, even when the White House told him to quit.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Hates when his sister calls him Willie.
  • Face–Heel 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.
  • Home Guard: He's a First Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve.
  • 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.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Although not exactly rich, Will comes from a very privileged background. His dad General Thomas Bailey was NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and he's lived all over Europe: at one point he says "I will take my hazing like the Eton valedictorian I am," implying that he went to England's most famous public school, although Eton doesn't actually have valedictorians. When he intends to go on holiday after the Wilde election, he plans to stay in a castle that his family happens to have access to.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: After he resigns from Bartlet's staff to manage Russell's communications office, the other characters (especially Toby) see him as this. The truth is a little more complicated: Will incorrectly thinks he can groom Russell into the ideal president to carry on Bartlet's legacy, and his own personal career prospects are just an added bonus.
  • 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 Naive: 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 

Commander Kate Harper, Deputy National Security Adviser

Portrayed by: 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.
  • Assurance Backfire: When Josh questions the safety of an unofficial diplomatic meeting with a Palestinian group, Kate points out that he flew to Germany on a commercial jet and has been walking around in public, so anyone looking to kill him would have done so already.
    Josh: Yeah, that's not so reassuring.
  • 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.
  • 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 

Deputy Press Secretary Annabeth Schott

Portrayed by: 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 

Vice President John Hoynes

Portrayed by: Tim Matheson

A former Texas Senator and Bartlet's first Vice-President, Hoynes has a troubled relationship with the President. 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 more so 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.
  • Expy:
    • Of Lyndon B. Johnson (Hoynes' former position as a Texas Senator, the situation between Bartlet and Hoynes in the Primary, and his raw presidential aspirations are all pulled directly from LBJ) and to a lesser extent Al Gore (the Bartlet Adminstration mirrors the Clinton administration in many ways, and Hoynes' less than friendly relationship with Bartlet, particularly the belief he is sidelined as VP, mirrors Clinton's relationship with Gore).
    • He can also seem to be one of John Edwards, as a Southern Democrat whose Presidential aspirations were sunk by a sex scandal, but Edwards' scandal actually occurred after the show had finished airing.
  • 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 openly dislike him and usually approach him with only the bare minimum respect and politeness that his position demands.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: His position in the Bartlet White House, due to a bruising Democratic primary that saw him narrowly lose to Bartlet. While he's helpful at times, neither the White House Staff or Hoynes himself have forgotten or forgiven, and the staff correctly view Hoynes's ambitions as a political threat.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass / 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. It's probably less to the image of a squad of burly men barreling straight for him, and more of the realization that something horrible has happened to the President.
  • 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 

National Security Adviser Doctor Nancy McNally

Portrayed by: Anna Deavere 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 

Admiral Percy Fitzwallance, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

Portrayed by: 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.

  • Back for the Dead: Retires from the White House at the beginning of season five and returns in the last few episodes, just in time to be killed in the Gaza bombing.
  • 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.
    General: What?
    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.
  • Informed Ability: Supposedly an expert on warfare. When he discusses the Battle of Agincourt in episode 3.22 he gets pretty much everything wrong. He claims that heralds observed the battle to determined who won. A ridiculous claim. The winner was determined by the fact that the French ran from the battlefield. He claims that a soldier who lay down his weapons was treated humanely. That only applied if he was a rich nobleman who could pay a ransom. Common soldiers were slaughtered like sheep. Finally, he claims that Medieval warriors would never target a single individual, when in fact a large press of French soldiers tried to get at Henry V to gain the honour of killing him. The latter phenomenon was quite common and had already been observed in witness accounts of the Battle of Hastings, four centuries earlier. It led to kings dressing up knights in copies of the royal armour to act as decoys.
    • In fact, the the Battle of Agincourt became notorious because of what happened to the prisoners. The medieval chronicle 'Gesta Henrici Quinti' (The Deeds of Henry V) records how the English ended up killing many of the French prisoners that they did manage to capture. The French noble Ghillebert de Lannoy, lord of Willerval, who was himself taken prisoner by the English, describes how his captors set fire to the barn where all the prisoners were being held. Only a few, including Ghillebert himself, managed to escape. The fact that Fitzwallace, a supposed military expert, would use Agincourt as an example of "humane treatment of prisoners" is all the more egregious.
  • 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.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: A bit of a Running Gag in the series is that the first time we see him in an episode (or at least at some point during his appearance), he'll be fixated on some triviality about his surroundings, such as a change in the coffee, new curtains, or the way the seal of office on the Oval Office floor seems to change depending on the circumstances.
  • Those Two Guys: With Nancy McNally. She calls him "Admiral Sissymary".

    Associate White House Counsel Ainsley Hayes 

Associate White House Counsel Ainsley Hayes

Portrayed by: 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.

  • Affably Evil: Downplayed in that although she's very affable, she is willing to sacrifice her Republican principles to help the Bartlet administration get things done, because although she disagrees with most of their policies she admires them personally.
  • Big Eater: Her frequent snacking is a running gag. She must have the metabolism of a hummingbird.
  • 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. Also, she was interrupting Sam because he was trying to interrupt her as she delivered a detailed explanation for why he was wrong and/or misleading the audience.
  • 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.
  • Genki Girl: She tends to be bright and excitable.
  • 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.
  • Put on a Bus: She leaves the White House at some point after "The U.S. Poet Laureate" as Joe Quincey is seen interviewing for her job the following season. She eventually returns for a brief appearance in season seven at Leo's funeral and expresses interest in working for the Santos administration.
  • 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. It really comes out in the bathrobe scene.

    Executive Secretary to the President Dolores Landingham 

Executive Secretary to the President Dolores Landingham

Portrayed by: Kathryn Joosten / Kirsten Nelson (flashbacks)

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 Big Sis: Appointed herself this job for Jed back when he was in college.
    Young Jed: Why do you talk to me this way?
    Mrs. Landingham: Because you never had a big sister and you need one.
  • Cool Old Lady: One of the coolest, and all the moreso because it's never at the expense of her dignity.
    "I've got a secret for you, Mr. President. Your father was a prick who couldn't get over the fact that he wasn't as smart as his brothers."
    • Admittedly that line is from an imagined conversation after she's killed, but Bartlet knew her better than anyone, and presumably he'd know whether it was something she'd say in real life.
  • 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.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: She had twin sons who died together in Vietnam.
  • Servile Snarker: Not on Charlie's level, but she and Bartlet have been through so much together that she's more than earned the right—and sometimes, she does exercise it.
  • 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 

Vice President Robert Russell, Jr.

Portrayed by: Gary Cole

Bartlet's second Veep. A back-bencher congressman from Colorado, 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 Russell 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 Republicans 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.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: It becomes apparent during the Presidential campaign that Russell is mostly detached from what's going on, to the point that Will and his staff have to constantly micro-manage events by reminding him who he is speaking to, what they're doing for the campaign, and what he needs to say.
  • 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. Zig-zagged in that his argument as to why he is so close to a big mining corporation is actually quite reasonable: They employ more of his constituents than anyone else, so he has good reason to listen to them.
  • Strawman Political: Russell is basically the walking personification of every negative stereotype about modern politicians: he's 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 

Executive Secretary to the President Deborah Fiderer

Portrayed by: 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.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Bartlet initially thinks that hers is in her first interview, where she's on two valiums and, when he asks her why she was fired from the White House, she uses language colourful enough for him to reject her immediately. In fact it's her second, by which time he's learned that she recommended Charlie for the personal assistant job, which shows that she's a good judge of character. When Bartlet again asks her why she was fired from the White House, she refuses to tell him, which annoys him enough that he rejects her a second time. However, he's intrigued enough to figure out that it's because she recommended Charlie over the son of a prominent party donor; her unwillingness to admit to this shows that she has impeccable discretion. Bartlet then tests her memory by asking her to repeat some financial figures that she can only have overheard a few minutes earlier, and when she does it flawlessly, he indicates to Charlie that she's hired.
  • 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 couple of 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: Averted; she's quite a different character from Mrs. Landingham.

    Head of Presidential Detail of the Secret Service Ron Butterfield 

Head of Presidential Detail of the Secret Service Ron Butterfield

Portrayed by: Michael O'Neill

The lead agent of President Bartlet's Secret Service detail.

  • Almighty Janitor: One of the only people in the government who can just flat-out tell the President the way things are going to be.
    C.J.: Sir, can I ask why you think this is necessary...?
    Bartlet: Because Ron says it is and around here we do whatever Ron says.
  • Consummate Professional: Protecting the President is his singular goal, no arguments, no discussions. The President himself can't tell him not to do his job, and he will do it so well and so discretely you'd barely notice his people were even there.
    "I have to put you inside the White House, Mr. President. This isn't something we discuss."
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Gets wounded when white supremacists fire on Charlie, but insists to President Bartlet that he's fine despite the copious amount of blood.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When he comes to report that Zoe is missing and there's a dead agent at the scene, he is visibly shaken, and Leo can clearly tell something bad went down because he is normally professionally unflappable.
  • Plausible Deniability: Whenever the Secret Service is questioned for its methods and/or failures, his go-to response is "The Secret Service does not comment on procedure".
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite his cold, no-nonsense demeanor, he refuses to reveal a crucial oversight that possibly led to the President being shot note  which would absolve the Secret Service on their failure to protect the President, and telling Toby that the attack was nobody's fault except the perpetrators'.

    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. Bonnie stops appearing after "Shutdown" in season 5. Elsie Snuffin also disappeared partway through season four, a particularly odd example as Will never mentions his sister for the rest of the series.
  • 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.
    • When the assistants' secretaries's salaries are to be published, the secretaries hold a meeting, headed by Donna and Margaret, in which we see them agreeing not to complain in public about how little they get paid because it makes their bosses' jobs more difficult if they have to deal with stupid press questions about assistants' salaries. A small moment, but it goes to show how conscientious and dedicated the assistants are, in spite of all the gossip and snarking they do.
  • 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 2.
  • The Reliable One: All of them, but Margaret is this in particular, to Leo: she's always there, she's always on top of things and when at one point during a crisis he tells her to go home and get some sleep, she replies "I sleep when you sleep." CJ remarks that Margaret ran Leo's office like a Swiss watch, which is high praise considering the insanity that is the Chief of Staff's office.
  • 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!!
    Josh: Donna!!
    C.J.: Carol!!
    Toby: Ginger!!
    Sam: Cathy!!
    C.J.: Margaret!!!
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Margaret has this with Bruno Gianelli, who she starts off disliking because he persistently addresses her as "Stacy"...until the day he hands a box to her saying "Somebody asked me to give you this" and it turns out to contain a necklace consisting of the name "Margaret". (Cue big smile from Margaret.) Possibly resolved later on, because when NiCole Robinson became pregnant in season 6 and they wrote it into Margaret's character but never revealed who the father was, Word of Saint Paul said that it was either the UPS guy or Bruno.

    White House Counsel Oliver Babish 

Portrayed by: Oliver Platt

Lionel Tribbey's replacement as White House Counsel. Similar to him in personality—mind like a straight razor, zero tolerance for people who can't keep up—but much less hammy.

  • Cutting the Knot: Bartlet and McGarry bring him into the loop on the MS issue, unaware that the Dictaphone on his desk is stuck on "record." He solves the problem.
  • The Danza: Oliver, played by Oliver.
  • Deadpan Snarker: "It won't stop recording things, so it's just what you want lying around the White House Counsel's Office because there's never been a problem with that before."
  • Insufferable Genius: A milder example than Tribbey, but this does seem to be a requirement for the job.
  • The Stoic: At no point is he ever off-balance in the conversations he has about the MS scandal. No matter how sarcastic, angry, or evasive the other person is, and even when the person he's talking to is the president, Oliver remains calm, assured, and persistent.
    [in response to CJ's sarcastic answers] "In my entire life I have never found anything charming."

First Family

    First Lady of the United States Abbey Bartlet 

First Lady of the United States Abigail Anne "Abbey" Barrington Bartlet

Portrayed by: 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Abbey is one of the few people in the world who can claim to be a true equal to the President, being a world-class physician and adjunct professor at Harvard Medical School, and she knows how to play politics, although not as well as the President and his team (she does have a higher approval rating than the President though). Despite these things that would instantly make her one of the most accomplished people in the world, she's constantly mocked by the press and sidelined in favor of the President's agendas.
  • 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.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: She agrees to go on Sesame Street in an attempt to improve her public image following the MS scandal. The segment involves her giving Elmo a vaccination.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: She may seem the typical gregarious and diplomatic spouse to the most powerful man in the world, but her husband didn't marry her because she was some demure flower. In a fight between the President and the First Lady, it's always 50/50 who would win, because she is just as fierce, intelligent, and compassionate as he is.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Throughout the series, she's harangued about what she'll be wearing for formal dinners, where her family will be spending Christmas, and a thousand other little insulting questions, when she is an accomplished doctor and politician in her own right. She suffers these indignities quietly to support her husband and for the sake of the nation, but when pushed, she is the only person in the world who has the guts to treat the President as a man first and an institution second.
  • 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 Liz Westin 

First Daughter of the United States Elizabeth "Liz" Bartlet Westin

Portrayed by: Annabeth Gish

Bartlet's oldest daughter, least seen on screen, mother of Annie and Gus Westin.

    First Daughter Ellie Faison 

First Daughter of the United States Eleanor "Ellie" Emily Bartlet Faison

Portrayed by: Nina Siemaszko

Bartlet's middle daughter, attending medical school at John Hopkins.

  • Hero Killer: A non-fatal version. Of all the tribulations that President Bartlet has had to endure throughout his tenure, one argument with his middle daughter is all it takes to give him a brief Heroic BSoD.
  • Mistaken for Gay: To the point that her parents are surprised by her engagement and pregnancy.
  • Shotgun Wedding: A downplayed example. She and her fiance agree to a White House wedding so they'll be married before it becomes obvious that Ellie's already pregnant. Vic eventually tells Jed that he knew he wanted to marry Ellie by their third date, which was a year before she got pregnant.
  • Shrinking Violet: The quietest and most timid of the Bartlet children, but also possibly the most accomplished and brave.
  • The Unfavorite: Believes herself to be this among her sisters, but the truth couldn't be further from that. Bartlet likens their relationship to King Lear, implying her to be Cordelia note  to his Lear.

    First Daughter Zoey Bartlet 

First Daughter of the United States Zoey Patricia Bartlet

Portrayed by: Elisabeth Moss

Bartlet's youngest daughter, entering Georgetown near the start of the show. She struggles with being in such a high-profile family.


    Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt (D-MD) 

Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt

Portrayed by: 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.

  • 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.
  • Sex with the Ex: 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.
  • 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 is determined to keep uptight at arm's length because he's just too depressing to live with.

    Speaker of the House Glen Allen Walken (R-MO) 

Portrayed by: John Goodman

As the Speaker for much of Bartlet's first term, Walken often serves as an antagonist to the main cast (although usually a more amiable one than Speaker Haffley—see below). However, after Bartlet steps down during the kidnapping crisis, with the office of Vice President vacant due to Hoynes' resignation, he briefly becomes President of the United States.

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Walken notably refuses to pursue political goals in his capacity as President. Is this mainly out of a sense of ethics and professionalism, or is he simply aware that under the circumstances, doing so would likely backfire spectacularly on him and his party? Or both?
  • Brutal Honesty: He doesn't believe in sugarcoating things and speaks frankly whenever possible. It causes an understandable amount of friction among the senior staff, as they're all holding in their own thoughts about the situation and aren't exactly eager to share them.
  • Cincinnatus: Despite the senior staff's fears Allen doesn't take advantage of being handed power and only does what's necessary to keep the country running. Once the crisis is over he amicably steps aside with no fuss from his staff. He privately admits to Debbie Fiderer that he never aspired to being President which may explain why he didn't try to take advantage of being handed the job.
  • Deadpan Snarker: After Zoey is rescued, Bartlet offers to campaign on Walken's behalf the next time he's up for re-election. Walken's response: "I'm not sure that'd be a plus in my district."
  • Large and in Charge: As Speaker of the House, he controls the biggest portion of the U.S. government (the House of Representatives) and is third in the line of presidential succession; it goes even further when he becomes President himself. He's also played by the tall, broad, and stout John Goodman. Walken lampshades his own girth when he jokes that he's "one prime rib away from a heart attack."
  • Odd Friendship: Strikes up a genuine connection with Debbie Fiderer during his brief tenure as President. They especially bond over their shared love of Harry Truman; Walken has even named his pug Bess after Truman's wife.
  • One-Scene Wonder: In the Season 4 finale, "Twenty-Five."
    You're relieved, Mr. President.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Against the expectations of several staffers.

    Speaker Of The House Jeff Haffley (R-WA) 

Speaker of the House Jeff Haffley

Portrayed by: 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.
  • Hypocrite: Right before the shutdown, during the negotiations for the budget, he moves the budget cut from one percent to three, after they had a deal to only make it one. He then says "There is no altering this deal," pretty much immediately after he altered it himself. And then he tries to have the shutdown blamed on the President.
  • Jerkass: Contrasted with the Republican Majority Leader, who is much less partisan. Haffley loves it when the White House is in trouble and he actively enjoys screwing with them.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: His antagonistic relationship with the Bartlet administration and his hard-right policy views (with a particular emphasis on austerity) make it clear that Haffley is based on former Speaker Of The House Newt Gingrich.
  • Put on a 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 unlikable in person.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Has a minor one when the President pays him a surprise visit during the government shutdown. He can't think on his feet and he insists that Bartlet not be let in until they've worked out what their game plan is. It only takes them seven minutes to come up with one, but in that time, Bartlet leaves, which turns public opinion against the Republicans.
  • 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 Arnold Vinick (R-CA) 

Senator Arnold Vinick

Portrayed by: Alan Alda

A longtime Republican Senator from California. Vinick can best be described as a pseudo-Libertarian (a Robert Taft Republican); he's a staunch Fiscal Conservative, but moderate on both social issues, such as abortion rights and gay marriage, and foreign policy. 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.
  • Big Bad: The lightest possible example, but as the candidate whom most of the main characters are trying to defeat, he's the primary antagonist of Season 7.
  • 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.
  • Expy: Averted. Many fans believe Vinick is based on Arizona Senator and 2008 GOP Presidential Nominee John McCain, but the writers have denied this.
  • Graceful Loser: Once it becomes clear that Santos has enough votes to win the election Vinick willingly concedes. When his aides try to persuade him to contest the result he tells them he won't be a "sore loser".
  • 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 that contained potentially scandalous information 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.
    • In their only head-to-head debate, Vinick suggests that they reject the rules that were agreed on by the two campaigns and have a real, old-fashioned debate about the issues.
    • 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: Vinick is almost unbelievably moderate by the standards of the real-life Republican party. While an avowed fiscal conservative, he's also pro-choice and a huge proponent of the separation between church and state, stances that generally don't go over well with the real-life Republican base. Possibly justified since he represents California, one of the most liberal states in the US and where similarly moderate Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger served two terms as governor.
  • Not Bad: It doesn't quite cross over into Worthy Opponent territory like it does for Santos, but Bartlet 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.
  • Secret-Keeper: During a heated but private argument with Santos, the later confessed himself personally being pro-life (a enourmously anti-Democratic position) but him fiercely fighting against pro-life laws since that goes against his principles regarding Individuals Rights. This is never brought up again during the rest of the Campaign, in any way shape or form.
  • The Smart Guy: (While he is a 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.
    • More than one Democratic or White House character remarks that they could vote for him after seeing one of his appearances.
    Leo: Ever see Arnie Vinick campaign, up close? He'll go into those high school gymnasiums in Iowa and New Hampshire and blow them all away. Shake every hand in the joint, kiss every baby, hug every widow on social security, and sound smarter and more honest than any Republican they've ever seen — because he is.

    Congressman Matthew Santos (D-TX) 

Congressman Matthew Vincente Santos

Portrayed by: 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 while it was still a small jet. He's still a member of the Reserves and uses his service call-up dates to bolster his national security cred.
  • 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 Aer Lingus. They've gotta connecting hub out of Hamburg. At first it was long walks along the Reeperbahn-
    [Josh immediately cracks up]
  • Destructo-Nookie: He and his wife break a hotel bed while on the campaign trail. And according to the hotel proprietor, it had a steel brace. When photos of the damage arrives at the campaign hotel, everyone immediately leans in for a closer look.
    Santos: [Addressing a planeful of reporters] No way was that bed steel reinforced!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Santos was mayor of Houston and a Congressman for multiple terms but has no experience in a national campagin. As a result, Santos has to get a crash-course in how to appeal to a much broader swath of voters and seem "presidental," making a number of gaffes in New Hampshire until he finds his footing.
  • Not What It Looks Like: The aforementioned documents in the briefcase Vinick found. Santos is paying child support for his illegitimate niece, 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.


    Danny Concannon 

Daniel "Danny" Concannon

Portrayed by: Timothy Busfield

A reporter who works as the chief White House correspondent 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Unusually for the trope, though, CJ is not only fully aware of his feelings for her, but also of the fact that she returns them completely. Danny's just trying to convince her that those feelings are worth acting on.
  • Forceful Kiss: While dressed up like Santa, Danny kisses CJ without her consent or knowledge of his identity.
  • Intrepid Reporter: So, about Sharif's death....
  • Recurring Character: Almost certainly the most appearing recurring character who didn't work for the President.

    Amy Gardner 

Amelia "Amy" Gardner

Portrayed by: Mary-Louise Parker

Amy is introduced as a love interest for Josh and a women's issues wonk who works as the Director of the Women's Leadership Coalition. 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 throws Josh's cellphone in the soup and cuts the cord on her own landline 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."
  • Mellow Fellow: What Amy appears to be: she almost never, ever loses her cool and her characteristic way of talking is to drawl.
  • 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 that affect women in Real Life.

    Joey Lucas 

Josephine "Joey" Lucas

Portrayed by: 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 at least two State of the Union addresses. Josh later hires her onto the 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; Leo makes the same assumption a few episodes later, when Donna says Josh got a new suit "for Joey." It's even more confusing when we first meet her, it's her translator, Kenny, standing next to her saying "I'm Joey Lucas".
  • Deadpan Snarker: "Your staff likes to decorate their desks with hand lotion?"
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Kenny, her interpreter. They've been working together for over a decade, and when his trustworthiness is called into question (by the President, no less!), Joey comes to his defense without hesitation, saying in no uncertain terms that trusting her means trusting Kenny, too.
  • 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. Joey's deafness 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 missing a beat) Kenny, really, that better have been her talking.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Marlee Matlin is deaf and playing a deaf character. Her pregnancy late in the series was added because Matlin really was pregnant at the time.
  • 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.

    Kenny Thurman 

Kenneth "Kenny" Thurman

Portrayed by: Bill O Brien

Kenny is Joey's interpreter, and appears alongside her in all but two of her episodes (notably, his absence in The Fall's Gonna Kill You results in Josh having to get a little creative in his communication with Joey, as Josh is planning to reveal sensitive information to Joey, and he can't be certain of her substitute interpreter's trustworthiness).

  • Actually That's My Assistant: During their first appearance a very hungover Josh initially mistakes Kenny for Joey. He hadn't been told that Joey Lucas was a woman or that she was deaf with a male translator. It takes Joey shouting "I'm Joey Lucas!" in her own voice to clear things up.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Joey. He's been her interpreter for over a decade. They work seamlessly as a team, and they're obviously very close friends. Joey trusts Kenny without question, and has little tolerance for anyone else questioning his trustworthiness.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue to Joey's Red. Joey is hotheaded, snarky, feisty, frequently engages in spirited debates with Josh and Sam, and often becomes exasperated with the White House senior staff. Conversely, Kenny is amiable, perpetually cheerful, and generally unfazed by everyone's antics. Some of this may simply be that he is a professional focused on doing his job, but the occasional glimpses we get of his personality seem to suggest that he really is just a very calm and levelheaded guy.
  • The Reliable One: It's his job to be. Kenny is constantly alert to his surroundings, in order to effectively communicate everything Joey needs to know. He is extremely competent, and has no trouble keeping up with Joey in the fast-paced world of politics. A consummate professional, he never hesitates to interpret everything Joey signs, no matter how strange or awkward her words might sound coming out of his mouth (much to the amusement of Josh, who lampshades it occasionally).
  • Tactful Translation: Averted, Kenny will translate everything Joey says without editing for the benefit of the other person. His first line is translating her calling Josh an "umitigated jackass" and in a later episode he translates her complimenting Josh's butt.
  • Translator Buddy: His job as Joey's interpreter is to translate from sign to speech, and vice versa, so she can communicate with the other characters. Joey can read lips or write if he's unavailable or needs to discuss something private so she's not totally reliant on him to communicate.
  • Unfazed Everyman: A non-supernatural version of this trope. Kenny is largely unaffected by the wide range of spectacular and ridiculous things that happen in the White House. He doesn't even show a strong reaction to meeting the President for the first time.

    Bruno Gianelli 

Bruno Gianelli

Portrayed by: Ron Silver

A seasoned political operative with an impressive string of wins on his resume, Bruno is brought on board the 2002 Bartlet campaign as campaign manager after the MS announcement stalls it. In the 2006 election, who works as a consultant for Arnold Vinick's campaign.

  • 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."
    Bruno: And then let us kill ourselves and move to Pakistan.
  • 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.
  • Hired Guns: The political equivalent of a mercenary.
  • Honest Advisor: Part of why Leo hires him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He's a condescending, pragmatic, victory-obsessed jackass, but by God, he knows how to run a campaign. He points out to Josh that they could have used tobacco as a campaign issue, leading Josh to realize he blew it with tobacco, and he told Sam not to talk to a Republican named Kevin Kahn about an attack ad against Bartlet. He was proven right when Kahn went to the press and the ad was run for free everywhere.
  • 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 

Abdul ibn Shareef

Portrayed by: Al No Mani

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.
  • 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 Bartlet 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.

    Lord John Marbury 

Lord John Marbury

Portrayed by: Roger Rees

The highly eccentric British Ambassador to the United States.

  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Often disheveled, constantly inappropriate, and seemingly permanently drunk, the man is nothing but the most trusted representative from America's most trusted partner.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: If you disrespect him, even if unintentionally, he will shut you down like the nobleman he is.
  • Blue Blood: He's an Earl and Marquess.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: His default demeanor is as a drunken fop, but he is quite literally the greatest diplomat in the entire series, able to negotiate a ceasefire and military deescalation between India and Pakistan in a matter of weeks.
  • Cultural Posturing: Being an honest-to-goodness member of the British aristocracy, he loves playing up British superiority and dismissing other cultures (like not smoking in the Oval Office). At times, it seems like Bartlet is the only person he respects on this side of the Atlantic, but in truth he is keenly aware of the sins of his home country, and the complexities of international politics.
  • Incoming Ham: "Gerald?!"
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Constantly hits on women and brazenly requests to grasp the First Lady's breasts in front of her husband a.k.a. the President of the United States, but it is implied to be a part of his buffoonish façade, and he's actually harmless. (Notably, Kate Harper protests when she realizes she's about to be left alone in a room with him.)
  • Malicious Misnaming: Towards Leo, a.k.a. "Gerald." Leo, in turn, refers to him as "Fauntleroy."
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: It's implied that his eccentricity and zany actions merely act as smokescreen for his intellect. He did go to Cambridge, after all. And the Sorbonne. And he'll be happy to remind you if you forget.
  • Odd Friendship: With the President. And with Leo.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • When something genuinely serious is happening (like, for example, clashes between the Indian and Pakistani militaries with the potential to escalate into nuclear war), he drops the façade and reveals his razor sharp intellect.
    • He says Leo's name correctly when he's sincerely wishing the man well.
  • Put on a Bus: Is noticeably absent for Season 4 and 5 where input from the U.S's closest ally would probably have been important.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When he's sent by his government to denounce the United States meeting with an Irish politician with ties to the IRA, he bluntly and repeatedly conveys their condemnation to the White House staff, but privately confides to Toby that the President should meet with the politician, as it is one of the last chances both England and Ireland have at reconciliation, with the U.S. as a trusted mediator. Then again, his government might have instructed him to do this exact thing in the first place.
    • A third possibility is that he was using very specific language, as he repeatedly told Toby and Leo that "Brendan McGann note  cannot come to the White House." Nothing in his language says that McGann couldn't meet or negotiate with American diplomats and White House staffers outside the White House, or that McGann could never come to the White House, say, in the future, when relationships have been built and tensions are smoother.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: To Leo.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: He is Lord John Marbury, Earl of Croy, Marquess of Needham and Dolby, Baronet of Brycey, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States from the Court of St. James's, and former High Commissioner to New Delhi from the United Kingdom. You may call him John.

    Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Ashland 

Portrayed by: Milo O'Shea

The Chief Justice during Bartlet's administration. Due to health problems he was talked into retiring, but he refused initially because he didn't like the replacements the Senate would confirm in his stead.

  • Badass Boast: He makes certain the people the Senate want to confirm are not fit for his office.
    Roy Ashland: I have good days, and bad. But on my worst day, I am better than the amped-up, ambulance chasers you could get confirmed by the Senate.