The West Wing Revisited: Five Votes Down

This episode follows the White House’s attempt to get a gun control bill through congress. The episode begins with the staff finding out that they’re five votes down, and tracks their attempts to win the votes back. As a result, almost all the political wrangling is invisible to the general public.

There’s a few side-plot elements that are public though. First, the Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, breaks up with his wife. Unclear how public this would be.

Second, the White House staff are doing financial disclosures. Only one of these is interesting: Toby Ziegler’s. He bought some stock in an internet company, then arranged for a friend of his to testify before congress, which resulted in the value of the stock skyrocketing. In the show he deals with this by selling the shares and taking a $1 salary for the year. I think in reality he’d probably have to resign, there’s just no way to contain something so obviously scanadlous looking. This is one of places where our behind-the- scenes perception violently differs from the public’s: we know that Toby is an honest and hard working public servant, but there’s no way you’d ever convince anyone of that with a real politician.

Finally, we return to the central plot. The bill ultimately passes, but it’s generally agreed that it’s a pretty crappy bill that doesn’t actually do much to further gun control. The Vice President gets good press for helping secure the deciding vote. In reality I don’t think anyone ever cares about anything the Vice President does.