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The Leadership Breakfast

Original Airdate 01-10-01 Rerun 4-18-01 8 p.m.

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With Congress reconvening, the White House is planning a "leadership breakfast" to encourage bipartisan cooperation. But first, Toby (Richard Schiff) must meet with Ann Stark (Felicity Huffman), the Senate Majority Leader's new chief of staff, to go over details---and there are plenty of devils in those details. Ann's boss, it appears, has Presidential ambitions. "They're coming after us," Toby tells Leo (John Spencer). Meanwhile, Sam (Rob Lowe) wants to move the press corps to new quarters across the street; and Leo, Sam and Donna (Janel Moloney) embarrass themselves (in turn) in front of an influential columnist.
From NBC:
As a bi-partisan friendship breakfast with members of Congress nears, President Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) staff vigorously debates the merits of including a patient's bill of rights and minimum wage increase among the incendiary topics while C.J. (Allison Janney) jousts with the new chief of staff of the Senate Majority leader (Felicity Huffman) over the press conference's agenda and location. Elsewhere: Leo (John Spencer) asks Josh (Bradley Whitford) to apologize for him to a powerful news columnist after he unintentionally insults her; Sam (Rob Lowe) lobbies C.J. to move the media briefing room away from the White House to free-up much-needed space; and Sam and Josh start a cozy fire in the Mural Room -- unaware that the chimney flue has been welded shut for more than 100 years


Rob Lowe as Sam (Samuel Norman) Seaborn Deputy Communications Director
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Press Secretary
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff
Richard Schiff as Toby (Tobias Zachary) Ziegler Communications Director
John Spencer as Leo Thomas McGarry Chief of Staff
Bradley Whitford as Josh (Joshua) Lyman Deputy Chief of Staff
Martin Sheen as
Jed (Josiah Edward) Bartlet President of the United States
Special Guest Star
Felicity Huffman as
Ann Stark Senate Majority Leader's
Chief of Staff
Guest Starring    
Corbin Bernsen as Congressman Shallick Rep. Henry (first name)
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick (last name)
Assistant to the Press Secretary
William Duffy as Staffer Larry  
Peter James Smith as Staffer Ed  
Kim Webster as Ginger Assistant to Communications Director
Patrick Falls as Steward Billy
Bruce Winant as Henry Hanson  
Lesley D. Van Arsdall as Reporter  
Dude Walker as Simon Reporter
Charles Noland as Steve Reporter
Tom McCarthy as Senator Thomas Randall (first name)
Rhonda Overby as Reporter  
Tim Williams as Reporter Craig
Ivan Allen as Newscaster Roger Salier
Marc Goldsmith as Staff Aide #1  
Kevin Fry as Staff Aide #2  

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nomination by
John Spencer
Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nomination by
Richard Schiff

Media Quotes

... it may have occurred to you that "Karen Cahill," the New York Times columnist everyone on the president's staff seemed to be trying to placate because of some imagined insult, sounded an awful lot like the Times' Maureen Dowd, of whom many politicians are, perhaps justifiably, a little frightened.

No coincidence, said the show's creator, Aaron Sorkin, who spent much of an NBC press party Wednesday evening urging reporters to cut out early so they wouldn't miss the episode. In early drafts, he'd even referred to the character as "Maureen Dowd," he admitted.

One reporter definitely planning to watch was Dowd herself. She was at the party, too, making like the rest of the working press and talking to actress Dyan Cannon.

Dowd later said she was aware of the story line but wasn't yet sure she'd admit to being Cahill. If the character turned out to be "vengeful," she said, she planned to tell people he'd really meant fellow Times columnist Gail Collins.

"Councilman's kid a co-star"
by Ellen Gray
January 12, 2001
Philadelphia Daily News

The realization hit while watching a recent West Wing episode dubbed "The Leadership Breakfast," in which idealistic yet cantankerous Democratic White House communications director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) gets outfoxed by the new chief of staff of the Republican House majority leader (Sports Night alum Felcity Huffman).

A-ha! I thought. This is how they'll deal with a Bush presidency and the ascendancy of right wing politics in the real world. The Republicans finally get some power.

That simplistic thinking was dashed to bits during a recent conversation with creator/writer Aaron Sorkin, who was calling from the show's Burbank production office at 8:30 a.m. on a recent Monday, despite winning a Golden Globe award for best TV drama the night before.

"It really isn't about ... the new Bush White House. ... It's about opposition," he says. "You're going to see opposition on the show, and you're going to see them making strong, compelling arguments. In our parallel West Wing universe, which is two years off from the actual universe, Bartlet's going to need to start running for re-election. And he's facing all kinds of opposition -- including, by the way, opposition to his left."

"New opponents to besiege 'West Wing'"
by Eric Deggans
February 6, 2001
St. Petersburg Times

Take the January 10 episode ("The Leadership Breakfast"). The script bulged with real-life plot points, from a fire in the White House to an aborted eviction of the press corps from their perch above FDR's boarded-up indoor swimming pool. Both really happened. In the show's first scene, the staff frets over the seating chart for an upcoming event. Will strict protocol reign, or will a breach be allowed for a guest's special need? Applying Baryshnikov's precision to simple musical chairs was a political ballet we danced every day of the week.

President Clinton, like President Bartlet, could not have cared less about such things. Put him in his seat, give him his talking points, and let him go to work. What Clinton and Bartlet both go to extremes to ensure, however, is that hometown delicacies make it on the menu. In "The Leadership Breakfast," Granite State-native Bartlet whines that Vermont maple syrup, rather than pancake topping from neighboring New Hampshire, has found its way onto the high-profile bill-of-fare. Forget the policy implications. Never mind the agenda. The President wants his favorite syrup served up to his guests. In real life, Arkansas-native Clinton made sure that his hometown was on the map for more than just his birthplace. The Town of Hope (for those not among the fruit cognoscenti) boasts America's largest watermelons. A papier-mâché replica of 1985's record-breaking 260-pounder sits in the window of the chamber of commerce. On the South Lawn of the White House it became an annual August rite that a truckload of Hope's bounty would arrive on the eve of the town's annual Watermelon festival. The White House staff, members of Congress, and other VIPs would regularly drop their official duties, loosen their ties, and bite into a juicy noonday feast under the sun.

On a Hollywood soundstage, of course, a can of maple syrup is a more manageable prop than a truck oozing with ripened watermelon. Truth, as always, is stranger than fiction.

"Do you recognize the Clinton West Wing in The West Wing?"
by Joshua King
March 2001
The Atlantic Monthly (Web-Only Sidebar)

Sorkin admitted he often thought of Dowd while writing witty banter for actresses. And he did tell a funny, if slightly embarrassing, shoe fetish tale about Dowd, whom he met during the first season of "The West Wing" when he was shooting scenes in Washington, D.C.

I wrote an off-screen character who was a powerful, highly feared female columnist for the New York Times. One of the White House staffers had inadvertently made a joke about her shoes and was afraid that the administration was going to suffer if he didn't apologize.

To thank Dowd for being a good sport about the thinly veiled reference, Sorkin sent her a slew of expensive shoes from Barneys the day the show aired.

She liked them a lot, recalled Sorkin. But she told me that because she sometimes covers Hollywood in her column, to accept the gift was unethical. But she didn't give back the shoes. What she has done, and this was five or six years ago, is, every once in a while, she will just give me cash. Forty, sixty, one hundred dollars; It's not clear to me how giving me cash makes the ethical picture less murky, but it was terribly important to Maureen that this be done right and this is her version. She just gives me cash.

It's gonna take me to the year 2030 to pay off those shoes, confessed Dowd, still smiling, albeit not quite as sweetly.

"Is Aaron Sorkin Neccessary?"
by Elizabeth Snead
November 24, 2005
Los Angeles Times

For more information about this episode:
Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
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