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The U.S. Poet Laureate

Original Airdate 03-27-02 Rerun 08-07-02

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Laura Dern guest stars as the new U.S. Poet Laureate (and Toby is looking forward to meeting her).
In the main story, Bartlet fires the first shot (unofficially) of his reelection campaign when he calls his likely opponent less than brilliant ("a .22-caliber mind in a .457-magnum world" is the way he puts it) at the end of a local-TV interview, and the national press just can't get enough of it. The White House response: a "non-apology apology" from C.J. and a promotion for conservative staffer Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter).
From NBC:
When the President (Martin Sheen) is overheard making a disparaging comment on an open-mike about the potential Republican nominee, C.J. (Allison Janney) does damage control for days after while Toby (Richard Schiff) tries to finesse the newly named poet laureate (Laura Dern) from speaking out against the United States' lack of support for a land-mines treaty. Elsewhere, Sam (Rob Lowe) recalls Republican White House legal counsel Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter) from vacation to help spin the administration's response to Bartlet's gaffe; Josh (Bradley Whitford) is both repulsed and intrigued by the fact that he has his own fan-based Web site --
From Warner Bros.:
Bartlet makes a disparaging comment about a potential Republican nominee after a television interview, not realizing that he is still being recorded. For days, C.J. must control the scandal, and Sam recalls Republican White House legal counsel Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter) from vacation to help formulate the administration's official response. Meanwhile, Toby tries to dissuade the newly named U.S. poet laureate, Tabatha Fortis (Laura Dern), from publicly objecting to the government's lack of support for a treaty on land mines. Bartlet ponders saving a failing computer company. And Josh is both repulsed and intrigued by the fact that there is a fan-based Web site devoted to him.


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 Stars    
Laura Dern as Tabatha Fortis Poet Laureate
Emily Procter as Ainsley Hayes Associate White House Counsel
Guest Starring    
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Renée Estevez as Nancy Aide
Volanda Lloyd Delgado as Terry "Kim" /
Sunrise in Cincinnati Anchor
Beth Littleford as Leslie WKZN Wake Up Philadelphia Anchor
James Eckhouse as Bud Wachtell Congressman
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick (last name)
Assistant to the Press Secretary
Devika Parikh as Bonnie Communications' Aide
Kim Webster as Ginger Assistant to Communications' Director
Randolph Brooks as Reporter Arthur Leeds (last name)
Mindy Seeger as Reporter Chris  
Kris Murphy as Reporter Katie Witt (last name)
Timothy Davis-Reed as Reporter Mark  
Jeff Mooring as Reporter Phil  
Jana Lee Hamblin as Reporter #1 Bobbi
Diana Morgan as Reporter #2 Jesse
David Gautreaux as Reporter #3 Stuart
Christopher Michael as Floor Manager  
Tim Haldeman as Barnett at Georgetown
Jennifer Marley as Student at Georgetown

Information Links


Media Quotes

Even as advocates for a ban on land mines lobbied the Bush administration, they were looking for help from another US president.

So they approached NBC's "The West Wing" hoping to get the land mine issue written into the show. As it happens, that was already in the works. Tonight the show tackles the subject as President Josiah Bartlet's White House reportedly tries to dissuade a poet laureate, played by actress Laura Dern, from criticizing the US failure to back a land mines treaty.

The word is that Bartlet doesn't endorse the ban - a turn of events that has advocates a little worried. They include Grammy-winning singer Emmylou Harris, who just last week gave a Boston-area concert to raise money for the cause.

"It's one thing to go against Bush," she said in a meeting with The Boston Globe editorial board. "But you know you're in trouble when President Bartlet is against you."


Asked to gauge the value of having land mines turn up in a "West Wing" episode, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation president Bobby Muller says, "It is of extraordinary importance. The cultural mechanisms are critical to any campaign."

"Getting President Bartlet's ear"
by Mark Jurkowitz
March 27, 2002
Boston Globe

I am a great fan of the television series "The West Wing." Besides being entertaining, it thoughtfully presents both sides of serious and controversial issues, sometimes uncannily current ones, which is the case in this week's episode.

Tonight's show contains a subplot pertaining to US policy on banning land mines, which is now under review by the Bush administration. It happens to be an issue that I have been actively involved in through the prodigious efforts of Bobby Muller and the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation since 1997.


The humanitarian side of the issue will, I'm sure, be addressed by President Bartlet's staff. But they might also take into consideration that land mines in today's warfare are not only obsolete but, in the opinion of many experienced and highly respected military minds, militarily irresponsible. They limit mobility and kill or maim indiscriminately. Our own US forces are already suffering casualties from land mines in Afghanistan.


So for an hour tonight, the policy debate around land mines will be dramatized for the American people, at least in a fictional context. And I will be watching with interest to see what President Bartlet will do. When the hour has ended, the tragedy of land mines - this plague of terrorism in slow motion - will still loom heavy in a very real world, and the question will still remain: Will President Bush do the right thing and ban land mines now?

"Will this president ban land mines?"
by Emmylou Harris
March 27, 2002
Boston Globe

Then, on Wednesday, "The West Wing" featured a plotline in which the newly named U.S. poet laureate chastises the White House for not signing the international treaty banning landmines. Her conviction stems from a searing personal experience, watching a father and son fishing in Bosnia. "The kid hooked a piece of garbage," she tells communications director Toby Ziegler, "and when he tried to take it off the line it blew him up. Right in front of his father. And right in front of me."

Hollywood's creative convergence on this issue comes at a time when the real West Wing is reviewing America's landmine policy. As it currently stands, the U.S. has stubbornly refused to join the 142 nations that have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty forbidding the use, stockpiling and production of anti-personnel landmines -- a devastating weapon that has proven far more effective at killing and maiming innocent civilians than enemy troops.

Since 1975, landmines have killed over a million people -- far outstripping the deaths caused by those well-publicized bugaboos, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The buried bomblets claim a new victim every 22 minutes -- that's 24,000 casualties a year. And of those 24,000, 95 percent are civilians. Even more horrifying, 30 percent of those maimed or killed are children.

"Hollywood Sends A Message"
by Arianna Huffington
March 27, 2002

The most startling such shout-out occurred just last week, when Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing creator who sparred with posters on Television Without Pity (back when it was called "mighty big tv"), struck back at his tormentors -- by enlisting them in a subplot on his show. When White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman discovers a critical Web site devoted to him, he becomes tangled in its byzantine internal politics, then (like Sorkin) sees one of his posts end up in the newspapers. Lyman's special tormentor, the moderator of the site, is portrayed as a muumuu-clad, chain-smoking dictator -- a nasty slap at Sorkin's own nemesis at Television Without Pity. The majority of the site's posters were amused, but a few took umbrage. "Glark" (the technical director of TWOP) responded online: "If 'we' at TWOP are the TV critic terrorists and we've gotten under his skin enough that he's changing the way he writes and shoe-horning these plots into the show then -- ladies and gentlemen -- the terrorists have already won."

"Confessions of a Spoiler Whore"
by Emily Nussbaum
April 4, 2002

"I don't think there's going to be any real time for Ainsley," she says.

The actress is grateful for her time on "The West Wing" and remains in touch with several people from the cast. "They actually called several times during the filming of the ['CSI: Miami'] pilot to heckle me," she says. "I'll miss them a lot."

And, true to the "never say never" adage, Procter says "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin will not write her character out of the show -- she just won't be mentioned, as happened in long stretches of last season.

"Aaron said he wished me well and hope I had a great time," Procter says before adding with a laugh, "but he's crossing his fingers and secretly hoping it will fail."

"Procter Says 'CSI: Miami' Won't Leave Time for 'West Wing'"
by Rick Porter
July 16, 2002

At Occidental College in Los Angeles, the tour guide explained that the scene in the TV series "The West Wing" I had watched the night before, in which characters played by Richard Schiff and Laura Dern had a warm moment in front of a Georgetown auditorium, was actually filmed in front of Occidental's Thorne Hall, with a prop fountain stuck in the background for atmosphere.

"How My Daughter Rejected Caltech..."
by Jay Mathews
August 13, 2002
Washington Post

That all changed when the Raleigh, N.C., native landed the recurring role of Republican attorney Ainsley Hayes on NBC's "The West Wing," and creator Aaron Sorkin encouraged her to use her own twang. "It was the first time I felt like someone really understood my cadence," she says. But after two seasons of sporadic appearances, Procter decided it was time to move on: "I knew there were nine regulars, and I was never going to be No. 10. In a lot of ways, it was heartbreaking, because I was so happy there." - Emilly Procter

"Number One With A Bullet"
by Bruce Fretts
October 11, 2002
Entertainment Weekly

He'll [John Wells] also try to avoid the Ainsley Hayes syndrome -- as in, introducing characters only to have them disappear without any explanation. "Because Aaron wrote so much at the last minute, we weren't able to tell an actor in advance when we were going to need him. We would cast someone and not know if we needed them again until three weeks later and they'd be doing something else. That's something we'll be able to address this year by having a better idea what we're doing."

"The West Wing"
by Allison Hope Weiner
September 12, 2003
Entertainment Weekly

When Senator John Kerry was overheard describing his Republican opponents as "crooked" and "lying" to a voter the other day, his campaign quickly offered two explanations for the unusually harsh words. One was that Mr. Kerry did not realize he was wearing a live microphone. The other was that he said what he meant and he meant what he said.


From this perspective, Mr. Kerry was taking a page from President Josiah Bartlet of "The West Wing."

In one episode of the show two years ago, President Bartlet was giving a news interview and, once the interview was over, proceeded to disparage the intelligence of his Republican opponent, as the television camera kept rolling. There was a spate of stories critical of the president, but also, stories questioning the intelligence of Bartlet's opponents.

The point of the episode was that President Bartlet had meant what he said and said what he meant. "The West Wing" has fans on the Kerry staff. But Mr. Kerry, in an interview last week, said he did not have much time for television, and had seen the show "very few" times.

"Testing, Testing. Shrewd Politics or Kerry Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome?"
by Adam Nagourney
March 13, 2004
New York Times

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