"Black & White People"
It is night. Contrary to the literary qualities of this pronouncement is is a beautiful one. Down at the bar, they notice.
Toby drains his beer and says, "How are we going to do it?"
Josh, fresh off his one allowed cocktail, says, "Do what?"
Sam rolls his eyes and takes a gulp of his vodka. "He's talking about re-election."
"Right," Toby says. "How do we do it?"
"Why Toby," Josh mocks, well in his cups, "Never thought you'd ask our advice."
Toby raises a warning finger. "Don't mistake this for any indication that I like you."
"No, seriously. How do we do it?" Sam sighs.
"It sure as hell won't be easy." Josh stares into his cocktail glass.
Toby's smile is sardonic. "Selling a candidate who's already lied to the Democratic party, and the American people?"
Sam ignores him. "We can't mention that in the campaign."
"No shit." Josh makes an effort to stand and fails miserably. "And we can't answer back if the Republican candidate starts to sling mud."
"I don't know." Sam objects. "Remember what happened to Shepherd? Character debates almost ruined him. We're facing a similar situation here."
"And remember what happened with the Majority Leader at the leadership breakfast," Toby points out quietly. He hasn't spoken to Ann Stark since if he can avoid it. "He's even less happy with us than usual." He speaks with bitter feeling. "Cooper will have his watchdogs on every little mistake we make."
"No shit," Josh says again. He pauses, trying to collect his fumbling thoughts. At length he says, "All right, I agree with you. We can't let Mister Majority Leader Cooper do anything like that."
"Don't bring it up, but if he does strike back," Sam agrees.
The three men are silent for a bit longer until Josh asks a question. "Hey, guys? I have to wonder."
"Yeah?" Toby orders another beer.
"How did we do this the first time?"
They sit in pensive silence. Finally Josh speaks. "Remember the Illinois primary?"
Sam smiles. "God, how could I forget?"
Toby doesn't smile, though he is not untouched. "It was the final step," he says. "You need to remember the first few steps."
"Yeah," Josh says fondly. "Nashua."
"Nashua," Sam echoes.
"Nashua." Toby's tone is final. "New Hampshire was what got the ball rolling."
Josh agrees. "We knew each other's styles. We knew what to do and not what to do."
"And we learned how to handle Bartlet." Sam grins. "Josh, I'll never forget when you walked right up to the First Lady well, Abbey and said, 'Your husband's a real son of a bitch, Mrs. Bartlet."
Josh laughs. "I probably shouldn't do that again, right?"
"Probably not." Toby is lost in thought.
Silence ensues again.
At some length one of them speaks. "So what else can we do?"
Toby is roused from his brown study. "Concentrate on the positives."
"Positives?" Josh echoes.
"Yeah." Toby's head swivels up from his glances at the floor. "Tell the public what Bartlet has done for them lately."
" 'Cause we all know that politics is what-have-you-done-for-me-lately," Sam mumbles. Still, he is not disagreeing, just intoxicated.
Toby continues. "Seriously. Tell them the number of jobs we've created. Tell them all about the aid to Mexico, the mediation between India and Pakistan. Tell them everything."
"But tell them about the failures, too." Josh isn't drunk, but he's close.
That's why Toby looks at him as though he's lost what little sense he has. "What kind of failures? Are you suggesting we mention Colombia? Haiti?" He laughs that bitter chuckle again. "Hell, why don't we bring up the impending grand jury investigation?"
"No, Toby; he's right." Sam's quiet agreement is more than Josh has bargained for. "Not that stuff, obviously, but tell them about the failures that aren't quite so disastrous."
"Like..." The pointed question is left unasked. To Toby every failure is disastrous.
"Like Galileo," Sam says. "Like Eric and Troy. Hiring Ainsley Hayes. You know. The things that don't matter quite as much in terms of world peace or things like that."
Toby laughs. "Sam, you really are drunk."
"No, Toby." Josh's voice, inebriated though it is becoming, holds unmitigated passion. "We need to show the American people that no one can possibly be perfect. Least of all the Senate Majority Leader."
"Right." As smashed as he is becoming, Sam is in full political strategist mode. "President Bartlet is a man just like everyone else."
"Avoid the Shylock references," warns Toby, into the line of reasoning in spite of himself.
"Still." Sam says. He stands up. "This is a man who, deep down, is an idealist." Even cold sober Sam would be oblivious to the irony of this statement. "Those ideals have been taken one by one and shattered. Can you blame a frightened family man for trying to protect his own privacy?"
Josh shakes a wobbly finger in Sam's general direction. "That's good, Sam." Surreptitiously he orders another cocktail.
Grudgingly Toby echoes. "That *is* good, Sam. I gotta say."
The younger man looks absurdly pleased with himself for a split second, but then moves on. "So, when do we start campaigning?"
"Who the hell knows?" Josh has succeeded in drinking his second cocktail, and is now on the way to slurring his words. "We've got a lot to handle here before we go on the road."
"We don't have to go on the road to campaign," Sam says. "Public service announcements, rallies around here, et cetera."
"He's right." Toby finishes off his drink. "Senator Cooper is going to be campaigning like mad."
"And if he starts to sling mud, we nail his ass to the wall." Those words are muffled by Josh's thickening tongue.
Another silence. Sam drains his drink.
Josh giggles all of a sudden; a random, incongruous sound. "Do you ever wonder what they're like?" he asks.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Toby asks irritably. He's had almost enough drunken Josh for a night.
"Them." Josh gestures limply. "The Voters we keep talking about."
"I understand what he's talking about," Sam says suddenly.
"Takes a drunk to know a drunk," Toby mutters under his breath.
Sam goes on. "No, really. We just say the Voters. Like they're a tribunal or something."
"They *are.*" Toby mutters.
"But they're not real," Sam insists. "It's like we're color, and they're black and white."
"You know, he's right." Josh giggles again, an annoying, high-pitched sound. "We have to make them real."
"Why not?" Sam smiled.
It's a clue to Toby, the one mildly sober one. "Come on, let's dump him at home," he says to Sam, who rises unsteadily.
Together they take Josh by the arms and help him into a waiting cab. The driver is obscured by shadow, and both Sam and Toby are struck by the vision: black and white people.
They know the other knows. But it is Sam who speaks. "We'll get 'em, Toby."
The older man smiles quietly. "I know."
The cab drives off into the darkness.