First few bars of the 1960's song "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers plays while images of events from the 1990s flash on the television screen, ending with the text graphic "The 90s: That Was the Decade That Was."
Female Talking Head As we continue with tonight's news special, no political event in the 90's eclipsed the attempted assassination of President Josiah Bartlet, his daughter Zoey, and several key members of his White House staff. While the country was still reeling from the stunning footage from the scene of the shooting in suburban Virginia...
Footage of the gunfire beginning, Bartlet being pushed into the presidential limousine, the limo speeding away, and most of the crowd either on the ground or shooting back at an upper story of an overlooking building.
Female Talking Head...more shockwaves erupted when doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where Bartlet was taken for treatment of possible injuries discovered that the President was suffering from a serious disease.
Footage of the Surgeon General making the announcement from the WRAMC pressroom, flanked by White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, and several white-labcoat- clad doctors.
Surgeon General...We wish to assure the citizens of America as well the President's and our country's friends and supporters throughout the world that the President was not injured or harmed at all during the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Rosslyn...
Closeup on Leo, his left arm in a sling, who winces slightly at the mention of the shooting location.
Surgeon General ..However, the thorough examination of the President revealed systems of a chronic, debilitating but non-fatal disease, Multiple Sclerosis. President Bartlet advised the Walter Reed doctors conducting the exam that he is aware that he has been experiencing these symptoms for seven years, and has been receiving private medical treatment for them.
(Female Talking Head voiceover while a "PowerPoint"-like graphic is displayed) Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms may be mild such as numbness in the limbs or severe -- paralysis or loss of vision. There are approximately 300,000 Americans with Multiple Sclerosis, most of whom were probably diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. MS is not contagious and is not fatal. Individuals can be expected to have normal or near normal life expectancy. While currently there are no drugs or treatment protocols that can cure MS there are treatments which can beneficially modify the course of the disease.
Male Talking Head The next day, Leo McGarry, White House Chief of Staff, and the First Lady, Abigail Bartlet, held a briefing in the Walter Reed pressroom in which they described the onset and progress of the President's illness. The treatment, termed "private" by the Surgeon General, was provided primarily by the First Lady, a licensed but non-practicing physician who happened to specialize in neurological disorders such as MS.
Footage of Abigail Bartlet standing at a podium during the briefing.
Abby...It was my husband's desire that this illness, which is far from impairing his effectiveness as the President of the United States, be kept only as knowledge between himself, his Chief of Staff and our close personal friend Leo McGarry, and me....
Footage of Leo McGarry speaking at the briefing, his arm still in a sling.
Leo...As the leader of our great nation, and the symbolic leader of the other freedom-loving nations of the world, the President felt that it was most important not to alarm unnecessarily the country, or the country's friends and allies....
Footage of assembled press anxiously waving their hands to be called upon.
Leo...He also did not want to give false encouragement to the world's enemies of freedom and democracy who might unjustifiably perceive both weakness in our President and weakness in the ability of the United States of America to defend all that which it holds dear...
(Male Talking Head voiceover while footage appears of congresspersons assembling on the Capitol steps) The political back draft was hot, fast and furious. Members of various congressional committees, led by the Speaker of the House, proclaimed outrage that such a secret had been kept from the American citizenry
Footage of a radio host taking phone calls; camera close up on fully-lit telephone keypad.
Male Talking Head On seemingly every available television and radio talk show, some opposition party members took particular but carefully worded offense at the thought of the First Lady providing medical treatment to the President, without any accountability and against medical ethics which discourage physicians having close family members as patients.
Footage of a congressman speaking outside on the steps of the Capitol.
Congressman...While we are of course relieved that the President sustained no injuries in the horrific act of hate and cowardice that occurred two days ago, we are also profoundly concerned at the revelation that the man whose finger controls massive weapons of worldwide destruction suffers from a serious illness that could impair his judgment and will to act in accordance with the best interest and safety of our country...
Camera shot of most of the non-press members of the assembled crowd shaking their heads in agreement.
Congressman...It is unconscionable that the First Lady, unarguably a strong, intelligent, competent woman, has defied her own professional ethics to perpetuate the secret of the President's true health condition...
Camera shot of other members of Congress flanking the Speaker and looking on sternly.
Congressman...It would seem that maintaining this secret, which apparently was kept even from Josiah Bartlet's highest White House staff, served more the interests of a newly elected president than the interests of the 270 million people the President was elected to serve.
Female Talking Head Within a week of the assassination attempt, several congressional investigations and hearings were convened. Not only were the Chief of Staff and First Lady subpoenaed, but also the directors of the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA; the U.S. Attorney General; and the Secretary of State. The opposition party began constructing a case that the actions of the President, Chief of Staff, and First Lady jeopardized national security and could constitute, for Bartlet, an impeachable offense.
Footage of a White House limousine arriving at the Capitol, followed by footage of the First Lady being escorted into a hearing room.
Male Network Reporter (standing in a hallway of the Capitol) Questioned by the committee for 10 hours with only a 90-minute break for lunch, First Lady Abigail Bartlet basically took the "Fifth Amendment" approach, citing doctor/patient confidentially in her refusal to answer most of the committee members' questions. It was noted, with not a little amazement, that the First Lady did not take counsel from the virtual battalion of White House attorneys who accompanied her, or from Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, who was also in attendance.
Male Talking Head Meanwhile, President Bartlet's symptoms, believed to have been inflamed by the stress of the shooting, subsided enough for the Walter Reed doctors to release him. However, on the morning of his release, the President gave a nationally- broadcast speech to the country, announcing his intention to step down temporarily and cede power of his office to Vice President John Hoynes...
Footage of Bartlet speaking from his hospital bed, surrounded by the First Lady, their daughters, Vice President Hoynes, and Leo. Leo's arm sling is now gone.
President Bartlet...I ask that the good people of our great nation give Vice President Hoynes the same support and encouragement they have granted to me since electing me their 43nd president on November 3, 1998...
Camera closeup on the First Lady, who appears barely able to contain her displeasure, followed by a closeup on Leo, who stares without evident emotion at President Bartlet. Third closeup on Hoynes, who appears barely able to contain his excitement.
Male Talking Head Later the President was flown by Air Force One to his personal family home in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was attended for medical treatment and monitoring by the Bartlet family physician, with periodic visits and consults by Doctor Specialist, considered one the country's leading authorities on MS.
Footage of the two doctors sitting on Bartlet House's porch, smiling approvingly while Bartlet tosses a frisbee at his golden retriever.
Female Talking Head When asked if Mrs. Bartlet would also be treating the President, Leo McGarry responded, "The First Lady reserves the unalienable right to look after the well-being of her husband."
Male Talking Head Various and sundry congressional investigations and hearings continued, but the majority of the American public wasn't in support of them.
Videotape of an unidentified woman standing on a New York City street.
Woman Please, hasn't the man and his family suffered enough? I guess those Congress people won't be happy until they put him in his grave.
Videotape of an unidentified man standing outside a Los Angeles restaurant.
Man Look, I didn't vote for the Bartlet, but he was doing a pretty good job in the short time he's been in there. Plus, he's a stand-up guy, volunteering to sit down for while and let the Vice President run things. As long as the docs say he's all better and he can handle the job, I say let him come back.
Videotape of a teenaged boy holding a skateboard in a Chicago park.
Teen Hey you Congress (no audio)-ers, get a life and leave the dude alone.
Male Network Reporter (standing on a golf course) Not everyone was willing to let it all slide, however.
Camera shot of an unidentified middle-aged man, dressed in flamboyant golfing attire, sitting in a golf cart with three other similarly-dressed and -aged men.
Golfer I'm a doctor and I know it is completely wrong for me to treat--on a continuing basis--members of my immediate family. The First Lady's license to practice medicine should be revoked. And I'm not sure we need a weakened Bartlet back trying to wield power in what must be the most stressful job in the world.
Camera shot of the golf cart beginning to pull away, with all four men shaking their heads as if saying,"No way."
Golfer (Yells while driving away) And don't talk to me about the ADA either.
Male Network Reporter (still standing on golf course) To clarify, he wasn't speaking of the American Dental Association, but rather the Americans with Disabilities Act, presumably suggesting that removing the President from office because of his chronic medical condition would be a violation of the Act.
Female Talking Head Within a couple of months, the congressional hearings and investigations were concluded without any signification action being taken. Inside the Bartlet Administration, however, certain high-level Secret Service staff were officially reprimanded for failing to secure properly the area in Rosslyn where the President gave his speech.
(Female Talking Head voiceover while footage plays of the Secret Service director walking away from the White House, stopping to shake hands with several agents) The Director of the Secret Service submitted his resignation, which was accepted by Acting President Hoynes.
Male Talking Head Exactly 90 days after the shooting, President Bartlet returned to office and successfully completed the rest of his first term. He was reelected to a second term by the largest popular vote majority in U.S. history...
Footage of President Bartlet, the First Lady, and their daughters standing on a stage waving at a cheering election-night crowd.
Male Talking Head...Many of his staff, however, did not complete the eight-year journey, or even the three-month tenure of Acting President Hoynes. Stay tuned for more of "The 90s: That Was the Decade That Was."
TO BE CONTINUED