"The Good Fight, part two"
As she walked back to her office, C.J. tried not to picture that horrible day, but the memory found its way back into her consciousness as it had so many other times over the past three weeks. The screams, the blood, the lifeless expression on Tobyís face, and the utter terror she and her friends had experienced. A part of her had wanted to quit her job and move as far away from Washington as possible, but she remembered the Presidentís words that day, "Decisions are made by those who show up," and she knew there was still a job to be done.
Upon entering her office, the White House press secretary took the container of fish food and fed her pet fish, Gail. Then there was a gentle knock at the door. She put down the food and said, "Come in Danny."
Danny Concanon entered the office slowly with a concerned look on his face, which he had seemed to have kept cemented there for nearly a month now. C.J. wondered whether it was more about his concern for her that day, or the fact that he had missed what may have been the story of his career talking to his science editor about the space shuttle U.S.S. Columbia. She suspected it was much more of the former.
C.J. knew why he was here, but she pretended to be ignorant of his purposes. "What can I do for you, Danny?" she asked in her most professional tone she could muster.
Hesitating for a moment, Danny finally mustered to say, "C.J. is there, um, anythingÖ."
"No Danny, and if you excuse me, I have a lot of work to do on this bill that Ďis a personal quest with no chance of passing Congressí." C.J. responded blowing him off.
During this exchange, Leo McGarry limped around the Beltway cane in hand, walking alongside Congressman Joseph Travis, the House minority leader. Travis went quickly to the point, "Leo, we all feel great sympathy for all that you and the rest of the White House staff have been through, I had the utmost respect for Toby. But we canít get this bill passed, not as long as some of our people depend on the NRA for re-election. And even if every Democrat went onboard, we are still a Congressional minority, and the Republicans will fight this bill to their dying breath."
"I understand all that Joseph, but we are prepared to fight just as hard, and the newest poll numbers show that seventy-four percent of Americans support aggressive gun control. They have the money, but we have the votes," Leo rebuffed, knowing it would get him nowhere. This man didnít get where he was today by being logical, he did it by being political.
Congressman Travis walked in silence for a moment before thinking of the proper way to frame his next words. "Wait until after the midterms, Leo," he said, "and then, with a Democratic majority in Congress, Iíll be in a far better position toÖ"
The following day Sam Seaborn sat in his office talking on the phone. "This trade bill is gonna pass the way it is, but Iíll talk to the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee if it makes you feel any betterÖOkay." He hung up the phone as Josh Lyman entered his office. "Whatís up Josh?" he asked the Deputy Chief-of-Staff.
Josh responded, "Weíve got senior staff in the Roosevelt in five. Who was that on the phone?" As Sam got up to leave, he explained to Lyman that it was about the trade bill and that he was apparently going to have to get in touch with Senator McCainís people.
In the Roosevelt Room, Leo McGarry was sitting at the head of the table waiting for the staff to arrive. Sam and Josh arrived together and a moment later C.J. entered. Leo hesitated for a second expecting Toby to enter grumbling as usual about something, but then he re-entered reality and began the meeting. He took a deep breath and told the staff the disappointing news he had received only an hour before. "The President has decided to table the gun control act until closer to the midterms in order to force Congress into making the right decision. We are going to focus our attention on the trade bill thatís going to the Senate floor next Monday." As Josh nearly spit his coffee onto the large portrait of the 26th President hanging on the wall at the end of the room, Leo asked Sam, "Any news?"
Sam fought off the terrible feeling in his gut as he choked to answer the question his boss had posed. "Carolís scheduling a meeting for me with John McCain tomorrow. Hopefully Iíll be able to convince him to drop the amendment his committee is proposing."
Pondering the news for only a fraction of a second, Leo replied, "Make sure you remind the Senator about the Presidentís policies towards campaign finance reform." Sam nodded.
Finally, Josh could wait no longer. "Why?" he asked, nearly screaming it. Leo explained that it wasnít going to happen, not now.
As the White House staffers filed out of the Roosevelt Room a short time later, there was a somber feeling somehow spreading like fog throughout the West Wing. It was almost as if they had all been living in a state of denial for the better part of a month hiding their grief behind this bill, which not one of them thought had a decent chance of passing. Now it was if they suddenly had no choice but to mourn. Or did they? As each staffer returned to his or her office, they each made silent vows that this bill would live again, no matter what it took. Then they would grieve.