The West Wing (1999–2006): Season 5, Episode 12 - Slow News Day - full transcript

Toby awakens at 3 a.m. with an idea of how to save the social security program for future generations, leading him to meet in secret with the president and volunteer to "touch the third ...

Previously on The West Wing:

-I'm not sure I was clear before.
-We need to get back our focus.

Work a message calendar,
like the campaigns.

I'm talking about something else.

Not articulating the message.
Shaping it.

We should discuss it.

Not today.


Let us raise the minimum wage so that
work always pays more than welfare.

-Hey. How much cash did Gaines have... the last FEC filing period?
-The senator?

-Gaines. Cash on hand.
-Three hundred and ten K.

-It's almost nothing.
-It's not an election year.

What's unusual--?

-It's Charlie.
-When's the president's wake-up... tomorrow?

-Tomorrow, today-- The next one.
-Five forty-five.

-I'll make the call.
-Excuse me?

I'll make his wake-up call. Sleep in.

-Good morning, Mr. President.

Charlie, we're going to surgically
implant a snooze button.

-It won 't hurt much.
-It's Toby, sir.

If they're not giving you
enough to do down there--

I know this sounds crazy but
I think we have two weeks.

A two-week window.
I need to see you alone right now...

-...because if I'm right about this--
-Toby, what are you talking about?

I think I know how we can save
Social Security.

I think Gaines is leaving the Senate.
I think he's not gonna run again.

-Because he only has $310,000 on hand.
-Because he's not raising money.

He was the only Republican to applaud
a minimum-wage hike... the State of the Union. Breaking
ranks over the AFL-CIO's top issue.

-Think he'll announce retirement?
-GOP dinner's in two weeks.

If I'm right, he'll announce his
intentions there. Always has.

And he's been a leader
on this for decades.

He chairs the Social Security

Get him and a leading
Democrat to agree.

Bring the House guys along before
anyone knows he's a lame duck.

-This just might be the break we need.
-To save Social Security.

-To save Social Security. Yes, sir.
-This is right after we colonize Ontario.

Let's talk about reality.

More college kids think they'll see
UFOs than Social Security checks.

They don't tell you how many
believe in UFOs.

-That's what we should worry about.
-The retiree number will double.

If we do nothing, the trust fund
will go broke.

One senator's retirement
means we can save it?

One senator
who's been the leader on it.

One senator who can bring his party
along. One senator who's never had...

-...a president who'd meet him halfway.
-Republicans will wanna divert...

...Social Security into private

-Think Democrats will go with that?
-I didn't say there aren't sticking points.

More like Krazy Glue. Think
Republicans will raise payroll taxes?

I think we have to have the
conversation. I...

-...can't give you the plan.
-You can't save Social Security...

...without cutting benefits
or raising taxes.

This is the largest meeting in Washington
where anyone's ever admitted it.

When Social Security goes bankrupt,
are we gonna call that a benefit cut?

-Let's talk to Gaines.
-lf it becomes public...

...we've even discussed this,
both sides will go crazy.

It will jeopardize our whole
agenda on the Hill.

What if I do it?
I'll do all the negotiating.

You'll have total deniability.
No one in the building has to know.

If it blows up,
I'm to pretend we never met?

We'll always have Paris.

Mr. President, life expectancy is rising.

The biggest generation ever is retiring,
and we don't have the money.

Every year we wait means we have
to cut deeper, take away more...

...till Social Security's not enough
to live on.

Till retirement's a one-way ticket
to a flophouse. We have an opening.

There's 17 ways to fix it.

Twenty years of Blue Ribbon
Commissions told us how.

This isn't a government program.
It is a moral covenant.

We don't wanna be the administration
that saves it from oblivion?

We don't want that legacy?

Social Security is the third rail
of American politics.

Touch it and you die.

That's because the third rail
is where all the power is.

Talk to Gaines, but just talk.

And no one else
in this building knows.

-Thank you, Mr. President.
-We have nothing to announce today.

No policy, summit meetings, not a warm
front meeting up with a cold front.

We need a hard news announcement
each day, or the press runs amok.

It's Toby's job. What am I, the
White House complaint center?

You run the policy shops.
Besides, Toby's avoiding me.

-Maybe no news is good news.
-No news is very, very bad news.

If we don't run offense,
we're running defense.

There's some clever sports analogy
to explain what happens.

-We're screwed.
-That'll do.

Are we proposing the streamlining
of Federal Adoption Law?

DPC says it's not ready,
OMB says it's not revenue-neutral.

I'm declaring a war on all acronyms.

There's gotta be something happening.
It's a big government.

When I accused the speaker
of welshing on assignments...

...and had to apologize to the
Welsh people? Slow news day.

Here's something. The Argentine
economic attach? is meeting at NEC.

-There's your offensive play.
-On cabbage imports.

-Back to the huddle.
-Bring him in around lunchtime.

-We'll find a way to feed the beast.

-The alternative's that it feeds on us.

Senator, could I have a
minute of your time alone?

Okay. You've got it.

I think you're not running
for re-election.

Because you broke ranks, stood up
and applauded a minimum-wage hike... the State of the Union.
You barely raised a dime last quarter.

-And I'm offering you what I think...

...could be the crowning
achievement of your career.

-Want me to applaud the president more?
-I want us to try to save Social Security.

I'll bring the president and a leading
Senate Democrat to the table.

-Then we'll simonize the Hoover Dam?
-Well, let's do this first.

You've been good on this issue. Political
hacks in the White House haven't.

-This will be a day without politics.
-Here's how it'll go. I'll say:

"Let's have personal savings
accounts. God forbid people...

...can invest their own money. "
Josh Lyman's hatchet factory...

...will say I'm trying to turn it into
stock-market bingo.

-Everything's on the table.
-I'll say, "Trim the cost of living...

...adjustment. " They'll haul out elderly
widows who are getting $ 740 a month...

-...and say I want them eating cat food.
-Everything is on the table.

I'm asking you to take one step.
One small step toward greatness.

You chair the subcommittee. You can
deliver House and Senate Republicans.

Funny. I knew the perfect Republican
to lead this in the House.

-Deeply committed to reform.
-Senator, l--

Jim Carney was his name, and he's
in a different line of work now.

Are you willing to let the trust fund
go completely broke? Let's face it.

It'll lead to the mother of tax increases,
or the total collapse of the system.

Is that the legacy you wanna leave?

One step, senator.
That's all I'm asking.

I'll need a Democrat.
He better be a heavyweight.

Hey. The vice president's speech
to the Detroit Economic Club...

-...wasn't half bad.

-What do you wanna talk about?
-His presentation problem.

-People agree with what Russell says.
-Till he says it.

The greatest sin in politics,
to be bad on television.

Did you have presentation
problems with the president?

The first campaign. Every speech was
an 18-point plan for something.

-How did you do it?
-Gave him an 18-point plan... make his speeches snappier.
-Russell makes fun of his blandness.

-Salt speeches with self-deprecation.
-Such as?

Bob Russell is so dull, his Secret
Service code name is Bob Russell.

-That's not bad.
-He's an inspiration to the Americans...

-...suffering from Dutch elm disease.
-Use that, you got a Sierra Club problem.

-That's where we used it.
-Problem is, telling people you're dull...

...just removes all doubt. Russell
needs to confound expectations.

Do something to really shock the party
faithful. And I may have something.

-About Gaines.
-Senator Gaines?

-Did Toby meet with him this morning?

Polk from The Wall Street Journal
just asked me. I said I had no idea.

-For once in my life, I told the truth.
-Yeah, that meeting was... .

Yeah, let me get back to you
about Russell.

The code name thing. That's funny.

How you doing?

Nobody here talks to me.

-I don't think they like me.
-Not really, no.

Come here.

Can you handle
something confidential?

Photocopying, pulling documents,
answering my private line.

-Thank you.
-It's grunt work.

-I won't let you down. I'm honored.
-Trained animals could do it. Cut the act.

Okay? I'm offering you the chance
to do something real.

I need you to comb through the Social
Security reports on this table.

Pull and copy every page with
the names Gaines or Brainerd.

Tell anyone what you're doing,
or the topic...

...become any more likable before
this project is over--

-Is this a bad time?

-What do you need?
-Polk says you met with Gaines.

-Yeah, it's nothing.
-This wasn't about the tax bill?

-No. I bumped into him.
-lf you were even whispering about...

-...a tax deal, you'd tell me?
-What do you think?

-They're counting on that for midterms.
-What issues aren't they counting on?

-So that 310 K you called me about?
-It's a coincidence.


Donna. Tell Will I'm coming
over to see him.

-What about?
-I got a little surprise for Senator Gaines.

It may not be such a slow news day
after all.

Mr. Polk. To what do I owe
the pressure?

-I need a comment.
-Can it wait till the briefing?

-Not really.
-The Journal has no bulldog edition.

You might need some time
on this one.

Toby's been meeting on the Hill.
I wanna know if it's on Social Security.

I'm sure it's not.

A member of Gaines' staff
says it might be.

You know how many rounds we've gone
on this issue? They're picking a fight.

In person, obviously,
because Gaines met Toby an hour ago.

This is what I get on a slow news day.

-No bulldog edition, but plenty--
-But plenty of bulldogs.

Check it out, C.J.

Half an hour, senator, the mall's fine.

A reporter from
The Wall Street Journal called.

-No press calls today.
-Well, he said it was urgent.

I am sure.

-Hey, can I ask you a question?

-I don't understand Social Security.
-Then you could be in Congress.

All these reports say it's going broke
if we don't fix it.

But if we all pay into it, why don't we
get our money back when we retire?

Your Social Security taxes
pay for today's retirees.

Then why won't somebody else's taxes
pay for my retirement?

Because when the baby boomers retire,
there will only be two people working...

...for every retiree,
down from 42 workers per retiree...

...when the system started.

-Hey, who's James Carney?

-What about him?
-He's all over these reports.

He chaired the last two commissions.
If Gaines won't help, could you ask him?

The chickens of our empty roost
are coming home.

Sorry, I've been... .
It's been busy.

It's a glacially slow news day.

I had three calls about
financial disclosure forms... request to inspect
the first lady's shoe closet.

-Didn't know it covered insoles.
-Now they think you and Gaines...

...are reforming Social Security.

What were you talking about?

His volumetric ethanol amendment?

You can't tell Leo.

-It isn't true, is it?
-I need the press off my trail...

...for just a couple of days.

-It's close-hold.
-Close-hold from Leo?


I like your new office.

It has the advantage of being remote.

Nice place to visit.
Wonderful place to park.

Two doors down
is the International Date Line.

I got the answer to your conundrum.
Forget the dull jokes.

The problem in the Democratic Party
these days is morale, right?

So Russell comes out of the gate
as a seltzer-bottle-squirting partisan.

The happy warrior. The guy who puts
the fun back in Democratic politics.

Fun. The guy needs a strobe light
to look like he's moving.

-Write that down.
-Got it.

Did you know that Gaines raised an
anemic, pathetic 310 grand last quarter?

-Does he even have an opponent yet?
-No. But it's a crack in the plaster.

A chink in the armor.
Gonna have fun at his expense.

-I'm talking about political theater.

The stuff you do in a campaign
to energize your base.

Russell travels to Gaines' hometown...

...puts out a change jar,
and stages a mock fundraiser.

To show Gaines is so far outside
the mainstream, that's why he's broke.

Drops a nickel in the jar for each
of Gaines' retrograde positions.

-Tahitian tax shelters:
-Privatizing Social Security. How'd you--?

It's a partisan stunt.
He could do one a week.

Fires up the troops. Shows while
the other side's complacent--

-We're ready to throw down.
-Too much fun there.

-Slow news day.

Lots of bored political reporters
out there.

Gaines is willing to risk his career.
You just meet him halfway.

-Where's the president?
-Hundred percent behind it.

We get you and Gaines in a room,
hammer out a deal Democrats support.

-I won't raise the retirement age.
-No, no, we have to share the pain.

Easy for us to say.
We don't carry metal for a living.

We don't work hard physical jobs
like welding.

Americans are retiring in their 60s,
living into their 80s.

FDR didn't intend to pay for
20 years of shuffleboard.

Tell that to the sheet-metal worker
whose tendons are shot by 55.

No Social Security works wonders
on tendons.

-Are you worried about political fallout?
-Yes, I am, senator.

But this isn't politics. It's history.

And there is no easy way
to get in the book.

I'll talk. No commitments. But I'll talk.

The guy from
the Argentine embassy's here.

See if he has anything
we can announce.

You'll wanna ask him yourself.

-Ms. Cregg.
-This'll have to be a short meeting.

I knew this wasn't like
shooting fish in a barrel.

Not that I've done that,
but we don't have anything to announce.

And I thought maybe your
cabbage-import penetration talks...

...would yield some...


-There is no agreement.

-There's only mutual respect.
-Well, that's not newsworthy, perhaps...

-...but, certainly.
-Do you like cabbage?

Not so much, really.

On occasion...

...I see the appeal.

It's been a while
since I've tried it, actually.

You are a woman.

And no news there, either.

Though at this point, I'm--
I'm willing to go with it.

-They're waiting in the briefing room.
-Oh, thank you.

-Thank you, Mr...?

Carlos Carrio.

-Thank you.

Thank you for...

...whatever it was that was.

How come you wanted all that press
guidance on ethanol?

Because I'm about to get hammered
on Social Security.

-Silly me.
-lf I tug my left ear, create a diversion.

Good afternoon. I have an important
announcement to make.

In the coming weeks, the president
plans to focus...

...on raising education standards.

It's a juicy policy story no one's written.
Don't all pounce at once.

-What's new about that?

-His laser-beam focus.
-Which he said in the State of the Union.

And obviously you'll want specifics.

I'm hearing you were going to propose
changes to adoption law.

We hope to announce them soon.
Streamline the bureaucracy.

-Find more children loving homes.
-I hear those changes...

-...preferred younger parents.
-I haven't reviewed it.

-The Bartlets' combined age is 111.
-What are you suggesting?

Did they kill it because
they're considering adopting?

-Shouldn't they recuse themselves--?
-Polk's got a policy question.

-I'm fine.
-C.J. !

-The Bartlets had nothing to do with it.
-Meaning they're out of the loop.

Meaning everyone ought to have
the right to adopt.

You, me, the Dalai Lama.
And this briefing is officially over.

-We don't have news.
-Like a blank page would kill you.

Polk, follow me.

-You didn't ask your question.
-Why share?

-They like flimsy rumors too.
-I've got a second source.

You'll see how flimsy it is
in tomorrow's Journal.

Brainerd says she'll talk.
No commitments, but she'll talk.

Maybe we can start a book club.

She's the ranking Democrat on Finance.
It's a good first step.

I just heard from two reporters that Bob
Russell and the Bartlet smear machine...

...are planning to attack me
on Social Security.

Make a circus out of my fundraising
weakness. Is that the second step?

I don't know
what you're talking about.

You're lying, or the left hand doesn't
know what the far left hand is doing.

-I'm not lying.
-You know what happened to Carney?

He commissioned one lousy CBO analysis
on raising the retirement age.

-I can fix this.
-Josh Lyman ran ads...

...with 90-year-olds in hard hats
working construction.

"The Carney Social Security Plan. "

-Lost his seat by 11 points.
-I'll stop whatever this is.

-Eleven points.
-You're not running this time.

Who said I wasn't running?

I thought it was time
to raise the minimum wage.

-You have to trust me on--
-I don't.

And if I did put my neck on the line
with my own party... scaling back private accounts...

...your guys would never give up
your favorite partisan attack.

We're on the same limb. The Journal's
chasing this, your staff is leaking it.

-They were until I confirmed it.
-You confirmed it?

I told them that you came to me
and urged me to cut Social Security.

If they print this,
it'll torpedo any chance of a deal.

Well, now you've got that limb
all to yourself.

-I thought you handled that beautifully.
-Tough love's what these people need.

If not that, I move on to
Molotov cocktails. What's that?

Gordon's wire story.

"C.J. Cregg
Touts Her Right to Adopt. "

-I thought you handled it beautifully.
-Where's Gordon?

Right outside the door.

Thank you.

-Let's talk about your story.

Since you stumbled onto-- We can
do this on the record, if you'd like.

At a certain point,
I don't know when, exactly...

...the press secretary job
just wasn't fulfilling.

Maybe it was... .

Then there was the spiritual vacuum.
Ever feel that in your job?

First I thought it was
Western materialism...

...then the mantras stopped working,
and-- Are you getting this down?

Anyway, I already got the crib.

I painted one room pink, and another
blue. I wanted to live with both.

-Such different sensibilities.
-About these new adoption--

That's the thing. I don't wanna adopt.
I'm looking for a donor.

A donor?

Close the door.

-Oh, wait, you're not--
-Are you out of your pencil-ridden brain?

This is the United States government.

We've got a $2 trillion budget.

The largest creditor,
the largest subcontractor...

...lifeblood of the global economy...

...with a nuclear arsenal that could
blow the planet into pieces.

I shouldn't have to tie you to a chair
to get you to write about it!

-So you don't have a crib?
-Get out!

You're a hard man to reach today.

This is off the record?


Don't write your story.

I forgot you were my editor.

I'll give you an exclusive
when this is over. I'll give you 10.

-Something big.
-Than a fifth of the budget?

Bigger than 51 million monthly checks?

Just so you know, you're gonna ruin me
with the party. Ruin us on 15 issues.

Gaines is vulnerable, so Josh
is threatening him with attacks... force a deal. Good cop/bad cop.
-You're wrong.

-And the arrogance you have assuming--
-How about the arrogance of trying... reform a $400 billion program
by manhandling senators behind doors...

...with no public debate?

Without organized labor?
Without the AARP?

Without the taxpaying public having any
clue they might have to work longer...

...for less retirement money?
You also met with Brainerd.

And I'm through talking off the record.

-When are you filing?

Sunshine is the best
disinfectant, Toby.

For germs, maybe.

Not the plague.

Half the Superfund money
goes to the lawyers, anyway.

It's a super slush fund
for the trial attorneys.

That's right, they're giving it all
right back to the Democratic Party.

I told you the 310 K wasn't relevant.

I'm making it relevant.

I don't want it relevant.

You dealing on Social Security?

-Journal says you are. I denied it.
-Stop the stunts.

I got calls from half a dozen Democratic
senators, thrilled at signs of political life.

They're going to run on Social Security.
They don't want it dealt away.

-This doesn't concern the political--
-Meaning it's bad politics.

-Meaning knock it off!
-The electorate's 10 percent older... the off years,
and more culturally conservative?

The only two advantages
we have in the midterms...

...are Social Security and Medicare.

-Take them off the table, we got nothing.
-There's no table.

Then why do you care
what I do to Gaines?

Mr. Ziegler, there's someone--
You're needed in your office right away.

Tweedle Dumb and
Tweedle Dumber in the policy shop--

-Forget about that.
-Forget about it?

I need you to talk to Toby's researcher
about her clothes.

-You didn't wanna play fashion cop.
-Go there.

Talk about pantsuits.
Find out what Toby's working on.

You're asking me to spy on Toby?

I don't feel comfortable with that.

I didn't ask. Toby's negotiating
away our office furniture.

-We need to know.
-I'm supposed to have--

Makeup tips.

See what's on her desk.

This isn't a setup.

You're surprised The Wall Street Journal
is exploiting this?

I'm surprised Gaines is out
when you said he's in.

-I can get him back on board.
-He said he's out.

-The Journal knows you and I met.
-I can piece this back together.

-I need you to make commitments.

He'd scale back on private accounts.
What can you give him?


If it's in the papers I was even
talking about raising retirement age...

...I'd have the walker brigade
picketing my house.

-This could be our one chance... help them.

And you're gonna give it up?

-When do we ever get a deal on this?
-When we win back Congress.

-And do it on Democratic terms.
-We've been saying that for 20 years.

I'm out.

You can keep the hemlock.

We haven't met. Donna Moss.

-I work for Josh.

I've seen you on C-SPAN.

Really? Well, sometimes they catch
us in the back of the briefings.

My mom calls me when
she thinks I look tired.

Everyone around here looks tired.

We need to talk clothes and makeup.

Oh, sure.

If you ever want me to teach you how
to put on makeup, I'd be happy to.


It's great you get to use
Will's old office.

What are you working on?

Toby works on so many different things.
It must be hard to keep track.

He always wants to keep
Josh in the loop.

They're so busy. That's where
we come in as coordinators.

Collegial coordinators,
you might say.

You know what?
It's none of my business.

Don't ever tell anyone
what you're working on.

Just keep doing what you're doing.

I was tired of everyone
dressing the same, anyway.

I hear the policy people are
giving Donna a hard time.

A little bit, yeah.

Don't be too rough.
We just bled them dry.

Leo, if something is happening
to my job, tell me now.

Don't leave me hanging out there again.

Hanging out where?

Toby's working on something
important. Social Security.

-lf it affects my accordion-like portfolio.
-Your accordion's fine.

Obviously, some things are
gonna be close-hold. I just--

I wanna do the politics.

You are.

All right. Thanks.

What are you looking for?

A senator who's mute and only
represents people under 30.

Well, what about Jim Carney?

It seems like he's really
committed to this.

Jim Carney was one of the
gutsiest guys in the House.

Loved on both sides of the aisle.


He used to be a Republican House
member. He's not there anymore.

What happened to him?

Josh and I wrote a TV ad
that destroyed his career.

We figured if we won his seat...

...maybe a half dozen others, got
more Democrats in Congress...

...we'd be able to get
something done around here.

What's going on, Toby?

Josh is spinning conspiracy theories.
The Journal is calling every 10 minutes.

-Toby Ziegler's line.
-I'm working on that ethanol thing.


The president wants you
in the residence.

-No, sir.

The president wants Mr. Ziegler
in the residence.

It's just... .

I'll find you afterwards.

If they'd let me wear leggings for
my portrait we'd be in business.

Until it shows up on the Internet.

There you go, turning your back on
a whole new constituency.

Give us a minute, Charlie.

Nice bags under the eyes there, Kojak.

I didn't know he'd be here.

I've got five Democratic
senators on my call sheet.

Leo's clamoring to know what this is all
about. What have you gotten us into?

I lost Gaines, I lost Brainerd, and
the Journal is running it tomorrow.

Running what? That we grabbed
the third rail with both hands?

We talked about raising the
retirement age, privatization.

Damn it, Toby!

Gaines expressed some interests.

So you ran with it when
I told you not to even walk.

What if you talked to Gaines?

-Let him know you're behind this?
-Behind a deal that doesn't exist?

What if you told him you'll
move on the retirement age?

Maybe I should call the Journal. They
can run it next to my legislative obituary!

-I can't contain this.
-You're gonna.

-There's no way.
-Then find a way.

How? By telling the whole party, so they
can lay down on the tracks to stop it?

By telling nine committee chairs,
a whole dining room set...

...that we circumvented their authority?

The Journal's gonna file it,
and we don't have a deal.

Find a deal. I want this back
in the cardboard box it came in.

I don't wanna see you till that's done.

"No way" is not an acceptable answer.
"I tried" is not an option.

You started this thing,
and you're gonna finish it.

With either a blue ribbon or a
great big deafening silence.

Yes, sir.

Thank you, Mr. President.


-What's that?
-Oh, it's just--

Some guy at the Argentine embassy who
apparently wants to make me a salad.

-Sorry about that baby story.
-Yeah, it's okay.

We're senior advisers to the president.

Officers of the federal government.
Life's not perfect...

...but why does anyone think we
don't live in a world we construct?

Yeah. Any luck with Polk?


Okay. I may have an announcement for
you that'll knock Polk out of the water.

-Saying what?
-Let me get the wording straight.

It says here that before Social Security,
half of all seniors died in poverty.

-And now, almost none do.

Must've been a pretty great
day when they passed it.

During the floor debate, one Republican
called it "the lash of the dictator. "

Another said it would "enslave workers. "

Social Security?

And some on the far left dismissed
it as a half measure. A cop-out.

A way to plug holes in a
dying capitalist system.

Is it--? Can I ask,
what did the president--?

He wanted me to put this
back in the box.

How do you do that?

By taking the blame for
everything that happened.

You're up to something.
You lied to me.

The president won't say what it is,
but you work for me.

-I do.
-Tell me what you're up to.

Tell me why half the caucus
thinks we're squeezing Gaines.

Or we have serious problems.

No problems.

There's a reason we have
a chain of command.

So people don't take fliers, and
I don't hand you their resignations.

I wanted to believe he could do it.

-I wanted to believe as much as he did.
-This isn't Never-Never Land, sir.

-Believing is not enough.
-You would've stopped it.

-Because it's my job.
-It's my life, Leo.

I'm the one who's accountable.

Not in the papers, or the
Democratic cloakroom...

...but in 50, 100 years, when Tuesday's
poll samples have crumbled into dust.

You can't will yourself a legacy.

You think there's a room
at the Smithsonian...

...for guys who never even tried?

You have to accept Toby's letter.

Five years, I never thought
we'd have secrets.

"Let thy discontents be thy secrets. "

Only if you want them
to stay discontent.

C.J. showed me your resignation.

Why didn't you tell me?
You don't trust me?

I didn't because you would've
body-blocked me.

Because it was a stupid thing
and you knew it.

Don't you wanna take back Congress?
We can legislate on 100 of our issues.

Spoken like a true reformer.

I'd like to swim the English Channel too.
Takes more than jumping off a pier.

So exploit the hard stuff? That's what
we wanna be remembered for?

We do what's possible.
We exploit what's not.

That's how we win elections.

Well, I came up on losing campaigns.

And every time I lost, at least
I knew what I went down for.

Carney knew.

What do the losers get to do
about Social Security?

Losers kick up dirt to keep the debate
going. Maybe my letter will do that.

-Make you a martyr.
-Make someone pick up the ball.

Inch by inch, we're moving
the line of compromise.

This isn't Sunday school.
It's the world capital of politics.

I could have told you Gaines
wasn't gonna move.

He did. He said he'd move
on private accounts.

You got the subcommittee chairman
to move on private accounts?

That's like inhaling a baby grand.


Well, he's out now.



Roy Turner.

You're saying that you'll...

...ask the Democrats to trim benefits
over the next 20 years...

...raise the retirement age and
give up on this issue forever.

If I can tell them you'll settle for private
accounts, on top of Social Security.

And raise the income limit
on Social Security taxes.

We protect FDR's legacy, and admit
changes have to be made to save it.

-What about political cover?
-We call off the stunts.

The DNC won't use this deal against
any Republican who votes for it.

What are the chances this passes?

Republicans would like to end
the demagoguery on this issue.

They'll be grateful that you
approached me with a deal.

Actually... .

To sell this to Democrats...

-...I have to say you approached me.
-No. That's a deal-breaker for me.

If it looks like a Democratic setup--

I can't look like a fig leaf for some risky
scheme to shred Social Security.

We're saving it, not shredding it.

So you can drive a wedge
into private accounts?

You'd like to see it bankrupt?

Closest we've been to in 20 years and it
breaks over who he approached first?

If he approached Republicans,
he's a right-wing sellout.

Approach the Democrats,
he's a fire-breathing partisan.

Hard enough caving on
principle without looking like it.

And we have a little problem called
The Wall Street Journal.

-We don't take credit.

We don't take credit at all.

It's the only way.

They approached each other.
Bipartisan down the line.

No one can say I'm setting anyone up.

Mr. President, a victory like this
comes along once in a generation.

We'll have saved the New Deal, and no
one will know we were in the room.

We'll know.

If we don't do this... .

If this system collapses,
which is what'll happen... .

If we go back to bread lines...

...if growing old in America means
growing poor again, we'll know that too.

There is no such thing as
an invisible legacy, sir.

You have to know you'd
be giving it away.

All day, we've been talking about
my legacy, my portrait...

...what's gonna be carved
on my tombstone.

Maybe we pay a little more
attention to what's being rendered.

And the rendering takes care of itself.

It was time for both parties
to come together...

... to secure the long-term
future of Social Security.

For years, Social Security has
been the third rail of politics.

But we're willing to take risks,
to set aside divisions...

...and we are hopeful that House leaders
and President Bartlet will also--

So much for The Wall Street Journal.
It's a political tsunami.

What'd you tell Polk?

That they asked us to be
part of this, and we said no.


So, what do we do when
Republicans and Democrats... longer have Social Security
to thrash each other with?

We move on to Medicare.

We can 't let that happen
to people with disabilities.

We can 't let that happen
to the social safety net...

... that we have labored
as a society to pitch.

Always the slow news days, huh?

Gaines, one of that body's leading
free-market conservatives...

...slaying just about
every sacred cow...

...really sticking their necks out
to fix America 's retirement program.

No word on whether House and Senate
leaders might bring this to the floor...

...but this certainly puts pressure
on the White House...

... which has shown no eagerness
to trade away their...

...most potent political issue
for the next election cycle.

The heat's on President Bartlet now.
Will he come late to this reform party?

Later this evening, we'll
be talking with several....