More MS news articles for July 2001

It Looks Like a Second Term for Bartlet

By Rhonda Stewart Producer
Friday, July 20, 2001; 7:27 AM

Will President Jed Bartlet run for a second term despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis on NBC’s “The West Wing”?

Of course, we have to wait until next season to find out. But since he put his hands in his pockets and smiled at a news conference, we have to guess he’ll be seeking four more years.

We’ll explain.

During the second season of this White House drama, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) admits that he has MS, which he has failed to disclose for the past 10 years. His collapse before his first State of the Union address during first season had been dismissed as flu.

In season No. 2, the specter of being impeached for committing fraud hovers over whether the president will, or can, run again.

In the season finale, the president also is preoccupied by the sudden death of his secretary, Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), in a car accident. Flashbacks show how their relationship unfolds from the time that Landingham worked as a secretary for Jed’s strict father, who was headmaster of his prep school.

She explains to Jed that the female teachers are paid less than their male counterparts and presses him to raise the issue with his father. Landingham walks away, confident that he’ll help make her case, not because he said so, but because his habit of sticking his hands into his pockets and smiling. She says this tells her that he has already made up his mind.

As the finale comes to its end, a rare May tropical storm has hit Washington. When the winds again push open a door open at the White House, the president calls for Mrs. Landingham out of habit. After a pause, she appears. He finally tells her about his illness, and she criticizes him for ruling out re-election because it seems too hard. She forces him to think about why he ran for office in the first place. Bartlet then walks out into the storm. But instead of flinching, it seems to energize him.

At the news conference, the president takes a long, hard look at the medical writer press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) instructed him to call on first. He then deliberately points to another reporter, who immediately asks about running for a second term. He savors the question, pretending it was drowned out by the whir of flashing cameras, and asks her to repeat it. After a long pause, with his staff and a national television audience watching, he puts his hands in his pockets, smiles and says ... nothing.

© 2001 Washington Post Newsweek Interactive