Title: “A House Divided” Part Two
Author: Marie Rossiter (email@example.com)
Spoilers: Everything up to 17 People
Summary: A deeply divided House of Representatives is not what’s bothering President Bartlet...
POV: Alternating: Leo McGarry and POTUS
Feedback: Please Please Please!!! I’d love to hear it! This is my first shot, so I could use all the feedback I can.
I knew what was coming. The storm was brewing. I could see it in his eyes.
“Excuse me?” Jed asked slowly, looking over his glasses at me.
“You heard me.” I said, calmly. I wasn’t going to back down this time. “You’ve been a real bear the past few days—even more so than usual. Nobody wants to be around you.”
“Fine.” was the response I received, as Jed grabbed at a pile of papers and tried to look as though he were reading them.
“No, it’s not fine.” I continued. “It’s not fine when you have a problem and decided to be a pain in the ass rather than work through it.”
I was pushing his buttons. He was getting pretty pissed off. He stood up slowly from his chair and looked at me with significant irritation. “You know, Leo, that’s the second time you’ve called me that in less than two minutes.”
“I know,” was all I answered.
“Just who the hell do you think you are?” Jed asked me, with contempt.
I was getting rather pissed myself, but I maintained my composure. “I am your Chief of Staff, Mr. President. It is my job to make sure that things run smoothly in this administration. When I see a problem, it’s my responsibility to address the problem. That’s why I’m addressing you right now.”
“I’m the problem?” Jed asked me in amazement.
“I’m the problem?” he repeated, as he leaned over the table that separated the two of us. This time, he was louder and I knew what was to come.
“Yes.” I replied, once more, my eyes locked onto his.
“DAMN YOU!” Jed boomed and proceeded to throw his pile of papers at me.
I took in a deep breath in order to keep my cool.
“Who the hell are you to judge me?!” he fumed.
“Get the hell out!” he yelled.
“Mr. President...” I continued, trying to diffuse the situation, although in my heart, I knew that it was a moot point.
“Don’t pull that ‘Mr. President’ crap with me, Leo!”
“Mr. President,” I started again, “I’m not only talking as your Chief of Staff, but as your friend of over 40 years...Let me help you deal with whatever you’re struggling with. It’s affecting your job and...” I paused for a moment, getting ready to drop the big gun, “And, it will affect your health, which is something I don’t think you are prepared to deal with at all.”
“Screw you! You’re not interested in me, Leo. All you give a rat’s ass about is whether I’m going to run for re-election. You’re out to keep your job and the jobs of all those people out there. So, spare me the ‘I’m concerned about you, Jed’ speech!”
I wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation. I wanted to leave before I said something I was going to regret. I picked up the papers, and threw them in the folder.
“This meeting is over.” I stated.
I started out the door and then stopped and turned back around to face the most powerful man in the world. “I resent the fact that you doubt my sincerity about how I feel about you. And, yes, I am concerned about the jobs of ‘all those people’ out there. All those people got you to where you are now, Jed. Don’t you ever forget that.” I could hear my voice rise with frustration. “Without ‘ all those people’, you wouldn’t accomplish a fraction of the things that you do each day. So, yeah, it worries me when you’re not on top of your game: for a variety of reasons. Forgive me for doing my job—which is something that I can’t say about you right now.”
With that, I stormed out the door, slamming it on my way out.
So much for leaving before saying anything I would regret.
Damn him! Why does he always know what buttons to push to send me over the edge?!
He’s been my best friend for 40+ years now, that’s why. Although right at this moment, you’d be hard pressed to believe that we were any type of acquaintance whatsoever.
I’m usually the one who walks out of these “conversations”; Leo is the consummate professional. He knows my foibles and has worked through them, around them and in spite of them for many years now. So, when I found myself alone in the room, you can imagine my shock. It didn’t help matters that I was pissed off beyond all belief.
I think what pissed me off the most is that I knew that every word he said was right. And, those who know me, even only relatively well, realize that I hate to be proven wrong—about anything.
I have been a “pain in the ass” as Leo so succinctly put it.
Between the pressures I’m feeling regarding my decision to run again and getting our education package moving through the House, my mind has been a jumbled mess. Ordinarily, these types of issues do not cause me to lash out at others in quite the way I have recently—they simply serve as the latest challenge that I must overcome.
That is, when I’m facing these battles with my partner.
Lately, though, I’ve been alone in facing these decisions. My partner has been away for quite some time now.
I need Abbey to help me with these things.
Abbey has been gone before and I’ve been able to function just fine. This time, it’s different. When she left, she was angry with me. Over the course of our marriage, we’ve been angry at one another so many times that I’ve lost count. But, after our last exchange, I knew this disagreement wouldn’t fade as quickly.
She knows I’m about to break my promise to her. And, I’ve never done that before.
Even though we’ve talked on the phone often since she’s been gone—sometimes two or three times a day—I can tell she is distant. She’s not with me all the way. I’m not used to that feeling—and to be honest with you, it makes me sick to my stomach.
This morning, I heard a number of people talking about how long the First Lady has been away—I’ve been vague, as though I’m trying to play it casual.
Abbey’s been gone 3 weeks, 4 days, 8 hours and 52 minutes...Not that I’m counting.
We’ve been telling people she’s been on a variety of goodwill tours—and for about a week of that time, she was. She made a tour of some of the European countries and the southern states regarding her child labor campaign. The remainder of the time, however, has been spent in Manchester, New Hampshire. Our home. Yet, we’re not together up there sharing its beauty and tranquility.
She has said that she needs time to process all that’s happened. The mere thought of my considering re-election has sent her into a tailspin. I had assumed that by now, she would have realized that it was only natural for me to go for the final four years. Yes, we had made a deal, but that was so long ago—a lifetime, really. We’ve done some good, after all, and there’s still so much more to accomplish. Overall, my health has been good. I’ve only had one episode, and while I’m tired (who wouldn’t be), I’m feeling ok. I think I had rationalized to myself that there was no way that she wouldn’t (or couldn’t) support me in my decision to run again.
I was wrong—so very wrong.
So, here I sit in my dining room, alone. I’ve alienated my wife and my best friend—two people without whom I am nothing but a highly qualified economics professor—or a highly under qualified President of the United States.
I’ve decided to let Leo stew for a while. I haven’t seen him this angry in a long time. It’s probably best that I wait for him to cool down a little. I guess I’ll be eating some humble pie later on.
I’d love to share my problems with Leo—but I was right on one count in our “discussion” earlier: he is my Chief of Staff. Therefore, even though I do know that he cares about me personally, he wants me to run again. He’ll encourage me to do it, just as he did to get me to run for President in the first place.
That’s what got me into this mess. And, again, as I said before: Damn him!
How do I face the two people I admire and cherish the most, when they both want different things?
How do I face my staff, who are confused by my behavior and wondering if they their confidence has been misdirected? How will they react when news of the MS comes out? I know it will. It will make no difference whether I run for re-election or not. My secret will be aired like dirty laundry.
How do I face the American people? My mind hasn’t been on the game recently. I haven’t been at my best. More importantly, I’ve admitted to myself, privately, that I have lied to them. I thought that the public was on a “need to know basis” and in my opinion; they simply didn’t need to know. Again, another gross miscalculation.
These are the questions that have been plaguing my thoughts and dreams since the State of the Union address.
Ha! And people are wondering why I’ve been so preoccupied lately....
End of Part Two
go on to the next part