Season 7 – Episode 7 – “‘Live’ Debate Episode”

Episode Summary:

In a first for NBC’s “The West Wing,” the Emmy Award-winning series will broadcast a live episode featuring a debate between presidential candidates Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). Two live versions will be telecast, one for the East Coast and another for the West Coast.

Script:

THE WEST WING
7X07  "THE DEBATE"
WRITTEN BY LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, JR.
DIRECTED BY ALEX GRAVES

Transcribed by Soundman for www.twiztv.com. Send feedback to sparticus1611@hotmail.com.

TEASER

FADE IN: INT. - PREP ROOM  EVENING

Vinick is getting ready for the debate. We hear FORREST SAWYER, the debate moderator, speaking to the audience.

FORREST SAWYER [VO]
Good evening, everyone. How's the audience?

We hear the audience applaud. Sheila comes in.

SHEILA
Three minutes, Senator.

She helps him put his coat on.

SHEILA
I have to go downstairs for the last-minute pre-game press spin. Bruno's going to walk you to the stage, okay?

VINICK
Yeah.

He walks out into the hall where Bruno is waiting for him.

BRUNO
Don't worry about getting everything in in every answer. We can fill in the blanks with the press in the spin room afterwards. Remember, two minute answers, followed by one minute rebuttal, moderator's option to allow a 30-second rebuttal to a rebuttal or to move on.

VINICK
Stupid rules... two minutes, three minutes, one minute, 30 seconds... what can you say in 30 seconds?

BRUNO
Santos' people negotiated them to protect them.

VINICK
Well why the hell did we agree to it?

BRUNO
They protect you too.

VINICK
No they don't, they screw me up. They make me feel stiff.

They have come into position where Vinick will walk out on stage.

BRUNO
Just be yourself, don't forget to smile, and I'm telling you, Santos is terrified to go out on that stage tonight.

VINICK
You have no idea what this feels like. 'Terrified' doesn't begin to describe it.

CUT TO: INT.  PREP ROOM  NIGHT

Santos is getting ready. Ellen is helping him while Lou goes over the rules and such things.

LOU
Worst thing you can do is struggle with the moderator.

SANTOS
Oh, no. The worst thing I can do is forget everything I came here to say; every debate point I memorized, every word of my opening statement.

They begin walking.

HELEN
You are going to be great.

SANTOS
I don't feel great.

HELEN
You have been through worse stuff than this.

SANTOS
Like...?

HELEN
Combat.

LOU
Flashing yellow light means you've got 15 seconds, red light means you've got...

SANTOS
Let me guess.

LOU
Vinick's going to hide behind the rules. He's got no answer on how he's going to pay for his tax cuts so he's going to run the clock out on that one. You can do that too. If you get in a jam, just take a paragraph from your stump speech to get you to the red light. The rules are your friend. Use them so this doesn't become...

SANTOS
A debate?

LOU
Exactly.

We see a few shots of each candidate waiting to go onstage while Sawyer introduces the debate and the candidates.

SAWYER
Good evening, and welcome to the first Presidential debate with the Republican party's nominee, California Senator Arnold Vinick and the Democratic party's nominee, Texas Congressman Matt Santos.

The candidates walk out onto the stage amid applause and walk to their respective podiums. Vinick stops at his podium but Santos comes over and they shake hands. Santos goes to his podium as Sawyer begins with the rules of the debate.

SAWYER
I'm Forrest Sawyer and I will moderate tonight's debate following rules worked out by representatives of the candidates. I've agreed to enforce their rules. Now, each candidate will have a two-minute opening statement. I'll then ask a series of questions, all of them chosen by me alone. I've told no one what the subjects or the questions will be. For each question, there'll be a two-minute answer followed by a one-minute rebuttal with a possibility of a 30-second extension of the discussion at my discretion. A yellow light will come on when there are 15 seconds left in an answer. A flashing red means time's up. And, if we need it, we have a backup buzzer.

SANTOS
I think time's up on the rules.

SAWYER
Well, not quite, Congressman. There's a little bit more. Candidates may not direct questions or statements to each other and they will have two-minute closing statements. Now, the last rule is for our audience here in the hall. Now that you have had your fun, they will please remain silent until the end of the debate when we can all give democracy a big round of applause. And now, as determined by the toss of a coin, the first opening statement is from Senator Vinick.

VINICK
Thank you. It is truly an honor to be here tonight. I would...

He stops and seems to reconsider what he is going to say.

VINICK
You know, I've watched every televised Presidential debate that this country has ever had. And every time I heard them recite the rules, I always thought that meant they're not going to have a real debate. When the greatest hero of my party, Abraham Lincoln debated, he didn't need any rules. He wasn't afraid of a real debate. Now I could do a 2-minute version of my Sensible Solution stump speech and I'm sure Congressman Santos has a memorized opening statement ready to go. And then we could go on with this ritual and let the rules decide how much you're going to learn about the next President of the United States, or we could have a debate Lincoln would have been proud of. We could junk the rules. We could let our able and judicious moderator ask us questions. And we could forget about whether each of us has the exact same number of seconds to speak. We could have a real debate if that's all right with you, Matt.

SAWYER
Um, Senator, according to the rules, candidates may not direct...

SANTOS
No, please. [to Vinick] You mean like a Senate debate? What are you going to do, filibuster me? Are you going to grab the microphone for a whole hour?

VINICK
No, no, no. We tell the American people what they need to hear, no more, no less. I suspect the audience will reward brevity.

The audience laughs and claps.

SANTOS
Okay, let's have a real debate.

SMASH CUT TO: MAIN TITLES.
END TEASER.
* * *

ACT ONE

FADE IN: INT.  DEBATE HALL  EVENING

Vinick and Santos are at their podiums and Sawyer is at the moderator's bench.

SAWYER
Gentlemen, I just want to be clear: you both want to abandon the rules your representatives negotiated and rely on me to moderate an open debate in a fair way?

VINICK
Yes, that's what I'm suggesting.

SANTOS
Let's do it.

SAWYER
All right then. I will follow the order determined by the toss of a coin and so the first question will go to Senator Vinick. Senator, the governors of Arizona and New Mexico have officially declared a state of emergency on their Mexican borders because of illegal immigration. What would you do to seal the Mexican border?

VINICK
Enforcement first; that's my policy. I would double the border patrol. Not just increase it; double it. We need to make a statement that says "We mean it this time. We really are cracking down on illegal immigration." And we need that statement to be heard loud and clear on the other side of the border where everyone knows how easy it is to get in to this country. I want everyone on the other side of the border to think about how hard it is to get into this country. That's the kind of Sensible Solution you can expect from the Vinick White House.

SAWYER
Congressman Santos.

SANTOS
Double the border patrol. Sounds good, sounds tough. Why not triple it? Why not triple it, Senator?

VINICK
Are you proposing tripling the border patrol?

SANTOS
No, you're the one who's campaigning on doubling the border patrol. You want to double it, why not triple it?

VINICK
Well, I'm proposing doubling the border patrol.

SANTOS
We know that; we just heard the speech.

VINICK
We need enforcement first.

SANTOS
Okay. We get it. Why not triple the border patrol?

VINICK
Well, if we could find room in the budget...

SANTOS
I don't know how you plan on...

SAWYER
Congressman, please let him finish.

VINICK
No, I'm finished.

SANTOS
I don't know how you're going to find room in the budget to double the border patrol with the tax cut that you're proposing. Why not double the border patrol? I'll tell you why not: because we already have. Since 1990 we've tripled, not double, tripled the border patrol along the Mexican border and you don't need me to tell you that it hasn't solved the problem.

VINICK
If we had more agents...

SANTOS
Doubling the border patrol means that 80% of illegal entries will get in instead of 90%. Don't let anyone tell you that the border can be secured by doubling the border patrol. The problem of illegal immigration is much bigger than the border patrol.

VINICK
Which is why we passed CAFTA this year; the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

SANTOS
Well, Senator, CAFTA's not the answer...

VINICK
It's a good deal for American consumers and it will help create jobs in Central America. And the more jobs that are created there, the fewer people who will come here illegally looking for work.

SANTOS
That won't help.

VINICK
A vote for CAFTA was a vote for our economy and a vote against illegal immigration. I'm proud to say that I cast that vote in the Senate. How did you vote on CAFTA, Congressman?

SANTOS
I don't think there's anyone left in the country who doesn't know how I voted on CAFTA, Senator.

The audience laughs.

SANTOS
You've all heard it, right? My most famous quote of the campaign: 'I voted for CAFTA before I voted against it.' Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I voted for CAFTA in the Ways and Means Committee because it was a good bill. But then special interests went to work on it. Corporate lobbyists started squeezing in special provisions for their clients and suddenly it wasn't a free trade bill anymore. It certainly wasn't a fair trade bill, and so, yes I voted against it.

VINICK
When was the last time you voted for a perfect bill?

SANTOS
Senator, I knew that you would exploit my votes on CAFTA but I didn't make the political choice. I made the right choice and if I had to do it all over again, I'd vote exactly the same way.

VINICK
I voted for CAFTA because it would help people in those poor countries find jobs and because we need...

SANTOS
We cannot pretend that trade agreements are going to be the solution...

VINICK
Trade agreements are part of the solution and so is my guest worker program. We have to face the fact that we have at least 10 million people who have illegally entered this country but who are now putting in an honest day's work and they're mostly doing jobs that Americans do not want to do. Now, we need to establish a legal system for these workers. We should make it clear...

SANTOS
Where were you when I introduced a guest worker program in the House six years ago, Senator? Where were you? You just discovered the problem this year and I think we know why.

SAWYER
Congressman, are you suggesting that Senator Vinick has raised Mexican border issues in this campaign because he's running against a Latino candidate?

SANTOS
No. Look, I have family that have lived in Texas since it was Mexico. I have other relatives who have come here legally and yes, some that have come here illegally. I have lived this problem. Senator Vinick talks about how easy it is to cross the Rio Grande. I think you should tell that to the families of the men, women, and children who have died trying to do it.

VINICK
I'm not saying...

SANTOS
This is not a law enforcement problem. This is an economic problem. If Mexico's economy was as strong as Canada's, there wouldn't be a problem. The President cannot solve this problem. You cannot seal a 2,000-mile border. Mexico has to solve it. Mexico has to grow its own economy. It has to provide enough jobs so that it's not worth it to try to cross into our borders illegally. There is no other real solution to this. And Senator Vinick is smart enough to know that and I think you are, too.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
Senator Vinick.

He holds up his hand to try to quiet the audience.

SAWYER
Senator Vinick, I think it's fair to say the centerpiece of your is your promise to cut taxes.

VINICK
Yes.

SAWYER
So, could you tell us, specifically, sir, how you would cut spending yo pay for those tax cuts?

VINICK
What do you mean, pay for the tax cuts?

SAWYER
I mean would you cut spending in the same amount as you cut taxes in order to balance the budget?

VINICK
Liberals who are opposed to tax cuts anyway always say you can't cut taxes until you've cut spending. I say we can lecture our children about overspending until we run out of breath or we can just cut their allowance. I'm a cut-the-allowance kind of parent.

The audience laughs.

VINICK
Well, I'm a grandparent now, so I'm not as strict as I used to be. I'm going to cut Congress's allowance and then I'm going to force them to get control of spending because if they don't, because if they send me a budget that is not balanced, I will use this pen to veto it.

He takes his pen and holds it up for all the room to see. The audience applauds.

SAWYER
Congressman Santos, your response.

SANTOS
Well, I hope everyone's noticed that the Senator did not answer the question. He didn't tell you what spending he will cut. Would you like to try that again, Senator?

VINICK
I said I will balance the budget.

SANTOS
Oh, you've seen this game before. We have a proven record on Republican tax cuts. First, they cut taxes. Then, they never get around to cutting spending so they run up huge deficits and they leave massive debts for our children to pay. If you elect me as President, that is a game that I won't play.

VINICK
You know, Congressman Santos is running a very brave campaign. I have to give him credit for that. He's actually promising a tax increase, which is a brave thing to do because the American people don't want it. And it's the wrong thing to do because the American people don't want it. But even his big tax increases won't be enough to raise money for the big spending increases he's promising. So President Santos would have to do exactly what he's promising not to do: run up huge deficits and leave massive debts for our children and grandchildren to pay.

SANTOS
That's wrong. I am going to balance the budget. And yes, I am in favor of tax increases, but they won't affect you.

VINICK
That's what they always say.

SANTOS
That is, unless you make more than a million dollars a year. I'd like to propose raising taxes by 1% on incomes over a million. I want to raise taxes another 2% on incomes over ten million and another 2% on incomes over 100 million dollars. Now, does that sound like cruel and unusual punishment for the superrich?

VINICK
They're paying more than their fair share.

SANTOS
Oh, no, they're not.

VINICK
Yes, they are. They're paying...

SANTOS
They're supposed to pay 35% but with all of the tax loopholes you've written into the tax code for them they end up paying only 23%. That's a lot less than I pay. Just think about this: the richest of the rich, people making over 100 million dollars a year, don't pay anything close to the tax rate that they're supposed to and that's what Senator Vinick calls fair?

SAWYER
Uh, gentlemen? I'd like to get an answer to my original question on spending cuts.

The audience laughs politely.

SAWYER
Now, are either of you willing to specify what cuts in spending you would make in order to balance the budget?

SANTOS
Well...

VINICK
Okay, just as a hypothetical, let's accept the worst-case scenario: that neither one of us would be able to pay for everything he wants to do as President. Then your choice is between a Republican who can't pay for tax cuts or a Democrat who can't pay for spending increases even after raising taxes. I think the American people know how to make that choice.

Some in the audience laugh and some applaud.

SAWYER
Congressman Santos, throughout this campaign, you have said that you want to be known as the Education President. Now, what does that mean? What is the proper role of the federal government in education?

SANTOS
Level the playing field. Help close the gap between Beverly Hills High and Harlem High. We have got to change a system that says the quality of your education depends on where you live.

VINICK
Throw more money at the problem; that's the Democratic way...

SANTOS
Well, you want to throw money at the border.

VINICK
Let me...

SANTOS
You're thinking that...

VINICK
Let me finish. Before you vote for someone who thinks you can buy higher test scores for poor students, know this: the highest spending school system in the country has the lowest test scores. Washington, D.C. spends more than every state; $15,000 per pupil with nothing to show for it.

SANTOS
I'm not talking about just throwing money at the problem. I'm talking about supporting the new approaches that have already succeeded in some school districts. The President can spread those good ideas around the country and he can make sure that every student gets the chance that he or she deserves.

VINICK
Except the chance to go to a private school. The Republican Congress passed a federally funded voucher program for Washington, D.C. to help poor students who can't afford to go to private schools. We got more applications than we could handle. Poor minority parents desperately want to get their kids out of failing public schools. The Democrats won't let them.

SANTOS
Oh, that's right, the big, bad Democrats won't take money away from public schools to give them to private schools. What's next, taking money away from police departments to pay for private security guards?

VINICK
The federal budget contributes about seven cents out of every dollar spent on public schools. Now, if you enact every bit of the Santos education plan, then that will go up to eight cents. Do you really think you get to call yourself the Education President if you're only going to cover half the education budget?

SANTOS
Well, the federal share is much higher than that if you include headstart, and I can understand why you don't include headstart in the total of federal funding, Senator, since you voted against it.

VINICK
Headstart doesn't work.

The audience reacts in awe.

VINICK
I wish headstart did work, but it doesn't. By grades four and five, headstart graduates do no better academically than their equally poor classmates who didn't attend headstart. So yes, I have voted against expansions of an 8-billion... 6-billion dollar program that's not raising academic achievement.

SANTOS
Headstart does raise scores in the early years and then we let them slip. Our whole school system has been slipping for years and our rankings with other countries in math and science achievement... we've got to find a way to turn that around. If we provide the school systems and teachers with everything they need and the flexibility to experiment with fresh new approaches, I think that American students can be number one in the world in math and science in ten years.

VINICK
That's a lie.

MAN IN AUDIENCE
You're a liar!

The audience boos as we see a security man escort the man from his seat.

SAWYER
Please. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we should impose the original rules on the audience, and I'm going to have to ask you to please, for the sake of the candidates, to remain silent for the rest of the debate.

He turns back to the candidates.

SAWYER
And Senator Vinick, we have managed to keep a civil tone throughout this discussion and unless we can continue to do that, then I'm going to impose the original rules on the candidates themselves.

VINICK
It's a lie that every President, Democrat and Republican, has been telling for 20 years: we're going to be number 1 in ten years. Go ahead, Google it right now. I'm not saying that every President knew it was a lie when he said it or that Congressman Santos knows it's not true, but I do. So let me tell you what our goals should be  our realistic goals. First of all, let's stop pretending that everyone can or should go to college. Every airline needs high-paid mechanics and none of them have to go to college. There are plumbers in some parts of the country that make a better living than dentists. Now, I'm not talking about lowering our ambitions. I'm talking about targeting our ambitions correctly. Now, it's true: some other countries have raised their academic standards over and above what they were once. But we still have the best scientists in the world, the best doctors, and by far the most Nobel prizes. If a kid does well in one of those foreign high schools, guess where he or she wants to go to college. That's right; Harvard, Stanford, Cal-Tech, the University of Texas, and a hundred other American universities that are better than anything they have in their countries. So, if we're going to have a practical approach to education, we're going to have to admit that not every one can go to MIT. But most of the kids who do go to MIT come from American public schools.

SANTOS
So, give up on headstart, just give up on early education, and then give up on those kids who don't test well. They'll find their way, don't worry about them.

VINICK
I'm not going to give up on public schools.

SANTOS
Well, you haven't proposed a single thing that will make them better  not one new idea. I'm going to keep trying new ideas. Some might work, some might not, and I'll level with you about that. We'll keep the good ideas and get rid of the bad. And I won't let a day go by in this White House where I don't work hard to improve our public schools. In fact, I'm going to stake my Presidency on that, right here, right now. And if in four years from now, you don't think I've improved public education in this country then do not vote for my reelection.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
Gentlemen, let's talk about health care. Senator Vinick, there are now 45 million Americans who have no health insurance at all. So what can the government do to see that these people get affordable health care?

VINICK
Make it tax deductible; instantly cuts the price by as much as 35%. That just happens to be one of the items in my tax cut package.

SANTOS
You really think tax cuts are the answer to everything.

VINICK
If it's deductible...

SANTOS
That won't help at all. Those people are in the 35% bracket, Senator, not the 10% bracket. So your deduction would only give them a 10% discount. That means that a $10,000 policy would cost $9,000. Does that sound like something a mother of 3 making 30,000 a year...?

VINICK
So, after you've raised taxes and after you've enacted the Santos Health Care plan then all the health care problems in America will be solved, right? Everyone will have health insurance, everyone will be happy.

SANTOS
No, but it will move us toward universal health coverage.

VINICK
Toward universal coverage, so it won't cover...

SANTOS
It will be a very large... very large step toward...

VINICK
So after you've enacted the plan that you're proposing tonight, how many people would still be left without...

SANTOS
The first stage of my plan would cover 15 million people.

VINICK
15 million?

SANTOS
15 million, which represents the single biggest increase in health care coverage that the federal government has ever...

VINICK
So, after raising taxes and creating a huge new bureaucracy to run a complex government health insurance program, the Santos health plan will leave thirty million people without health insurance. Do you really think Congress is going to let you do all that and not even solve 50% of the problem?

SANTOS
To tell you the truth, I'm not crazy about my health care plan, either. It's what I think can get through Congress, but my ideal plan is very simple: just delete the phrase 'over 65' from the Medicare statute.

VINICK
You would let everyone in the country go on Medicare?

SANTOS
Why not? You want to start the whole, socialized medicine rap with me?

VINICK
Well, yeah, for starters.

SANTOS
You see, this is never going to happen because Senator Vinick...

He steps out from behind his podium and his voice dies down when he is no longer behind the microphone.

SAWYER
Uh, no, sir.

SANTOS
They can't hear me.

He goes to grab the mike from his podium but a woman comes to the stage and hands him a wireless mike.

WOMAN
Sir.

SANTOS
Thank you. [continuing] ...because Senator Vinick and the insurance companies are never going to let it happen. But if you all had the option, the option, of using Medicare, you could save a lot of money. Private insurance companies, they spend about 25% of your money on administrative costs, on paperwork. Do you know how much, anyone want to guess, how much administrative costs.

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE
35%!

SANTOS
Sorry? 35%. Anyone else?

Several people shout out their guess.

SANTOS
You would think that it would be higher than the private companies, right? A massive, government bureaucracy can't be more efficient than the private companies, right? The Republicans have been telling you that forever. Two. That's right, 2%. Medicare's administrative costs are 2%, that's 23% lower than private insurance companies and HMOs. The best kept secret in the world  in our country  is that Medicare is the most efficient health care system in the world. Now, if you had the option of choosing Medicare instead of your private insurance companies and HMOs, you would save big money  at least 20%.

VINICK
That's crazy. Medicare taxes would skyrocket.

SANTOS
Well, yes, the Medicare tax would have to go up but it still would be much lower than health insurance premiums are now. Look, I don't know about you, but if you give me a choice between paying for something called a premium and something called a tax, my only question's going to be 'Which one's cheaper?'

VINICK
I literally don't know where to begin. I mean, to force everyone in the country to go to...

SANTOS
Well, I wouldn't... I wouldn't force everyone, just give them the option; see what happens with the HMOs when they have to compete with an efficient system that continues to allow you to choose your own doctor and to make your own health care decisions.

VINICK
Are you finished? Because if you have anything sensible to say about health care, I'd sure like...

SANTOS
Well, coming from someone who has no health care at all, who has spent a career saying no, no, no, to every health care reform that has ever come to Congress...

Vinick comes out from behind his podium and asks for a microphone.

VINICK
Do you have another one of these microphones?

Santos hands his microphone to Vinick.

SAWYER
You gentlemen aren't going to go out into the audience, are you?

The woman returns to the stage and hands a new microphone to Santos.

VINICK
Let me leave it at this: I'm opposed to Congressman Santos's compromise and to his dream plan. And I pledge to you here tonight: I will never raise the Medicare tax, not one penny.

SANTOS
Senator, you're on Medicare, right?

VINICK
I'm on the Senate Health Care plan.

SANTOS
And you use Medicare as a supplement to that plan?

VINICK
Yes, but I have...

SANTOS
Well, Medicare is good enough for Senator Vinick but it's not good enough for us? If we could all have the option to join Medicare it would be a much cheaper, much more efficient health care system.

SAWYER
Senator, let me ask you about a related issue which is prescription drug prices and those prices have been going up at a rate more than double the inflation rate. So, would you favor re-importing American drugs from Canada where they are much cheaper?

VINICK
You know why drugs are cheaper in Canada; because the government controls the price. Do you know how many life-saving drugs are invented in Canada? None, because the government controls the price.

SANTOS
Well, Canadian laboratories have helped to create some very important drugs.

VINICK
No, nothing like the miraculous drugs that the American pharmaceutical industry has given to the world.

SANTOS
Given to the world? I guess you haven't seen the price list lately, sir.

VINICK
Not long ago, if you were HIV positive in this country you were marked for death. Not anymore. And that's thanks to our pharmaceutical companies. You know, in the 1970s, the most common cause for surgery was ulcers. Now, you get an ulcer, you take a pill. Is it an expensive pill? Yes. A dollar does seem like a lot to pay for one pill. But how does a dollar a day sound compared to a $30,000 surgery bill? So, are prescription drugs expensive? Yes. Do they save us from getting hit with much more expensive hospital bills? Yes. Do they save lives? Yes. American pharmaceutical companies save us money and they save lives and the Democrats can not stop attacking them.

SANTOS
Why should the pharmaceutical companies get protection that no other American industry gets? We can buy anything else from Canada; why not prescription drugs?

VINICK
Because the Canadian price controls are unfair to American companies.

SANTOS
They're unfair?

VINICK
Yes, they are.

SANTOS
Well, is it unfair that AIDS victims have been dying for Africa for years because the drug companies are protecting their profit margins?

VINICK
Drug-makers have lowered their prices in Africa dramatically.

SANTOS
Yes, only after we have pushed them to do it and they are still not lower to reach everyone who really needs them in Africa.

VINICK
People are not dying in Africa now because of our drug companies. They're dying because they don't have clean water supplies and because they don't have a basic infrastructure for health care and because they're governments are corrupt. And they often prevent the help that we're trying to bring to the sick people from getting to them.

SANTOS
Well, yes, health care delivery in Africa is weak which is why we have to provide full-scale debt relief for all of those countries so that they can concentrate on building their basic infrastructure instead of the impossible burden of paying back loans to the rich countries of the world.

VINICK
Debt relief is a nice idea but it won't help. It will just formalize the reality that poor countries can never repay their loans.

SAWYER
Senator, are you saying you're opposed to debt relief for impoverished countries?

VINICK
No. We should forgive the debts but it's not going to help... that's not going to help those countries very much.

SAWYER
Okay, what will?

VINICK
Tax cuts.

The audience laughs. Santos and Vinick walk back towards their podiums.

VINICK
Some African tax rates are the highest in the world. In Tanzania, the 30% rate kicks in at $475 of income plus this 30% value added that they put onto everything. Those high tax rates have made it impossible build capital in those countries. So, as a result, nothing gets built; not roads, not factories, not anything. Poor African countries have the lowest wage earners in the world, but a company like Nike, for instance, can't put a factory in there because of those oppressive tax rates. Taxes have killed any possibility of economic development. They've killed any hope of those countries helping themselves. And the result is they become completely dependant on charities, on loans. You know... here's the worst part: you know why those tax rates are so high? Because of us. Because they have to prove to us that they can raise enough money to pay back their loans. But taxes can't raise any money if they kill the economy. So, it turns out that the tragic, unattended consequence of our good intentions toward Africa - our kindness  is that we have forced those countries to lock themselves into an economic depression. If we don't urge those countries to lower their tax rates, they will never grow their economies. People will live lifetimes of unemployment. Disease will be rampant. Poverty will be permanent. Children will be hungry. And our charity will never be enough. Never.

FADE OUT.
END ACT ONE.
* * *

ACT TWO

FADE IN: INT.  DEBATE HALL  EVENING

The candidates are continuing their debate. Sawyer is speaking.

SAWYER
I'd like to turn to jobs, right here at home. Congressman Santos, many Americans are afraid that their jobs are going to be outsourced to other countries that have low wages or that their jobs are just going to be lost to companies in another round of belt-tightening. So, what would you do as President to increase job security?

SANTOS
Well, Forrest, we already have a program call Trade Adjustment Assistance which provides job retraining to those workers who have lost their jobs to foreign trade. I would add to that as President: any workers who lose their jobs to outsourcing. My economic program and my plan to keep American workers competitive will build upon President Bartlet's extraordinary job creation record and I think it will keep us on track to create another million jobs in my first term as President.

SAWYER
A million jobs?

SANTOS
That's right.

SAWYER
How many jobs would you create in your first term, Senator?

VINICK
None.

The audience again reacts in awe.

VINICK
In fact, I'll cut jobs. I will reduce the number of jobs in the federal government. Now I know I'm supposed to tell you that my tax cuts are supposed to stimulate the economy and therefore create jobs. Entrepreneurs create jobs. Business creates jobs. The President's job is to get out of the way.

SANTOS
Do you want a President who will get out of their way when corrupt executives are plundering a company like Enron?

VINICK
Hey, I'll go after corporate crime. My running mate, Ray Sullivan, was very tough on white-collar crime when he was a prosecutor and my Attorney General will be just as tough.

SANTOS
Do you want a President who will get out of the way when airline executives are putting their companies into bankruptcy so that they can avoid the pension responsibilities to the workers that have dedicated their lives to those companies?

VINICK
Some of our older airlines are having trouble meeting their huge pension obligations at the very same time when they're facing intense competition from low-cost airlines that are so new they don't yet have pensions to pay. Now, an unthinking liberal will describe the airline bankruptcies as the evil capitalists screwing the workers.

SANTOS
I didn't say that Senator and I don't think you should put words in my mouth.

VINICK
No. Of course you didn't say it. You're not an unthinking liberal. Are you?

The audience laughs and applauds.

SANTOS
I know you like to use that word 'liberal' as if it were a crime.

VINICK
No. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have used that word. I know Democrats think liberal is a bad word. So bad you had to change it. What do you call yourselves now, progressives? Is that it?

SANTOS
It's true. Republicans have tried to turn liberal into a bad word. Well, liberals ended slavery in this country.

VINICK
A Republican President ended slavery.

SANTOS
Yes, a liberal Republican, Senator. What happened to them? They got run out of your party. What did liberals do that was so offensive to the liberal party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things  every one. So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.

The audience vigorously applauds.

SAWYER
I believe it's a Republican governor who's imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. And so Congressman, would you favor a moratorium on the federal death penalty?

SANTOS
Yes.

SAWYER
That's it?

SANTOS
That's it.

SAWYER
Okay, Senator Vinick?

VINICK
No.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
That's it?

VINICK
I think we've covered that one.

SAWYER
All right, let's try gun control. Senator Vinick, do we need more of it?

VINICK
No. The Constitution gives us the right to bear arms. It's not up to the President to decide which law-abiding citizens the Constitution applies to.

SAWYER
Congressman?

SANTOS
I think we should forget about more gun control. What we need is bullet control. That's right. There are at least 100... 200 million guns in this country. I own three of them We cannot control the supply of guns in this country but we can control the supply of ammunition. Buying bullets should not be easier than buying a plane ticket. We should license the purchase of handgun ammunition. There should be a clear, ID record of every handgun ammo purchase. We're in the 21st Century. Homicide detectives should be able to trace every fired bullet back to the buyer in minutes.

SAWYER
Gentlemen, let's talk about energy. We have seen record high gasoline prices this year, so is this a glimpse of an even worse future if we don't adopt a policy to meet our energy needs at reasonable prices, Congressman?

SANTOS
Well, yes it's obvious that it's time for us to get really serious about developing alternative energy sources and stop letting the oil companies dictate our policy for us while they rack up record high profits.

VINICK
There you go again! The Democratic Party line: attack big business, attack the oil companies.

SANTOS
I'm not attacking the oil companies.

VINICK
Oh, yes, you are.

SANTOS
Look Arnie, I understand that the oil companies have given your campaign a lot of money.

VINICK
What, so I'm their puppet? Huh? Is that what you're saying, that they own me?

SAWYER
Gentlemen, let's get back to the issue...

VINICK
No, no, no. He doesn't get to smear me and then run away.

SANTOS
I'm not smearing you.

SAWYER
Gentlemen...

VINICK
That's exactly what you're trying to do.

SAWYER
Gentlemen, let's take a breath...

VINICK
No, no, no. Let's talk about this right now.

SAWYER
Senator...

VINICK
Well, he raised it, I think I have a right to respond.

SAWYER
All right, sir. Go ahead.

VINICK
I've disclosed the every name of the 220,000 people who have contributed to my campaign. There are no secrets about where my campaign money comes from. Some of my contributors work for oil companies. Now Liberals want you to think that's evil. They want you to think you can't be a good American if you work for an oil company. I can remember when people were condemned in this country for what they thought, condemned for their political positions. Liberals fought the noble fight against that witch hunt. Liberals said it was un-American and they were right. Now Liberals want to condemn people because of where they work?

SANTOS
Hey, I have got relatives who are working all over the oil fields of Texas, sir. I am just saying that your positions on energy are exactly what the oil companies want to hear and that's why they've given so much to your campaign.

VINICK
And your position on spending, on creating new government jobs, that's exactly what the public employee unions want to hear and that's why they've poured money into your campaign. If you want to talk about conflict of interest...

SANTOS
Well, who's throwing cheap accusations now?

VINICK
Well, you started it.

SAWYER
Gentlemen, please. I'm going to have to stop you...

VINICK
I'm just trying to level...

SAWYER
Senator!

VINICK
I'm sorry.

SAWYER
Now, unless you're prepared to prove, not just accuse but prove with facts that your opponent is influenced by campaign contributions, then let's agree to move on. Congressman Santos, you've said that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. So, why not drill in Alaska's Artic National Wildlife Refuge?

SANTOS
Because we cannot drill our way to energy independence. There's only about a year's worth of oil there at best. I don't think that's worth disrupting a million years of ecological balance and a unique and spectacular wilderness.

SAWYER
Senator.

SANTOS
That wilderness is much more valuable than the oil that's underneath it. I think that the pathway to a better, more sustainable future does not go through the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

SAWYER
Excuse me, Senator.

VINICK
A year's worth of oil? That sounds like a lot to me and there could be more. There could be much more down there. We'll never know until we start drilling. I'm sure it's a beautiful place. Have you ever been there?

SANTOS
No.

VINICK
I haven't either. Have you? Anyone? Clap if you've been to the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

There is silence.

VINICK
Uh-huh. And that's about as many people who will ever go to ANWR. None. I mean, maybe a few very rich people will go up there with private planes and snap some pictures in the summertime. I mean, this ain't the Grand Canyon we're talking about. How many of you have been to the Grand Canyon?

A great number of people in the audience applaud. Vinick again grabs his wireless microphone and comes around to the front of his podium.

VINICK
If they discovered big oil reserves in the Grand Canyon, I'd never let them drill there because it's our most magnificent natural monument and because real people get to go there. They get to see it, they get to taste it, to touch it, to experience it in all its glory. Now, you know, we're talking about a country that has oil wells within site of the beautiful beaches of Santa Barbara; oil wells within site of every Texas beach; thousands of operating oil wells in the city of Los Angeles. I just saw an oil well in the parking lot of a McDonalds in Long Beach the other day. And now Democrats are saying we can't put oil wells in a place so remote that only the animals will see them? I wish we could put all our oil wells up there, where no one could see them.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
There are other approaches. Congressman, would you support building more nuclear power plants in order to decrease our dependence on foreign energy?

SANTOS
Oh, no, Forrest, no. We still haven't figured out what to do with the radioactive waste from the plants that we already have.

VINICK
Nuclear power is a completely safe, dependable energy source. Of course we should build more power plants.

SANTOS
Did you say 'completely safe'? I'm sorry. I don't want to be an alarmist here but there are plenty of obvious safety concerns. That's why we stopped building them. The government should be supporting the development of alternative energy sources and all of those new technologies that can harness solar power, wind power; all of those safer, new alternatives to nuclear power.

SAWYER
How about that, Senator; government support of alternative energy sources?

VINICK
I don't trust politicians to choose the right new energy sources. I believe in the free market. You know, the government didn't switch us from whale oil to the oil found under the ground. The market did that. And the government didn't make the Prius, the hottest selling car in Hollywood. That was the market that did that. In L.A. now, the coolest thing you can drive is a hybrid. Well, if that's what the free market can do in the most car-crazed culture on Earth, then I trust the free market to solve our energy problems. You know, the market can change the way we think. It can change what we want. Government can't do that. That's why the market has always been a better problem-solver than government and it always will be.

SANTOS
While you're trusting the market, we're burning fossil fuels every day and the polar ice caps are just about ready to melt.

VINICK
The same people that were telling you that we were going to run out of oil by the end of the 20th Century are now trying to scare us with global warming theories.

SANTOS
Theories? You don't believe in the overwhelming, scientific research that's...

VINICK
No, you know what you're talking about? You're talking about one degree change in the Earth's temperature in the last hundred years.

SANTOS
Senator, you have obviously not seen the scientific research...

VINICK
I have.

SAWYER
Gentlemen, gentlemen...

SANTOS
...many reports that have...

VINICK
No, I have...

They both stop.

SAWYER
We're running out of time. I have just a final question on energy, if I could? We're going to be dependent on foreign oil for the foreseeable future, so what would you do to ensure a dependable supply of foreign oil? Congressman?

SANTOS
Let me start by saying what I would not do because it is the most important part of my energy policy: I will never go to war for oil.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
Please. Please.

SANTOS
And I'd like to invite Senator Vinick to join me in that pledge.

The audience applauds again.

SAWYER
Ladies and gentlemen, would you like to hear yourselves applaud or would you like to listen to the candidates speak? Please. Senator?

VINICK
It's ridiculous to suggest that we would ever have to go to war to secure our oil supply. Oil is a commodity on a world market. You don't have to shoot anyone to get it, you just have to pay for it. By the way, do you know who our biggest supplier of foreign oil is?

A couple of people shout their answer from the audience.

VINICK
No. Wrong, it's Canada. So let's stop the hysterical talk about the evil foreign oil.

SANTOS
You know, if it's ridiculous to even think about going to war for oil, why don't you join me in the pledge?

VINICK
Because it would be like going to war over sugar. Do you want to make a pledge like that, too? You know, the oil exporting countries have to sell it to someone to survive. They need us to buy it. They couldn't cut us off if they wanted to.

SANTOS
Will you join me in the pledge, Senator?

VINICK
I will not demean the office of the President by taking any pledge other than the oath of office.

SAWYER
Congressman, Senator; we have just a very few minutes left. Would you like to use that time for your closing statements?

VINICK
Yeah.

SAWYER
All right then. According to the coin toss, the first closing statement is from Congressman Santos.

SANTOS
Well, Senator Vinick was eager to take a pledge about taxes, but now taking a pledge about anything else is beneath the dignity of the Presidency. The President has to lead. He has to actively head off problems, not just hope the market will figure out everything for him. It's the free market that Senator Vinick trusts so much that has left 45 million people without health insurance. But to his credit, the Senator's very honest about the fact that he has no health care plan, no education plan, no jobs plan, no energy plan. All he has is a tax plan. After he cuts taxes, what's he going to do for the next four years?

Some in the audience laugh and applaud.

SANTOS
Tax cuts are not a magic wand that you can wave at every problem. Senator Vinick is very quick to attack my plans, but the Presidency is about more than just saying no, no, no. You have to say yes to something. You have to do something. We don't have enough time for me to remind you about every policy difference that you've heard here tonight. But when you go to work tomorrow and you're talking about this debate, talk about the qualities that you want to see as a President; the leadership qualities. Ask yourself if Matt Santos is the kind of guy who's going to give up on the promises that he's made tonight because it's going to be too tough to get them done. Talk about what it was like for Matt Santos to go from where he was baptized 45 years ago to where he's standing tonight. Ask yourselves what it was like to do that. And then ask yourselves if you're ready to give Matt Santos the Presidency of the United States. You know, you've seen the stories: in newspapers all over the world, people are asking is America ready for a Latino President. I have never asked that question. I never asked if Annapolis was ready for a Latino midshipman. I never asked if the Marines was ready for a Latino fighter pilot. I didn't have to ask. I just had to prove that I was ready, that I could get the job done. I am asking for your vote now because I know that I am ready to do the job. I thank you.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
Senator Vinick, your closing statement.

VINICK
First of all, I want to thank Matt for agreeing to drop the rules tonight and let us have a real debate. And what you've heard, over and above the many policy differences, were different philosophies of government. I believe both of us want what's best for this country, we just have different ideas about how to go about it. I think it's fair to say that Matt has more confidence in government than I do. I have more confidence in freedom  your freedom; your freedom to choose your child's school, your freedom to choose the car or truck that's right for you and your family, your freedom to spend or save your hard-earned money instead of having the government spend it for you. I'm not anti-government. I just don't want any more government than we can afford. I don't want government doing things it doesn't know how to do or doing things the private sector does better or throwing more money at failed programs because that's exactly what makes people lose faith in government. And all of us, Democrats and Republicans, Independents, Liberals or Conservatives, we all want a government that we can believe in. We all want a government that doesn't make false promises, a government that doesn't overreach, doesn't take on more than it can handle; an efficient, effective, honest government. That's what the Founding Fathers created. That's what they wanted for us. The choice in this election comes down to this: do we want more government or do we want to get control of government. To govern is to choose and the choices are never easy. There are lobbies out there that will fight you on every choice you make. They're ready to call you names the second you make a choice they don't like. You heard that heckler go after me tonight. You have to be tough to stand up to that. But being tough won't help you make the right choice. That takes experience and mature judgment. That's what the Presidency needs now more than ever. And that's why I ask you to give me your vote: so that I can give you the government that you were promised by the Founding Fathers. Thank you, very much.

The audience applauds.

SAWYER
Senator Vinick, Congressman Santos: our thanks to you both. That is our debate and thank you for watching. Goodnight.

The audience again applauds and Santos and Vinick step to the middle of the platform to shake hands. Sawyer moves away from his desk to shake both their hands. After they do, both their families are allowed on stage. We see Santos hug his children and kiss Helen. We see Vinick hugging his grandchildren. The audience continues to applaud.

DISSOLVE TO: END TITLES.
FADE TO BLACK.
THE END.
* * *

The West Wing episode 7.07 "The Debate", original air date 6 November, 2005.

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