West Wing
Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics

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Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics

I almost forgot to hit "record" on the VCR because Johanna and I were so busy ranting about what an ass Dawson is. Luckily, disaster was averted, so I can tell you that previously on The West Wing, C.J. yelled at Danny, the Prez got excited about campaign finance reform, and C.J. yelled at Sam.

Shouldn't it be "damned lies," rather than "damn lies"? It would look better on the title card that way, too. ["Yes, it should, and yes, it would." -- deborah] It's just my luck that the first voice we hear is Donna's. She tells Josh they should start the poll because it's 7:05. Josh says it's ten to seven, as we see a clock confirming Donna's statement. Josh complains that his watch reads ten to seven, so Donna says, "Your watch sucks." Or perhaps the person who set it does. She goes on to say that the large clocks on the wall, which are run by the U.S. Navy, say that it's 7:05, and that Josh's watch "sucks in four different time zones."

At this point, I'd be grateful if we cut to Mandy, but we actually get Toby and C.J., so I'm even happier. They're arguing too, but in a much more entertaining way. Toby complains, "Question six is asymmetrical." C.J. says it's fine, so Toby reads it: "Would you say that things in this country are going in the right direction, or do you think they've gotten off on the wrong track?" Josh leans in the doorway and says Toby has a point. He does, of course, and yes, I believe that is a real poll question, because I've noticed that in news stories and it bugged me too. Donna interrupts to repeat that it's five after seven. Toby says, "It should be right direction or wrong direction. Track and direction are two different words!" ["Toby's right. As usual." -- deborah] C.J. leaves the room, grumbling, "Thank you, Funk & Wagnall's."

As they all trail after C.J., Donna keeps announcing the time, and Toby insists that the question is asymmetrical. C.J. finally says, "The question originated two decades ago, and has proven to be a consistent predictor of the voters' potential behavior, so it stays the way it is." Josh has a problem with question fourteen, which reads, "When making policy decisions, do you think that President Bartlet puts the needs of average people first?" Josh says that "average people" is a pejorative phrase. C.J. stops to put Josh in his place, explaining, "Eighty percent of the people in this country would use the word 'average' to describe themselves. They do not find the term deprecating. Indeed, being considered an average American is something they find to be positive and comforting." Leo calls her into the conference room before she can add, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it." Leo's complaint is with, "Jed Bartlet cares about people like me. Agree or disagree?" Before he can clarify what he doesn't like about that question, Toby brings up question six again, and asks C.J., "Since when are you an expert on language?" C.J. asks, "In polling models?" Toby begins to realize he may have gone too far, as C.J. continues, "1993. Since when are you an uptight pain in the ass?" "Before that," Toby responds. Leo wonders if the phrase "people like me" could be interpreted as meaning people like the interviewer. A polling flunky explains, "When we ask that question, we usually say 'people like yourself.'" Leo and the flunkies all start discussing whether "people like you" would be better, faster, stronger, etc. An exasperated C.J. declares, "The respondent isn't confused by the question, and separating the respondent from the interviewer with 'people like yourself' is pejorative, so Ed, Larry, you can take this up with Josh. Leo, Eastern Standard Time is sitting down to dinner. The poll is fine." Josh says the poll is important, and C.J. says that she knows, "But if we don't start the phone banks right now I'm not gonna have enough time to leak the internals to media outlets before we hit the weekend. So, it turns out that over the last three weeks we've managed to climb out of the hole, only we can't tell anybody about it till Monday because we stood here all night arguing about asymmetry! It's time!" Leo asks for predictions. The flunkies say that they'll keep their 42% job approval rating. Josh says, "I'll be happy if we hold steady." Toby thinks they'll drop a few points, but within the margin of error. Leo asks for C.J.'s opinion, and she sighs before saying, "We're gonna go up five points." Leo says that the Prez thinks they'll remain at 42%. C.J. says, "The President is wrong." Leo tells Toby to tell Sam to tell the interviewers to start making calls. Thus, the chain of command. Sam answers a phone in a yucky brick room full of phone banks, while Mandy stands nearby. After hanging up, Sam tells Mandy, "Let's get our report card." Mandy trots into the phone center and says, "Okay, here we go!" Credits, at long last.

It's Monday night, "three hours into polling." Which ought to make it 10:05, if you've been paying attention. Sam steps into the room and Bonnie asks, "How's it going in there?" Sam answers, "I popped Mandy with my tranquilizer gun," earning the thanks of a grateful nation. ["But what in God's name took them so long?" -- deborah] Ginger asks why polling takes forty-eight hours. Sam says they need fifteen hundred responses, and explains, "It takes them about twelve hours to make fifteen hundred calls; we need fifteen hundred responses, which means we need to make six thousand calls." What a crappy response rate. Toby appears, and pulls Sam along in his wake as he enters his office. Toby says that the George Washington Law School graduation is tomorrow and asks, "Were you gonna go see your friend?" Sam says he wishes Toby would call her "Laurie," and confirms that he is going to the graduation. Toby says that Sam can't go. Sam says, "Okay." Toby reminds the audience that Onorato knows about Sam's friendship with Laurie and is waiting for the right moment "to use it to embarrass us." Sam grumbles, "Biggest day of her life. Huge day. She put herself through law school, and I know that there are people in South Carolina who don't like how she did it --" Toby interrupts, "Not just South Carolina." Sam retorts, "Then in both Carolinas, Toby, though I've never understood what the hell business it is --" Toby repeats that Sam can't go to the graduation. Sam says he won't, and leaves.

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