Disclaimer: I own none of this. Aaron Sorkin, Warner Brothers, and other assorted entities own everything. They also make all the money. I am just having fun and in no way seek financial profit from their property.
Note: I am a total politics and American history geek. That is the only explanation I can offer for this fic, which is half just me indulging my geekiness and half me playing with the West Wing characters, trying to get their attitudes and voices. I'm really not sure if this will appeal to anyone other than me, but I had a blast writing it!
This was initially posted in script format and was deleted by for violating the rules. I didn't realize that any kind of script formatted fic was not allowed; I thought only things like chat logs were a problem. My apologies to anyone this inconvenienced or bothered. I've redone the fic to be standard text, if rather dialogue heavy, by adding some admittedly sparse narration and lots of "he said" kind of things so it should be OK now. If you'd prefer to read it as originally written, it is available at my livejournal.
It is late at night and much of the west wing staff was gathered in the Roosevelt Room. Josh Lyman, Sam Seaborn, and Ainsley Hayes sat on one side of the large conference table while Toby Ziegler, Ed, and Larry sat on the other side. Papers, pens, highlighters, and dry erase markers were strewn somewhat haphazardly around the table and a dry erase board stood to one side with half erased writing on it, illegible words and various numbers, some scratched through, some circled, and some both. Ainsley had her head on the table while Ed was leaning back in his chair and looks half asleep.
Josh suddenly threw a pen down in disgust and announced, "That's it. I quit. I think we've got this as good as it's going to get."
Larry fell back in his chair as he and Ed huffed out "Finally" under their breaths in unison.
Toby glared at Josh. "I said that an hour ago. Did we leave then? No. You insisted you could find the extra 20 million dollars. How much did you find?" Toby waited, but got no answer from Josh. "Anyone?" He looked around the room but still no answer. "That's right. Nothing. Josh found nothing."
"That's not true. I did find it. You just told me I couldn't have it."
"Stealing money from the computers program to give to the early reading program doesn't count as finding it."
"Where else do we find money except stealing it from another program? Was I actually supposed to find 20 million dollars? Did someone drop it on the floor under the table? I still think the money would be better in the reading program. What good are computers if the kids can't read what's on the screen?"
"Computers cost more than books!"
Sam had had enough of this. "Hey! We're all tired. We've been at this bill for 6 hours straight. Why don't we call it a night and go home?"
Josh and Toby continued to glare at each other across the table, but both remained silent.
Ainsley said, "Actually, I'm hungry. Anyone want to order Chinese?"
"Not me. I'm going home to get some sleep," said Ed as he stood to leave. He was quickly joined by Larry.
"Count me out, too. I've got an early meeting on the Hill." The two men gathered some of the papers on the table and left as the conversation continued around them.
"I could go for some Chinese," said Sam.
Toby said, "There's nothing to eat if I go home."
Josh said "Yeah. Sure. Let me check with Donna. She'll probably want some." Josh started to leave, but paused in the doorway as CJ came walking down the hall. "We're done for now," he told her, "and ordering Chinese. You want some?"
"Chinese sounds good. Anything sounds better than the leftovers in my fridge, but kung pao chicken sounds really good."
Josh slipped past CJ and she came into the room, walking around to Toby's side of the table. "So where do we stand?" she asked as she sat down.
"Josh and Toby disagree on 20 million dollars," Sam said.
"We are supposed to convince the majority of Democrats and at least some Republicans in Congress to vote on this and we can't even get the White House senior staff to agree?"
Ainsley said, "I don't think you'll have a problem getting the Republicans you need. Most will hate it on principle. Education is a state issue. But the leadership isn't going to demand a party line vote on this and there are enough who will find things to sell to their constituents. If you can get the Democrats in line, you can get this through."
"That's a depressing thought," said Toby. "We can pass a bill, but only if we can get our own house in order."
Josh returned with Donna Moss in two. Josh sat back down as Donna looked around the room, immediately grabbed a phone, and started placing the order for Chinese delivery. While she did so, a secret service agent opened the door on the far side of the room and waved Charlie into the room. "I'm going to have to ask you to enter the room and ask you and everyone else to remain here. We are crashed."
At the news, everyone groaned and there was a general course of complaints but Charlie's desperate demand rose above the noise. "I need to get to the President."
The agent placed a hand on Charlie's chest, holding him back. "I can't let you do that, sir."
"But I was just going to get some apples and peanut butter for him. I have to get back."
"Sir. I have to insist you remain in the room." The agent tilted his head to the side, indicating he was listening to his ear piece then continued. "I've been instructed to inform you the President is in no immediate danger. He is ordering you to stay here."
The agent stepped outside, pulling the door closed behind him before moving to stand guard beside it. Charlie flopped down in a chair next to CJ and sat quietly, eyes on the agent out the door across the room. Donna finally finished placing their food order and hung up the phone then sat next to Josh. "Food's on its way," she announced. "Hopefully the crash will be lifted by the time it gets here."
"What shall we do while we wait?" Sam asked.
Toby said, "We could keep looking for Josh's 20 million dollars."
"I found my 20 million. You need to give it up."
"Please!" Ainsley's yell was perhaps a bit louder than necessary. "I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I've been listening to this exact argument for over an hour. Can we please not continue it right now?"
Toby and Josh murmured their assent then the room descended into silence that was eventually broken by Sam. "Anyone want to play a game?"
"What kind of game?" CJ asked.
"I hadn't thought that far. Charades?" He was met with silence. "Pictionary?" also received no answer. "I guess that's a no."
"When I was in high school," Donna offered, "we'd always play clear the building."
Josh said "Please tell me your idea of fun doesn't involve picking up trash or something."
"No, Josh. Clear the building. Not clean the building. You take turns with everyone picking a room they'd get rid of. When we played in school, it always started easy with people tossing out the principal's office and the faculty lounge. Then it got tougher and by the end we were making choices like a favorite teacher's classroom or the storage room in the auditorium."
"The auditorium storage room?" CJ asked.
Donna gave an embarrassed shrug. "It was the most secluded spot in school and the door was never locked so if you and your boyfriend had an off period together..."
"Donna," Toby said, "I am asking nicely. Which as you know is something I rarely do. Please stop there."
Josh said "No, no. I think I want to hear more of this story."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Sam, louder than necessary, interrupted. "We would play with the White House?"
"Yeah," said Donna. "That was what I was thinking."
Josh said, "Doesn't sound like much fun to me."
"The fun is in the tough choices and how people justify them. Like if it came down to it, CJ, would you get rid of the Briefing Room or the Oval Office?"
"The Briefing Room. No question. I can brief on the sidewalk if I have to, but the Oval is the Oval."
Josh said, "Now there's no point in playing."
Ainsley said, "Well, I think it sounds like fun."
"But now we know how it will end."
"Not necessarily," said Donna. "That was just an example. Maybe it will come down to you having to pick between the Oval and the Mess."
"Ha ha. Wouldn't that be more Ainsley's problem?"
"You can take the Mess as long as I get the pleasure of getting rid of my office. Excuse me, the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue."
"I still think it sounds lame."
Donna was clearly annoyed. "Do you have a better idea?"
"I do, because I am a genius. We get rid of the constitutional amendments."
CJ seemed skeptical. "So Donna's game just with more politics added?"
"Yeah. That's what makes mine a good idea."
Donna glared at Josh who smiled and winked at her causing her glare to immediately soften.
"Sounds good to me," said Sam. "Charlie, you in?"
Charlie hadn't been paying attention and looked from the door in confusion at the sound of his name. "Huh?"
Josh said, "We're going to cut the amendments from the constitution. You want in?"
Toby said, "Apparently because, despite being the people paid to run this country's government, we have nothing more important with which we can occupy our time."
"Not while we're trapped in here, we don't," argued CJ. "We might as well amuse ourselves and try to enjoy each other's company."
"That usually works better when we have alcohol."
"So it does. But we don't and we are stuck here, so we might as well play this game. Charlie?"
"Yeah. Sure. I'm in."
"Who's going to start?" asked Donna.
Ainsley said, "If it's anyone other than me, I know what right y'all will cut first. Every liberal wants to see the second amendment gone."
"I don't know that it would be my first pick, but do you really think every three-year-old needs an Uzi?" said Sam.
"Of course not. But that isn't what the second amendment is about. It's about people having a right to go hunting and to protect their families. There is no reason to take that away."
"That's easy for you to say," said Charlie. "You weren't shot at. You didn't have metal detectors at your high school."
"And we have laws against those kinds of things. Punish the criminals, but don't punish everyone else."
"Stop!" CJ interrupted. "We are not arguing this administration's gun control policy. We are merely playing a game. Now, is someone starting this thing by striking the second amendment or not?"
"I think we should leave it up to Josh," said Sam.
Everyone looked at Josh. He was quiet and didn't meet anyone's eyes. Finally Toby spoke. "Sam has a point. It is your game."
"Actually, it was Donna's game."
Everyone waited for Josh to continue. "Yeah, sure. Whatever," he finally muttered.
"It seems to me," Donna said, "that it makes sense to get rid of the eighteenth amendment. No one wants to bring back Prohibition and it was overruled by the twenty-first anyway. Tossing it out wouldn't change anything, right?"
Toby said, "The twenty-first should go next. If you remove the eighteenth, there's no need to keep the amendment that nullified it."
"I see how this works," Charlie grumbled, "You talk me into playing this game, then you take all the easy ones."
"I know another easy one," CJ said. "The eleventh. Who cares about it? Who even knows what it does anyway?"
Ainsley said, "It establishes state sovereignty! It's really important."
"Yeah," agreed Sam rather enthusiastically. "It's the reason citizens can't sue state governments except in special circumstances."
CJ rolled her eyes. "So only government lawyers know what it means or care. It's gone."
"You can't!" Sam's protest was more vehement than his earlier agreement. "It would make more sense to get rid of the tenth with its vague guarantee of powers to the states than the eleventh with its specificity!"
CJ and Ainsley spoke over each other in response to this. "OK. That goes, too," said the press secretary while the lawyer exclaimed "No! That's one of the few things protecting states' rights! It's the entire basis of our federal system."
"I didn't say I wanted to get rid of the tenth amendment." Sam frantically looked back and forth between the two women. "I merely said that it would make more sense to get rid of the tenth than the eleventh. I don't want to get rid of either of them."
"Too late, Spanky. I got rid of the eleventh and you cut the tenth."
"My game so my rules," said Josh, "and I say the rule is once you've said it, you're stuck with it. Sam used his turn on the tenth."
"You admitted it was my game," said Donna. "Shouldn't I get to make the rules?"
"No. And I'll tell you why. First, I'm your boss so what I say goes." Donna opened her mouth to interrupt but Josh hurried on before she could speak. "Second, CJ agrees with me so the rule stands."
Ainsley said, "Fine. If Sam's getting rid of the tenth, then I'm getting rid of the seventeenth amendment. I like direct election of senators, but if the tenth and eleventh are gone, we need to give something to the states. If they get to pick the senators again, at least they'll have someone in Washington watching out for them.
"But I agree with you! I don't want to get rid of the tenth or the eleventh amendments. I'm sure I never said I actually wanted to get rid of the tenth amendment!"
Josh, Toby, and CJ all yelled at Sam. It was impossible to distinguish clearly what anyone said, but the general consensus was obvious: Sam needed to let it go.
Charlie sighed. "If you guys are going to keep yelling at each other, I'm going to check on this crash." He went to the door and opened it to speak to the agent while Sam refused to let the argument go just yet.
"I just want my protest noted."
Toby glowered at him."Fine. It's noted. Now can we move on?"
"What's the matter, Toby?" CJ asked. " Having fun and can't wait to see what happens next?"
"No, but if I'm to be forced to endure this, I'd rather get it over with as quickly as possible. Whose turn is it?"
Charlie was just rreturning from his conversation with the agent and Donna pointed at him. "I think Charlie is the only one left."
"Oh. My turn?" he asked as he resumed his seat. "I don't know. How about the third? No putting troops in private homes might have been a good thing to spell out in the 1700s, but does anyone really think the military would do that today when they've got so many bases?"
Toby said, "That's impeccable logic. The government doesn't do something it is forbidden to do, so let's just assume it won't do it if we don't forbid it. Brilliant."
"I think Charlie's right," Ainsley said. "The military doesn't want to put soldiers in private homes and would only do it in an emergency. For something to happen requiring quartering troops in homes, we'd almost certainly be at war and the amendment as is provides an exemption for times of war anyway. Getting rid of it now won't really change anything."
"I just hope when the boys in camouflage are on your doorstep I'm there to say 'I told you so.'"
CJ laughed at Toby. "I'm sure you will find a way to say it no matter what."
"Does that mean it's finally my turn?" Josh whined. At the general nods of assent he received, he continued. "OK. I'm going to use Charlie's logic and say the twelfth. We needed it at the time to separate out voting for the president and vice president, but the party structures are strong enough now we can handle it."
"How do we avoid an Electoral College tie between the nominees for president and vice president?" Sam asked far more seriously than the game deserved.
"The party leadership can appoint an elector each time to throw a vote away from the vice presidential candidate. It wouldn't be that difficult. "
"But that didn't work before and there was the Jefferson and Burr tie."
"That was before there were real parties. If someone can find a way to screw it up, it will certainly be the Democrats, but I think even we've got enough discipline to hold it together for something like this."
Toby rolled his eyes. "That's the stupidest thing I've heard since Charlie's argument for putting soldiers in my house. Is nothing sacred with you people?"
"In case you missed it," said Josh, "the whole point of this game is we have to cut something! Governing is about priorities. Governing is about choosing. Haven't I heard that before?"
"Couldn't you find anything better to cut?"
"I suppose you've got a better idea?"
"Of course I do. But it isn't my turn!"
"Oh. Well, whose turn is it?"
"We should probably keep track'" said CJ.
Josh grabbed a dry erase marker from the table and held it out to Donna.
"What? Why me?"
"We covered this already. I'm the boss. You're the assistant. It's my game, so assist me."
"Now playing Vanna White is in my job description?"
"Sure. Why not?"
Donna took the marker and moved to the board. She uncapped the pen but then turned back to Josh. "You're really going to have to buy me a new dress. I don't have anything appropriate for TV."
"It's not sweeps week, Vanna. You're fine. Now get to writing."
Donna turned back to the board but hesitated.
"It was Josh, you, Toby, CJ, me, Ainsley, Charlie," said Sam. Everyone stared at him. "What?"
"You're kind of freaky, man," Charlie said.
"That was the order."
"OK. But did you see anyone else remembering it like that?"
While this conversation had been going on, Donna had written the names in one corner of the board and the numbers one through twenty-seven in the middle. She'd exed out two, three, ten, twelve, seventeen, eighteen, and twenty-one. "I'm missing one," she announced. Everyone looked at the board.
"You missed eleven, said CJ. " I knew no one would notice it was gone."
Donna marked through eleven while Ainsley said, "I don't see how Donna forgetting to mark it out justifies removing one of the most important amendments in the constitution."
"You honestly think it is one of the most important?"
"Well... It's certainly too important to have been the fourth one removed."
Toby said, "Can we get back to it being Donna's turn?
"Uh... I'm really not sure what to do. Definitely not the first. Not four, five, or six. Or seven. Or eight. Maybe nine? Is nine a good one to cut?"
"No!" Sam yelped. "You can't get rid of the ninth. That's unenumerated rights."
"So! So that's the one that says "You, as a citizen of the United States of America, have rights. Even if a right isn't listed specifically anywhere else in the Constitution, you still have it because the rights of the people don't have to be spelled out!" It's where things like the right to privacy are found. Well, there and the fourth amendment. And the fourteenth, of course. But the ninth is the most important."
"The ninth amendment has been all but ignored by the courts," Toby said.
"But it shouldn't be. It's a profound statement of an idea, of what we believe in as a nation, of the rights of the people over the government, of..."
"It's vague. I thought you were against vague tonight."
"It's not vague. It's profound. And as we start taking away other parts of the Bill of Rights, this one becomes even more important. It can fill in for anything else taken away and the courts will have to take it seriously if it's the only one left."
Ainsley said, "You take away the profound statement of the rights of the states and then defend the same for the people?"
"Well, yes. The people are more important than the states. And I still say I never actually removed the tenth amendment."
"We are not having that argument again!" declared CJ.
Josh said "Donna, would you please hurry up and pick something and shut them up?
"I'm thinking... OK. I'm going to go with Sam on the ninth and not cut it for now. Obviously I'm not getting rid of thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen. Or sixteen. Definitely not nineteen. I like my right to vote way too much. Uh... I don't remember what the twentieth amendment says."
"We're going to have to work on your knowledge of the Constitution."
"Some of us have better things to do than memorize every word of every amendment, Boss."
"I'm sure the American people would love to know that the people working in the White House have no idea what the Constitution says."
"I know most of it. I'm just forgetting this one right now."
"Just that one? So you know all the..." Josh was interrupted by Toby.
"It moved up the beginning of congressional sessions and the date of presidential inaugurations from March to January to shorten Lame Duck terms."
"I was going to tell her that."
"Before the end of our second term?"
"That could be good," Donna mused, "but it doesn't stack up against things like freedom of speech."
Toby said, "Lame Duck sessions are ineffectual. Nothing is accomplished as everyone has to wait for the new people to be sworn in. Lengthening them again is a terrible idea."
"I don't know about that," said Sam. "Maybe the people voted out would have the courage to make the tough decisions, take up the tough issues and make unpopular votes, because they won't have to worry about selling it to the voters for reelection if they're already out of office."
Toby said, "Once again you're arguing based on absolutely no evidence to support you and in the face of a great deal of evidence to the contrary. Are you going to join us in the real world or keep living in your fantasy land?"
"Would you two shut up and let Donna make her decision?" said CJ.
"Uh... How about the twenty-second?"
"Hey!" A thought had just occurred to Sam. "What happened to the rule about once you say an amendment you're stuck with it?"
"I never said anything. I've asked what other people think."
"I never said I wanted to get rid of the tenth amendment."
"Sam!" CJ exclaimed. "If you don't stop arguing about this, I'm going to throw you out into the hall and let you explain to the Secret Service why they can't toss you back in here."
"I'm not arguing that I should get to do my turn over; I'm arguing that Donna should have to stick with twenty."
"She said nine first," said Toby.
"I haven't said anything. I've asked questions."
"I never said ten."
"Sam..." CJ's warning was all the more intimidating for its lack of specificity.
"I'm not arguing for ten. I'm using the situation to make a different point."
Josh said, "You made a statement about ten. You didn't ask a question."
"You agree with Donna on that distinction?"
"Of course he does," Charlie muttered.
"Fine. But my statement was clearly not one of intent."
"Next time," said Josh, "make it a question."
"Like this: how about twenty-two?" asked Donna.
"Do you know what it says?" Josh asked.
"Yes. It limits the president to two terms."
"Or a maximum of ten years if a vice president assumes the presidency in the middle of a term. Yes, I know what the twenty-second amendment says. I'm thinking about cutting it because it seems to me we can just let the voters decide if they want a president for more than two terms and I'm asking if anyone has a good reason not to cut it."
"No one is going to argue?" asked Charlie.
Donna smiled triumphantly. "Okay. Then twenty-two it is." She marked through the number then turned back to the room to declare, "and it's Toby's turn."
"Finally," Charlie said.
"Seven," said Toby without a hint of hesitation.
Josh said "That's it? Just a number with no explanation and no discussion?"
"I didn't realize that was a requirement."
"It's part of the fun!"
"Fine. I'm ok with judges deciding civil suits. At the very least we need something higher than $20 as the minimum at which jury trials become required. If we ever get our dinner and we all get sick, should we really empanel a jury over some bad spring rolls?"
Ainsley groaned. "Did you have to mention the spring rolls? I'm hungry."
Charlie hooked a thumb in the direction of the door. "They're not letting us out so you're just going to have to deal with it."
"I was dealing with it just fine until Toby had to go and mention food. Let's keep playing. That should keep my mind off it."
"It's my turn," said CJ. "I'm striking the twenty-sixth. Eighteen year olds are too young to vote. If the government thinks you're too immature to handle beer, you're too immature to be deciding the future of your nation."
Charlie, Sam, and Josh all started to object then trailed off and looked at each. Sam and Josh both waved at Charlie, indicating for him to continue while Donna scratched out both seven and twenty-six.
"But what about the draft? We men are old enough to kill and be killed for the country but not to vote for the people sending us off to war?"
"Do we have a draft right now?"
"No. But the Constitution isn't about right now, it's eternal, and the twenty-sixth amendment was added because of Vietnam when we did have a draft."
"I know that, Chazz. We'll raise the draft age, too. Everything can be at age twenty-one!"
"OK. As long as it's fair."
Josh said, "Well that's one problem solved but you all seem to have forgotten that the kids vote overwhelmingly Democratic. When we can get them to show up, anyway."
"That's just proof CJ is right," Ainsley said.
"How they vote isn't proof of anything," said CJ. "The low voter turnout is proof they can wait an extra three years."
"It's a dumb idea," Josh objected. "We need to get them interested in government, not shut them out for longer. We can't raise the voting age. We're not cutting the twenty-sixth."
"It doesn't matter what you think! It isn't your turn!"
"Sam's turn," Donna announced.
"We discussed this."
"Yes, we did. And I'm saying to cut twenty."
"Of all the... Forget it."
"So..." Ainsley spoke up while Donna marked through twenty on her board, "we're back to me?" She contemplated the board for a moment then said, "Twenty-seven." Donna scratched through it even as Josh protested.
"You're for congressional pay raises? You want to increase taxes to give more money to Washington insiders?
"Really, Josh. When have you ever heard me complain about Washington insiders?"
"You still haven't justified the tax hike you'd need for a pay raise," Sam pointed out.
"I'm not saying raise taxes. First, doubling the salary of every congressman wouldn't make even the tiniest ripple in the total budget. The money could easily be found by cutting just one of the many unnecessary programs run by this government. Second, I'm not giving congressmen raises. Cutting the twenty-seventh would just give congress the right to raise its own pay without waiting for another election for it to take effect. If Donna can trust the voters enough to get rid of term limits, I'm willing to trust that they won't elect bad congressmen who'll give themselves unnecessary and extravagant raises."
"Once again, we return to arguing in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary," said Toby. "Are you all sharing some illicit substances of which I'm unaware?"
"I just don't think this is something that really needs to be in the Constitution. It took two hundred and some odd..."
Josh and Sam piped up together with "Two hundred and three."
"Thank you. Two hundred and three years from passage by congress to ratification. Clearly this wasn't a priority for people."
"Toby!" yelled CJ. "You and Josh need to stop fighting with everyone over their choices."
"Hey! What did I do?"
"You argued with CJ over voting rights for minors," Donna said.
"Eighteen-year-olds aren't minors and Sam and Charlie argued with her over that, too."
"I hate to admit it," said Charlie, "but he has a point. We did."
"Yeah," CJ agreed, "but Josh kept arguing after we'd settled the draft."
"Sorry, man. Now she's got a point."
"Fine. She's got a point. But Toby had been arguing with everyone. I didn't argue with Ainsley. I didn't argue with Sam and his speech about Lame Duck sessions even though I think Toby's right and it's a dumb idea."
Sam pouted. "Hey!"
"Sorry. I didn't argue with you over the ninth either."
"Those were both just because you were too busy fighting with Donna."
"I wasn't fighting with Donna. I just didn't think Toby needed the help."
"So you admit you disagree with me on the ninth, too?"
"Mostly. But the point is that I didn't argue with you."
Donna looked skeptical. "So you want bonus points for managing to keep your mouth shut and only argue every third round?"
"We get points in this game?" Sam sounded confused.
"I don't want any points," said Josh. "I just want it clear that only Toby argued with Sam and Ainsley and I think I deserve an apology for being unjustly maligned."
"Maligned? " CJ asked.
Toby said, "So being associated with me maligns your character?"
"Well... Only when I'm not guilty and you are. You argued with Sam and Ainsley."
"And I am beginning to regret that. Fine. Josh and I will no longer argue with anyone's choices if we can move on and get this stupid game over with."
"Fantastic!" CJ said.
Ainsley said, "I'm really OK fighting my own battles if they want to argue with me."
"No. They've agreed and it will be much better this way."
"But I never agreed to anything!" Josh protested.
"Too bad," said Donna. "The agreement was offered on your behalf and has been accepted."
"That's not fair."
"Tough. It's Charlie's turn."
"But nothing," CJ said. "Charlie. Go."
"I guess I'll cut the twenty-fifth. Setting out the order of presidential succession sounds like a good idea, but I'd rather ax it than anything else that's left. What are the odds of it actually being a problem, anyway?"
Toby stared to protest but before his first word was even fully spoken, Josh jumped in. "Toby! You dragged me into your stupid deal so you'd damn well better stick to it. My turn." He exmained the board where Donna had just marked through number twenty-five. "Wow. There's not much left worth cutting. I'm definitely not getting rid of the first. Four through six are nice."
"Hurry up!" Toby ordered. " You yelled at Donna for doing that last time!"
"Yeah, but there were more left when she was doing it. OK. Thirteen."
Everyone in the room stared at Josh in disbelief for a moment before multiple voices rose in protest. Charlie's was the loudest. "You want to bring back slavery!"
"NO! No, no, no. Hear me out. The thirteenth is covered by the fourteenth."
"There's nothing else you'd rather cut before bringing back slavery?"
"I'd rather cut everything before bringing back slavery. But that's not the issue. Even if you take away the thirteenth amendment, you can't bring back slavery because the fourteenth guarantees life, liberty, and property to all people."
"To all citizens," Charlie specified.
"Nope. Citizens get privileges and immunities under the law, but life, liberty, and property are for all people. Plus, the fifteenth grants voting rights and people with the vote aren't going to allow themselves to be enslaved."
"And you're sure about that? You're sure a minority can't be outvoted by a majority or that the fourteenth's guarantee of liberty is enough to prevent slavery?"
Josh shrugged. "Pretty sure."
"Pretty sure! Pretty sure, he says. If it comes down to it and you're wrong, I'm coming after you man."
There was a pause as everyone realized just how tense the room had become. Finally Sam spoke. "Just to check, everyone does remember this is a game, right? I mean, we are just bored and playing around, not setting actual policy for the nation, right?" He was met with silence. "That's what I thought. Whose turn?"
"Mine," said Donna as she moved to cross out thirteen. "Uh... How about eight? Bans on cruel and unusual punishments and excessive bails and fines seem too vague to be meaningfully enforced."
"Good argument," agreed Sam.
"Now he likes specificity again," Toby half-grumbled then raised his voice. "Twenty-four. With everything else we've already cut, people being disfranchised through poll taxes is the least of our worries."
"That's encouraging," said Charlie sarcastically as Donna crossed out eight and twenty-four.
Toby asked, "What else do you want me to cut?"
"Nothing. Cut whatever you want to. It's CJ's turn."
"Uh... I hate to admit it, but I don't remember the twenty-third."
Josh sighed. "You can join Donna for remedial constitution classes. We'll meet next time we have a somewhat free Saturday or Sunday afternoon."
"Funny. Just tell me what the stupid amendment says."
"I think Charlie should have that honor."
"It gives DC a vote in the electoral college, which is the only say we have in the national government."
"Oh." CJ frowned at the board. "Sorry, but I think that's going to have to be my pick."
"That's ok. Maybe if even that token is taken away, people will be willing to fight for real representation."
"My turn," Sam announced while Donna exed out the twenty-three. "I think I'm going to have to start chipping away at the rights of the criminally accused. I think I like search and seizure and right to a jury more than the right to non self-incrimination so I'll cut the fifth. Besides, whatever I take from there, the ninth will cover it."
Toby gave an inarticulate groan that Sam rather pointedly ignored. "Ainsley?" he said instead.
Josh, Sam, Toby, and CJ all began to protest but Ainsley declared "No arguing!"
"That was only Josh and Toby" said CJ.
"I never agreed to it anyway," Josh said.
"You would be wasting your time to argue with me. I'm cutting the sixteenth amendment. You'll just have to find some other way than an income tax to pay for all your programs. It's Charlie's turn."
"I'm not sure how you're going to pay for the military, but I won't argue with you. I'm going to trust Sam on the ninth and cut the fourth."
"That's brave," said Josh as Donna crossed out sixteen and four. "You're willing to give up warrants?"
"I just don't know what else to cut. You're up next. Tell me what I should have cut instead?"
"I see your point. I'm not touching nineteen. I'm not that stupid."
CJ interrupted, "Just close to it."
"You left yourself wide open for that one."
"Whatever. Charlie, you've got a point. I guess I'll go with the trend and cut six to make it a clean sweep of the trial rights. No one likes jury duty anyway."
"I was going to go with that one," whined Donna.
"I can't cut anything else. I can't get rid of the first. Or the nineteenth. Or fourteen and fifteen. I'm going to have to go with nine. I'm sorry Sam, but there's nothing else left."
Sam smiled as Donna marked through her choice. "It's OK. I'm not sure what I'd cut at this point either."
"Well, Toby gets the next pick."
CJ exploded. "You jackass! How could you?"
"I don't have to explain my choices. I just have to make a choice."
"And your choice is take the right to vote from half the population! Fine. Then I'm cutting the first!"
"There are more rights in that amendment than in any other single one. You're willing to give up all of that, including the freedom of speech and of the press?"
"Why not? It'd make my job easier and let me tell you to shut up!"
"You do that enough already."
There is a knock at the door and they all look as it opens, all except Donna who is exing ous one and nineteen. The agent who has been guarding their door has been joined by a second agent, who has two large paper bags in his hands.
"The crash has been lifted. You are all free to go. And your food has arrived."
"Finally!" Ainsley hurried tot take the bags of food from the new agent. "It's cold."
"It arrived some time ago," the agent explained, "but was held at the gate until after the crash."
"Wait..." Charlie was confused. "Didn't you get word the crash was lifted over your ear piece? How is the food already here from the gate?"
The two agents looked at each other sheepishly while Ainsley dumped out napkins, chop sticks, and containers of food. "We deemed it best for his safety to rush your food over here and to not send him in without it," the second agent offered.
Josh waved his chopsticks in the direction of the agents. "I knew I liked you guys."
Charlie was less pleased. "You should have told me immediately! I have to check on the president!"
An instantly recognized voice came from the hall. "I'm here."
The agents stepped aside and the president entered the room. Everyone rose from the chairs and Charlie hurried to the president's side. "Are you alright, sir?" he asked as the president waved at everyone else to resume their seats.
"I'm fine, Charlie. What have you all been doing this whole time?"
"Uh..." Charlie pointed towards the whiteboard. "Well, sir, technically we were getting rid of amendments to the constitution."
The president looked over the people in the room as he moved toward the board. "Is this what the government pays you to do?" He examined Donna's handiwork then again turned to his people. "It looks like you've done a thorough job."
"It was just a game, sir," said Josh.
"I would hope so, Josh. Is there anything left?"
"We're down to the last two, Mr. President." She pointed at the non-exed out numbers left. "The fourteenth and the fifteenth. It's Sam's turn."
"I can't decide, sir. Why don't you pick?"
"But that's cheating!" Josh protested, adding a hasty "Sir" after too long of a pause.
"CJ, how would it look if the press found out I was debating what amendments to remove from the Constitution? Especially if it were to come out that I removed either the fourteenth, granting all citizens equal protection under the law regardless of race, or the fifteenth, granting all citizens equal voting rights regardless of race?"
"It wouldn't look well, sir."
"But it's just a game, sir," Josh said.
"So you said. And since it is just a game, and since this is the White House, and since I am the President, don't you think I'm entitled to make up my own rules?"
"Uh... yes, sir?"
"Good. Then we are going to leave the Constitution intact and I am going to the Residence for the night. I suggest you all go home."
Ainsley gasped. "But..."
"You may eat your dinner first, Ms. Hayes."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Then everyone, go home and get some sleep."
"Yes, sir," the room said as one.