It was almost four years ago to the day that then-Congressman Sam Seaborn's life changed irrevocably. He was on his way home from a dinner meeting when he heard over the radio that there had been a shooting in the west wing of the White House, his former place of employment. He called a former assistant for an update and got the most desvestating news of his life: his boyfriend, Deputy Communications Director Will Bailey, had been shot twice and was being rushed to the hospital.
("What are you reading?"
"The latest issue of Pride."
"I thought that didn't come out until next month."
"Today. The cover makes you look a little evil. It's a good picture of me, though."
"Of course it's a good picture of you. I don't think a bad picture of you exists, Sam."
"Well, there is that one of me and a hooker."
"It just didn't seem real," Seaborn recalls. "He hadn't been there that long, and I guess I still just didn't associate him with the White House. I spent the entire drive to the hospital trying to wrap my head around it. By the time I finally got there I was a wreck. I could barely breathe."
The 2003 shooting and Bailey's subsequent hospital stay were the beginning of the end of the fledgling Congressman's career on the Hill. Although Bailey was out of the closet, Seaborn was still very much inside of it and his conservative constituents didn't take kindly to learning of his omission. By the end of the month, Seaborn had resigned his seat and was at the center of a world of contention.
("'Conservative constituents didn't take kindly?' Oh god, Sam, it hurts."
"You're such a snob."
"And you're not?"
"Well, I am, I'm just able to keep my scathing remarks about the poor writing on the inside."
"That's why you're the politician and I'm unemployed.")
Four years later, the mess following the shooting seems like a bad dream. Seaborn was able to parlay the controversy into a successful appointment to California Governor Gabriel Tillman's staff. Two years ago, he was elected to Lieutenant Governor. He's still with Bailey, and now that Bartlet's presidency has come to an end and with it, Bailey's job on the east coast, they're about to take another major step: cohabitation.
"It's not like we haven't lived together before," Bailey says dismissively, sipping his coffee. "We just haven't been able to spend much time in the same place at the same time."
Now, it seems, they'll have all the time in the world. The latest rumors are that Gabe Tillman is gearing up to face off against President Vinick in 2010 and early opinion polls list Seaborn as a popular option for his replacement.
Seaborn won't comment on the rumors, but he will comment on his state. "Will hates California," he says, laughing at the way Bailey glares at him over his coffee.
"That's not entirely true," Bailey says. "I don't mind Sacramento. I like San Francisco. It's mostly southern California that I hate."
"We met in southern California," Seaborn teases.
"Yes, and you were trying to strong arm me into quitting my job. I remember it well," Bailey shoots back, but the look that passes between them is fond and reminiscent.
("Have you noticed that I come across as a pompous, arrogant asshole?"
"I may have noticed that, yes."
"And you, of course, are charming and brilliant and perfect. I'm not at all surprised, considering the way that reporter was fawning all over you."
"Well, maybe if you stopped glaring at him and looking at your watch every thirty seconds, he would have been a little nicer to you."
"No, because no matter how nice I'd be, I'd still stand in the way of his true love for you and the nine hundred babies he was already planning to adopt from third world countries."
"Oh, please. You think everyone we meet falls in love with me."
"That's because everyone we meet does fall in love with you." )
It was in 2002, during the tail end of Horton Wilde's posthumous campaign. Bailey was Wilde's campaign manager and Seaborn was working for President Bartlet. Seaborn was sent to ask Bailey to quit running what many felt was an embarrassing campaign and Bailey refused.
"It was frustration at first sight," Bailey says. "That's something that hasn't faded with time."
But with the frustration came respect and as early as that first meeting, the two had formed a kinship that turned into mutual attraction. Seaborn claims that he didn't agree to run in Wilde's place to get Bailey to notice him, but admits that it was "a nice side effect."
("That was a joke!"
"How many times have I told you? You can't joke with the press, Sam! They're evil and conniving and have no sense of humor! Especially press that works for crappy gay lifestyle magazines."
"Oh my god, I can't believe they printed that!"
"I can't believe you're surprised. This entire thing is drivel.")
"We never expected Wilde to win," Seaborn says. "I didn't, at least. And when I decided to pursue Will, I didn't even consider it. I thought maybe I'd convince him to take a job in Washington, maybe on our speech-writing staff. It would have been a little conflict of interest for us to be dating, sure, but it's not like we would have been the only ones. Wilde winning that race never crossed my mind, so as soon as it was announced... well, I just wasn't quite ready to let Will go."
Bailey is quiet, which seems unusual, given that he spent the last few months in the Bartlet White House as Press Secretary, and the first openly gay press secretary at that.
("I'm shocked that it took them until the third page of the article to mention that."
"Me too, actually. I think they're still bitter that you wouldn't do that interview when you first got the job."
"I think it probably has more to do with the fact that I laughed at them when they called and then hung up the phone.")
"It's not that I don't appreciate the historical significance," Bailey says when the topic is brought up, "but I really never thought of myself that way. In fact, one of the reporters pointed it out on my first day and it threw me for such a loop that the rest of my briefing was a mess."
"That's the worst excuse for a bungled briefing that I've ever heard," Seaborn says with a grin. "The rest of your briefing was a mess because your boss had just resigned and was about to be arrested."
"Yeah, but the gay thing gives me a good excuse," Bailey replies. Sobering up, he adds, "But seriously, I came out--I figured out I was gay when I was a teenager, but it's only one facet of me. It's not all of who I am. And I think gay rights are as stupidly fundamental as the next guy, but I didn't set out to make history or to turn who I am into a big deal. I'm a political operative who happens to have served as press secretary and also happens to be gay. The two have very little to do with one another, except when they get my boyfriend fired from his job."
"I resigned," Seaborn cuts in.
But Bailey feels he shouldn't have had to, one of the only comments that he made following the shooting and his subsequent outing. After getting out of the hospital, Bailey embargoed the story of his relationship with Seaborn for over a year. He refused to comment further than the general statement that he issued through the White House and walked out of interviews where the story was brought up. He wasn't, as some reporters theorized, ashamed of the outing or of being gay. He was just fed up.
"It's great," he says, "that we can make progress, but it shouldn't even matter. Being gay doesn't effect your job performance and Sam's constituents didn't have a problem with the way he was running things prior to finding out he was gay. Nobody even cared what I did prior to it. But it blew up into something huge when the focus should have been on the President, on someone being shot, on security issues, hell, on mental healthcare. Instead, the second they knew I wasn't going to die, the press turned it into both a great scandal and a great injustice. It shouldn't have been either of those things. It shouldn't have mattered."
He's much more open to talking about it now, although this is the first interview on the subject that he's done. He has no shortage of glowing things to say about Seaborn in those months following the shooting. He praises his strength, fortitude and tenacity and admits that part of his own frustration with the events was how little he saw Seaborn.
("So, apparently I'm either a pompous asshole or a thirteen year old girl."
"Oh, come on, look how respectful they were of you for... two, three whole paragraphs! Though, I don't remember you using the words 'strength,' 'fortitude,' or 'tenacity.'"
"Yeah, but they couldn't print the words 'fucking lunatic.'")
"I missed him," Bailey says simply. "I was hurting and cranky and my boyfriend was doing Larry King while I was writing attack ads and speeches for the President to give to garden clubs. It sucked. Sam was beautiful and articulate and turning this into a career boon in California while I was stuck in DC and miserable."
Did they ever consider breaking up?
"Are you kidding me?" Seaborn says with a laugh. "I lost my House seat for him. This is going to be the longest, most fulfilling relationship of my life or I'm going to be pretty pissed."
The relationship has lasted four years and by all accounts, both of them seem to find it fulfilling. They're relaxed and warm around each other, trading sarcastic banter that's softened by the fond smiles and tender looks that accompany the barbs. It makes one wonder if the couple is going to take advantage of California's new legalization of gay marriage before the upcoming gubernatorial primaries.
("I'm glad he could tell that much about our relationship by spending forty-five minutes with us."
"And that he also assumed that just because we're together we want to get married.")
"Wait," Seaborn says with a laugh, "did you just manage to ask us if we're getting married and if I'm running for governor at the same time?"
("Wait, do you want to get married?")
"The press is sneaky like that, I told you," Bailey says, but the way they smile secretively and link their fingers together is perhaps more telling than even their avoidance of both implied questions.
("Do you not want to get married?")
"You'll just have to wait and see," Seaborn says with a sly smile.
("I, um, haven't thought about it."
"You liar! You had to have thought about it."
"Are you saying you have?"
"I'm not saying anything! I'm saying that, as an elected official in this state, you had to have at least considered the issue."
"Can we talk about something else?"
"Sure. Are you running for Governor?"
"Oh my god, not this again. You're worse than the press!"
"I only ask because now that I'm unemployed, I was going to re-do the downstairs office, but if we're going to be moving to the governor's mansion...."
("....you know, the court house is right down the street."
"Sam. My dad would kill me if we did this without him."
"You're right. Sorry."
"...he could probably get here by Friday. Sooner if I tell him why we need him."
"I'll get the phone.")