The war on crime and its effects underline the activities at the White House as Toby finishes the State of the Union Address a few weeks early, and a pregnant Joey Lucas polls responses to the speech from everyday people. Charlie is intrigued by rookie journalist Meeshell Anders (Gabrielle Union) and begins dating her, but her future work assignment causes an irreparable rift between them. Toby hires a young new assistant named Rena, who came to work at the White House during the earlier shutdown.
The pardons issue takes center stage, as Abbey pressures her husband to pardon a Native American tribal leader convicted of killing two FBI agents in North Dakota, the GOP wants leniency for an imprisoned ex-Governor in failing health, Josh fobs off the assignment of reviewing a very short list of pardon candidates on Donna, and the family ties of one possible candidate lead to a brutal decision with devastating real world consequences. President Bartlet makes a stand when a highway-improvements bill includes a GOP rider for reducing judicial discretion in sentencing. Bartlet opposes the mandatory minimums and guidelines for prison sentences, vetos the measure, makes a speech about how being tough on crime needs to go along with being smart on crime, and pardons over 30 inmates. He then tells one of them to make the most of this opportunity.