John Hoynes

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John Hoynes
The West Wing character
Tim matheson.jpg
Tim Matheson as John Hoynes
First appearance "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc"
Last appearance "Requiem"
Created by Aaron Sorkin
Portrayed by Tim Matheson
Gender Male
Occupation Vice President of the United States (Seasons 1-4)
Two-time Democratic presidential candidate (before series, Season 6)
U.S. Senator (D-TX); Senate Majority Leader (before series)
Family Suzanne Hoynes (wife)
Unnamed first wife
Children Several unnamed children
Nationality American

John Hoynes is a fictional character played by Tim Matheson on the American television series The West Wing. A former United States Senator and Senate Majority Leader, Hoynes served as President Josiah Bartlet's Vice President during the first four seasons of the show. Hoynes later sought his own presidential term in the sixth season but was defeated by Congressman Matt Santos.

Background and views[edit]

Like McGarry, John Hoynes is a recovering alcoholic, who has not had a drink since college. He attended Southern Methodist University and was once a lawyer, but he made his money in the oil industry. Hoynes has several children and is in his second marriage, divorced from Suzanne. His hometown is Abilene, Texas (4.22). He is stated to be around 10 to 15 years younger than President Bartlet (1.08; 3.09), meaning he was probably born in the mid-1950s, as Bartlet was born in the early 1940s. Hoynes served eight years in the Senate before becoming Vice President, meaning he served from 1991–1999 (1.16). He served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, alongside Senator Sam Wilkinson (R-Kansas) (6.10).

Hoynes is a moderate or conservative Democrat; Senate Minority Leader Tripplehorn (D) feared that Hoynes might "drag the [Democratic] party to the middle" on issues such as gun control, trade and school choice if he were to become President (4.09), and as Vice President, Hoynes lamented the fact that he was no longer "every Republican's favorite Democrat" as he had been when he was a conservative Democratic Senator (3.17). If he were dropped from the 2002 Democratic ticket, White House advisors feared that he still might launch a third-party bid, which would draw Independents and conservative Democrats voters away from President Bartlet (3.17). Josh Lyman also mentions that he is a member of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (6.13) and has strong ties to business (3.17), but it was also stated that Hoynes was anti-free trade as a Senator (5.19). Hoynes is a proponent of more opportunities for technology use in rural areas, and consequently of federal government legislation funding the same. He believes that the Second Amendment is archaic, but he is disinclined to support harsh gun restrictions during his time as Senator and Vice President. A Russell Campaign attack ad during the 2006 Primaries states that Hoynes had an 84% pro-gun voting record from the NRA and criticized him for changing his position to support more restrictions on handguns once he began running for the presidency again. He refuses to endorse either legalizing or prohibiting same-sex marriage, believing the issue deserves "thoughtful study." He is opposed to ethanol tax credits, seeing ethanol fuel as an ineffective and expensive source of energy and refusing to break a 50–50 Senate tie on the matter. It is said that his opposition to it in the 1998 primaries hurt Hoynes' candidacy. Hoynes was also a leading Democratic opponent of campaign finance reform measures, and was reluctant to support President Bartlet's push on the issue (1.22).

He came on to White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg in an elevator sometime around 1994, and she slept with him. She told Toby that she knew he was married and that it was "the worst decision of her life." She became worried that Hoynes would mention their one night stand in his new book Full Disclosure and warned him that if other women he slept with came forward and he attacked them as bimbos that she would stand with the other women.

Political career[edit]

As a U.S. Senator from Texas and the Senate Democratic leader, John Hoynes was the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 1998 presidential election. After a primary battle, Hoynes lost the nomination to New Hampshire Governor Josiah Bartlet, with his campaign beginning to lose momentum when Josh Lyman, one of his most important strategists, defected to the Bartlet operation. Lyman had been growing increasingly frustrated at the Hoynes campaign's constantly avoiding taking positions on key issues like Social Security reform, and was impressed with Bartlet's rigorous honesty after being asked to see the then-Governor of New Hampshire by Leo McGarry. After winning the crucial Illinois primary and clinching the Democratic Nomination for President, Bartlet, acting on the advice of Leo McGarry, invited Hoynes to join the ticket as his running mate to balance the ticket (Bartlet was from New England, Hoynes from Texas, and Bartlet was liberal while Hoynes moderate.) Hoynes was also fifteen years younger than Bartlet. When Bartlet won the nomination he made an attempt to display his trust for Hoynes by revealing that he had multiple sclerosis. Hoynes did not give Bartlet an answer immediately, but eventually accepted the spot on the ticket. Bartlet counted on Hoynes to deliver the South, and although the Bartlet & Hoynes ticket carried both Florida and Georgia they lost Texas in the general election.

Hoynes had a rocky relationship with President Bartlet, mainly because of Hoynes' resentment over losing the nomination and his disapproval of Bartlet's failure to disclose his medical history during the primaries. In the first season, they quarreled in a cabinet meeting over Hoynes' opening statements to the cabinet when the President was running late. When the story was leaked to Danny Concannon, Bartlet assumed (erroneously) that Hoynes had leaked it. When Hoynes asked the president straight out about the source of his resentment, Bartlet explained his irritation with Hoynes' unwillingness to accept the offer of the office: "You shouldn't have made me beg, John. I was asking you to be Vice President." This was a reference to the notion that Bartlet could not and would not have won the election were Hoynes not on the ticket.

However, despite their constant disagreements, Bartlet and Hoynes often displayed respect for one another; the President was particularly impressed when the VP opposed an ethanol measure that the President and his staff finally admitted was a bad idea, and they ended up losing the vote on the matter to prevent Hoynes from having to cast a tie-breaking Senate vote in the measure's favor. In the second season it is believed that Hoynes thinks Bartlet might not run for re-election because of his MS. Hoynes then started making covert trips to the early primary state of New Hampshire, as he assumed he would get the nomination if Bartlet didn't run. These activities ended when Bartlet publicly revealed his plans at the end of the second and beginning of the third season. With much of his staff contemplating dropping Hoynes from the ticket during the 2002 campaign in favor of Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, Bartlet insisted on keeping Hoynes, explaining his reasoning in a simple note that read "Because I could die."

Hoynes also had several run-ins with Leo McGarry (who at one point warned him that the VP was not the country's 2nd in command, Leo was, and that he'd find himself out of any job if he ever treated C.J. Cregg harshly again), though as with Bartlet, their mutual respect was clear. Both men were recovering alcoholics, and Hoynes invited McGarry to his secret AA meetings. In the episode "Stirred," he learns that Leo did not tell President Bartlet that he was an alcoholic at the time he was selected for vice president, nor at any time since. He and Leo go into the Oval Office together, where Hoynes tells the president; on learning that Hoynes has not had a drink since the age of 22, Bartlet says that Grant would have slapped him, alluding to a separate subplot. Hoynes was seen to be quite saddened at Leo's funeral in the episode "Requiem".

In May 2003, it was discovered that Hoynes had leaked classified information to a Washington, D.C. socialite, Helen Baldwin, with whom he was having an extramarital affair, namely that he had seen evidence of life on Mars. Hoynes later confessed, "I like to show off." When President Bartlet asked Hoynes if he was in a position to deny the affair, Hoynes informed him that he was resigning the Vice Presidency. Bartlet and McGarry discouraged him from doing this, but Hoynes insisted, partly because he never really liked the vice presidency and partly to spare his family further pain.

In the fifth season, it was discovered that Hoynes received a $5 million advance to write a tell-all book titled Full Disclosure. Its aim was to repair his image so that he could successfully run for the presidency to succeed President Bartlet in the 2006 election. At Will Bailey's urging, the staff put together a very extensive list of all of Hoynes' screwups while he was VP, including an apparently disastrous foreign policy trip where he offended numerous Latin American leaders. He did an interview with Diane Mathers, with his wife by his side, as part of this effort. His candidacy was announced in the sixth season episode "A Change is Gonna Come." However, he was unable to get then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman to agree to run his campaign again.

In the primaries, Hoynes initially trailed in third place, with only single digit support, behind the frontrunners, Vice President Bob Russell and Governor Eric Baker of Pennsylvania. But after Baker's announcement that he would not run, Hoynes suddenly found himself in second place, with a small increase in support. Hoynes initially attempted to outflank Russell by convincing a Republican Senator to add an anti-gay marriage amendment to the federal budget, possibly forcing Russell to come out in favor of it and thus hurting him with Democrats in the primaries. When UK Prime Minister Graty began threatening to bomb Iranian nuclear sites after Iran shot down a British passenger jet, Hoynes was mentioned to have been in favor of tough action on Iran. When the Republican-controlled California legislature passed an anti-immigrant bill, designed to upset the Democratic primaries, Hoynes promised Governor Tillman that he would come out against it, although this turned out to be a maneuver to trick Russell into not campaigning there and to make third place rival, Matt Santos, seem too pro-immigrant if he came out against it. Josh Lyman, Santos' campaign manager, speculated that Hoynes would eventually overtake Russell in the primaries, due to Hoynes' experience and greater political skill. But Josh also believed that at that point, Santos would then have become a more appealing alternative to Hoynes for liberal Democratic activists, due to Hoynes' adulterous past and moderate stance.

Hoynes' campaign suffered a massive setback when a female Senate staffer alleged that Hoynes had made inappropriate advances toward her, once again bringing his adultery to light and putting Hoynes firmly in third place behind Russell and Santos. In the deadlocked Democratic National Convention, Hoynes had only 956 delegates to Russell's 1,677 and Santos' 1,599, leading many to say he had no chance at the nomination. Hoynes' campaign banked on the theory that after a few deadlocked ballots, party activists would flood to the more experienced, better known Hoynes in order to break the deadlock between Santos and Russell. Josh Lyman approached him with blunt talk – his hope of being President had died the day in 2003 that he resigned the VP's office and his record was too checkered for him to be nominated to a high Cabinet or diplomatic position – and made him an offer of being a "party elder" under a Matt Santos administration in return for Hoynes endorsing Santos and releasing his primary delegates, stating that he would be persona non grata under a Robert Russell presidency. Hoynes did not accept the offer immediately and lost his chance to make a decision when Governor Eric Baker entered the convention and announced his candidacy. By the time the second ballot was complete, Hoynes was left with only 102 primary delegates which further dwindled to 71 and 43 in the third and fourth ballots respectively. This ended his chances at the nomination, any deal he might have had with Josh, and his political career.

Hoynes' relationship with Josh Lyman[edit]

When Josh Lyman was working for Hoynes, he vigorously encouraged the then-Senator to pick up his bullhorn and put the need for Social Security reform front and center in the presidential campaign, saying in October 1997 that not doing so would be like "running for president of the Walt Disney Corporation by saying you're gonna fix the rides at Epcot." When Hoynes confronted him, Josh said the campaign was well on the way and should have staked out a course by now, but Josh still didn't know what they were for or against, "except that we seem to be for winning, and against somebody else winning." However, Hoynes remains dismissive to Josh, due to Josh's upfront behavior. That very day, Leo McGarry visited Josh and talked him into coming to Nashua to hear Jed Bartlet speak. After hearing the New Hampshire governor, Josh wasted no time jumping campaigns.

In the White House, Josh somewhat reluctantly agreed with Leo McGarry that Hoynes was the right man to occupy the office of the Vice President. When the staff contemplated dropping Hoynes from the 2002 election ticket because of electoral math, Josh made a strong case for replacing Hoynes with Admiral Fitzwallace and seemed dismissive of C.J.'s reasonable counterpoint that Hoynes could then run an Independent campaign that would hand the White House to a Republican. Bartlet said Hoynes was staying for one reason: "Because I could die," prompting Josh Lyman's response: "Of course, he's right."

Josh Lyman is of the opinion that if only Hoynes would stick to his convictions all the time (like he does on the ethanol tax credit) instead of being a politician, there's no limit to what he could achieve. The very self-confident Josh is sure he could have made Hoynes president if he had followed his advice, as depicted in a conversation between the two in What Kind of Day Has It Been:

Hoynes: "Sometimes I wonder if I had listened to you two years ago, would I be president right now? Did you ever wonder that?"

Josh: "No, Sir, I know it for sure."

Josh and Hoynes clashed in Season 4's Swiss Diplomacy when a Democratic Senator threatened to hold up a prescription-drug bill unless top Democratic precinct captains were released from commitments to a future Hoynes Presidential race. Josh assumed that Hoynes engineered this event and was dismissive of him, and Hoynes hit back at Josh's lack of respect for him. The episode later showed that President Bartlet himself had organized the precinct captains for Hoynes, and released them reluctantly after Leo advised him to.

Later (season 6) Hoynes admits he lost the race the moment he lost Josh.

When White House Associate Counsel Joe Quincy figured out Hoynes had been having an affair with Helen Baldwin, he brought Josh and C.J. Cregg when confronting him, which sparked the remark by Hoynes: "You brought friendly faces, that was considerate." Josh also commented to Quincy on their way out that he "had better not have seen him smiling in there," obviously not happy at what might mean the end of Hoynes' life in politics. Josh was also upset when Amy Gardner carelessly noted that Hoynes' resignation from the VP was a great opportunity, leading Donna to tell Amy that Josh "doesn't leave people" and making it clear Josh cared a great deal for Hoynes even after everything that happened.

Hoynes' autobiography dedicates many praising pages to Josh, though Josh's reaction to this fact is somewhat ambiguous, seeming more occupied trying to figure out why Hoynes would write such a book rather than what he had to say about him. When Hoynes announces his return to public life, he also approaches Josh Lyman with an offer to run his campaign. This coincides with Josh's being shut out of the important China summit he had been working on for two months, due to diplomatic events over Taiwan. Agreeing with Hoynes that the alternatives ("Bingo Bob" and Eric Baker) aren't that much to smile about, Josh is seriously considering the offer. However, Josh doesn't believe that Hoynes could ever be the candidate he wants him to be, so he rejects his offer and finds himself a handpicked candidate, Texas Congressman Matt Santos.

In the middle of the Democratic National Convention, a blunt Josh Lyman approached Hoynes with an offer of being a "party elder", given Hoynes' political connections and diplomatic experience could be invaluable under a Santos administration. This is in return for Hoynes endorsing Santos and releasing his primary delegates, as Josh predicts Hoynes' candidacy numbers will decrease rapidly. Hoynes hesitated long enough for the offer to effectively expire, as Governor Baker announced his own candidacy, leaving Hoynes with too few primary delegates to be able to help the Santos campaign.

Similarities to Lyndon Johnson[edit]

It has been noted that the character of John Hoynes has some parallels to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Like Johnson, Hoynes is a U.S. Senator from Texas and became Democratic floor leader after serving in the Senate for a short time. Also like Johnson, Hoynes ran for the Democratic nomination for President, only to be defeated by a New England Democrat. In Johnson's case this was U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy, in Hoynes' case this was New Hampshire Governor Josiah Bartlet. Johnson was also in the race with a western Democrat, Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon. Similarly, Hoynes was running against Senator William Wiley of Washington.

Hoynes, like Johnson, became the candidate for vice president after the presidential candidate begged him to accept in order to gain support in the South and win the general election. Hoynes was treated dismissively by members of the Bartlet administration. Johnson was treated similarly by JFK, members of the Kennedy family and administration.

See also[edit]