The 5 Greatest and Worst Fictional Presidents

roslin.jpgBy Teague Bohlen

Our long national nightmare is almost over?and by that I mean after todday, there will finally be no more political ads, infinitely fewer political arguments and hopefully less people foisting their political views on you with the tiniest opening. With the nation neck-deep in today’s real-life Presidential election (and affiliated bullshit), perhaps it?s time we hearken back to those pop-culture presidents that either inspired us (not all that tough to do, in the vacuum of entertaining dramatic story arcs) or didn?t (which is actually easier to do in the real world, but whatever). After all, helping to decide the leader of the free world is a stressful thing, but at least we can turn these assholes off.


5) Julia Mansfield, Hail to the Chief

Played by the estimable Patty Duke in this 1985 series, President Mansfield was tough to judge on even basic leadership qualities. This was an administration with a laugh track, which made it easier to know where the jokes were?something that we could use these days, when we have to watch The Daily Show to figure that out. The best part of the Mansfield Presidency, though, was the fact that she had this identical cousin. They laughed alike and walked alike, at times they even talked alike. You could lose your mind.

4) David Palmer, 24
President Palmer was a good man caught up in the intrigue that makes the universe of 24 what it is. Sure, he was ousted from office, but then he got assassinated, which means he automatically goes up a few notches on the historical roster of leaders. Pathos like that is tough to come by, as are automatic bumps in the approval ratings afforded you by the history books. Sadly, it?s a trick that a president can only do the one time.

3) Laura Roslin, Battlestar Galactica

Okay, see, too many women president storylines put the woman first and the president second. Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) is a former Secretary of Education who finds herself thrust into the highest office (funny how that happens a lot with women presidents) and manages not only to lead the ragtag remnants of humanity, but also battle breast cancer at the same time. It?s said that current Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings keeps a picture of President Roslin on her office wall, just to remind her of her duty once the Cylons attack.

2) Jed Bartlett, The West Wing

President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) was something of a dream president: a democrat, sure, but the show took pains to paint his conservative opposition in equally noble light. Well, some of them anyhow. Okay, mainly John Goodman and Alan Alda, but still. Anyway, Bartlett was intelligent (he was an economic genius), literate (he could expound on everything from the classics to philosophy), and ethical to a fault. Which of course means that he?s right there bellying up to the mythological bar with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the smart blonde.

1) Harrison Ford, Air Force One

His name was President James Marshall in the film, but really, no one cared. The point is that all Americans really want is a president who can kill bad guys. Personally.



5) Mackenzie Allen, Commander in Chief

Geena Davis plays a political Independent (formerly Republican) Vice President who is suddenly thrust into the most powerful job in the free world when the President dies suddenly, and must struggle to do what?s best for her country?and her family. (Wait?this sounds familiar?) Aside from the weakness in the premise?that a woman can?t do the job without familial distraction?Geena Davis as the President sort of takes the whole thing in a weird direction, as the First Husband turns into a Fly halfway through her first term, and proceeds to vomit upon and attempt to digest the Prime Minister of Who-Cares-istan.

4) James Dale, Mars Attacks!

Can Jack Nicholson not be Jack Nicholson? The answer is: sometimes. But not in Mars Attacks!, in which he plays the President of the United States James Dale (as well as one other role), and tries to make nice with the Martians (and gets skewered by a Martian flag for his trouble). C?mon. If Martians come to American soil, and Jack Nicholson is the only thing standing between us and the invasion, then I want the Jack from The Shining to show up. Grab an axe and let?s kick some Martian ass, Jack. Let?s go.

3) The President from Escape from New York

Okay, first off, how a guy with a British accent becomes President of the United States is something I don?t know. But whatever. Donald Pleasance sort of kicks ass at some points in this movie, especially when he shoots the Duke of New York?but even then, he seems to do it more out of revenge for his own suffering than to save Snake Plisskin. And in the end, he?s just another political weasel, out for himself, willing to do anything it takes to survive, his fate hanging on a very important tape. Can you tell this movie was written right after Watergate?

2) Prez Rickard, The Prez
Idealism (and symbolism) run amok in this short-lived 1973 DC series by Joe Simon (creator of Captain America), which portrayed a teenage President of the United States. Named Prez by his mom because she thought he should be president someday (seriously), President Rickard grew up in Steadfast, Middle America. That?s not a vague description with a misplaced comma?that?s the town and state (I guess) in which Prez grew up. And that pretty much tells you the story of why this comic book?and President?sucked. But just in case: he was also a martial arts expert who fought legless vampires. Game and match, Mr. President!

1) President Schwarzenegger, The Simpsons Movie
President ?I was elected to lead, not to read? Schwarzenegger just barely beats The Prez because of one thing: he?s one Constitutional amendment away from being real. Whether he?d be happy or not is another question. After all, in his own words: ?Ach! Everyting is ?crisis dis? and ?end-of-de-world dat?! No one opens with a joke! I miss Danny DeVito.”