VOLUME 28 NO. 5 | JANUARY 24 - JANUARY 30, 2009

The top 5 greatest movie and TV presidents …
and 5 others who really bungled the job

Last updated 1-22-09 at 5:13 p.m.

By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly

Top 5:

1. James Marshall (Harrison Ford) from “Air Force One” (1997)

We know in our hearts that most presidents can’t actually kick butt in a fight, and we don’t expect them to. But we wish in our hearts that one could. James Marshall almost single-handedly settled the mess created by a whole planeload of terrorists. (Give him credit for managing both the presidency and a teenage daughter, let alone fighting off terrorists.)

2. Douglass Dilman (James Earl Jones) from “The Man” (1972)

He was one of the first Black presidents — if not the first — in American popular culture. He got into office in a convoluted manner (two freak accident deaths, one abstention from promotion), but he hung tough and foiled internal corruption. Besides, it’s James Earl Jones. Can you think of anyone with a cooler voice?

3. Josiah “Jed” Bartlett (Martin Sheen) from TV’s “The West Wing” (1999–2006)

Jed Bartlett is like the man who portrays him — always willing to stand up for what’s right. Also, like Martin Sheen, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

4. Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) from “Dave” (1993)

Okay, he wasn’t really the president. He was playing the president. That is to say, Kevin Kline was an actor playing an actor playing the president. But he did it eloquently, with more heart than certain people ‘playing’ the president in real life (see below).

5. Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis) from TV’s “Commander In Chief” (2005–2006)

Granted, the show concentrated on President Allen’s femaleness to the detriment of policy and the mechanics of politics, but she held her head high and was the first president, fictitious or otherwise, to qualify as a “major babe” (unless you count John F. Kennedy).

Bottom 5:

1. Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) from “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb” (1964)

The world blows up on his watch. Nice guy, but you gotta take off some major points for that.

2. The President (which is the only name he goes by, played by Henry Fonda) from “Fail-Safe” (1964)

The USSR accidentally gets atomic-bombed on his watch. Another nice guy, but again, you gotta take off some points.

3. Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) from “Nixon” (1995)

We’re supposed to develop some sympathy for the real Richard Nixon through this movie. Instead, we develop a deeper appreciation for Sir Anthony’s facial pores.

4. Max Frost (Christopher Jones) from “Wild in the Streets” (1968)

A teenage hippie president? Hey, groovy, man! However, he thinks everybody over 30 should be rounded up, held in camps, and fed LSD.

5. George W. Bush in Washington D.C. (2000–2008)

Did anybody really believe he was the president? Speak now or forever hold your peace. Let’s just say … most of the nine names above could have done a better job. Even Merkin Muffley.

Andrew Hamlin can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


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