The Three Best and Worst US Presidents… in Fiction

Even though I am located in the Philippines, I’m still keeping an eye on what’s happening in the United States as of now. That’s because, as of this posting, the country is deciding who will become their next commander-in-chief. While the results may not seem like something that’ll affect me, there’s no denying that the United States of America does dictate a lot of policies that will affect the globe, even someplace like the small third world country of the Philippines.

As a geek, I have definitely seen my share of US presidents that have affected my worldview. However, a lot of them have been those fictional leaders we’ve all seen in movies, television and comics. Some of them have proven to show their mettle under extreme pressure but still benevolent enough to keep the country and the world in mind. Others, well, not so much.

So, with that in mind, let’s go look as a few of the best and worst fictional Presidents of the United States. And here’s hoping the next leader follows the good guys and not the bad.

Best: President Jed Bartlett (The West Wing)

Was it weird that I loved watching this President in action when I was a kid, even though I didn’t fully understand most of the stuff they were talking about?

The West Wing was a show that I loved watching when I was younger. But it wasn’t the political intrigue or the behind-the-scenes look at what happens in the White House… well, maybe just a little bit. It did teach me about wildfires and how, sometimes, it might be best to let them burn so that future fires won’t be as large. But that’s a different topic altogether.

It was mostly all of the characters involved in the West Wing that drew me to tune in every week. Of course, Martin Sheen’s portrayal of President Jeb Bartlett was one of the best characters I’ve seen. Although he was indeed the President of the United States, he was a man of principles and he stood by them. However at times, he would need to make choices that, while they might feel wrong from a personal standpoint, he would have to bow out and do what was right for the country. That’s something very difficult to do, especially if you’re the most powerful man on the planet.

While the West Wing may come off as totally unrealistic, especially in these cynical times, as things are resolved at the end of each episode and someone’s words wouldn’t be taken out of context for some political agenda. But I do like to think of it as something we, as well as future leaders, should aspire to. President Jeb Bartlett did a lot of things, even though they might not jive with his personal viewpoint. But he did these things as he thought it would be the right thing to do for the country’s benefit. That’s the reason why he’s still a great president in my book, even if he’s the commander-in-chief in an idealized world.

Worst: Selina Meyer (Veep)

At least the American people didn’t vote her into office?

The basic premise of Veep is that, for most of the show’s run, Selina Meyer was the long ignored vice-president, AKA Veep, of the country and most of the humor was derived regarding how no one took her or her position seriously. But, at the end of the third season, the incumbent president abruptly resigns, making the Veep the actual president of the country.

Now the head of the free world, Selina Meyer devotes her time and effort… to leave a legacy she’ll be remembered forever. Basically, all of the things Selina Meyer does after becoming the President of the United States is for her own personal glory. None of her actions have any long-term negative effects as practically everything she does is for fighting the negative press she accidentally incurs.

Best: President James Marshall (Air Force One)

You know him as the president who hates people getting on his plane without permission!

I will admit that I don’t really know a whole lot about Harrison Ford’s President James Marshall and what he actually accomplished during his term as the leader of the free world. The only thing Air Force One, the movie not the plane, establishes is that he hates terrorism and evil dictators. What we do learn about him is that he was a pretty badass guy before becoming President as he was the recipient of the Medal of Honor during his time in Vietnam and that he’s willing to fight for the welfare of his people… even if that means actually going into battle himself!

This is said very plainly during the events of Air Force One, the movie not the plane, as he doesn’t escape when given the opportunity as he knows the well-being of the passengers of Air Force One, the plane not the movie, are in jeopardy. He’s so good at taking out the terrorists that their leader thinks there’s a rogue Secret Service agent behind the deaths of his soldiers! It takes some real courage to stay and fight even when escape is an option.

Then again, I don’t think there’s actually an escape pod in the real Air Force One, so maybe, in real life, that would be the only choice?

Worst: President Francis Underwood (House of Cards)

Just because you’re willing to get your hands dirty, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be someone to admire. Just ask President Francis Underwood from House of Cards!

The very first scene sees Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, euthanizing a dog who was hit by a car. This would be just the first life he would snuff out throughout House of Cards’ run. He would personally kill two people himself on his successful campaign for the presidency, showing how ruthless he is when it comes to getting what he wants.

Even as President, Frank Underwood displayed his intelligence and cunning by manipulating events, betraying the people who are loyal to him and using his charisma to cling on to power as much as possible for as long as he can. And he generally succeeds for the majority of the series. But he believes he’s doing all of this for the benefit of the country as he thinks of the citizenry as sheep who’ll follow a strong leader, whether or not if that leader is doing it for their benefit.

Basically, Frank Underwood has a God-complex, who only sees people as tools to help him get what he wants or things that need to be disposed of if they get in his way. He is a President that has twisted his own way of thinking so he believes he’s doing the will of the people when he’s really doing things for his own benefit. If this sounds like any President you know, well, I’m sorry.

Best: President Thomas J. Whitmore (Independence Day)

Of course the man who gave us one of the most rousing speeches in movie history is going to be here.

Bill Pullman’s President Thomas Whitmore has a lot of similarities to the President James Marshall from Air Force One. They’re both combat hardened war veterans before getting into public office and becoming the leader of the United States of America. They are also both hands-on leaders, willing to rush into battle when needed. But the circumstances of Independence Day is just a wee bit different than just terrorists hijacking a plane.

Independence Day does give viewers a glimpse of what Whitmore’s accomplishments as President. Rather, his failures are actually more prominent as his inexperience as a politician has led most of his bills and reform propositions stalled as he’s unable to broker the necessary deals to get them passed, leading to a rather poor public image.

Still, during the War of 1996, Whitmore’s charisma was put to good use to channel a flow of patriotism to give his people the strength to fight back against seemingly impossible odds. It’s also inspiring to see a leader not just sit in a bunker while others fight for him. Whitmore was one of the pilots who flew into battle to try to eliminate the alien threat, showing viewers why he was elected in the first place.

Worst: President Lex Luthor (DC comics)

A billionaire with questionable moral character and no political experience becoming the President of the United States? Only in comics, am I right?

I don’t think the general public is aware of this storyline so it might seem ludicrous for a supervillain like the infamous Lex Luthor becoming President of the United States. But he did! And he didn’t even have to cheat his way because it was the general public that voted him in! Lex grabbed the opportunity of the government bungling what happened during the No Man’s Land story and used it as a way to slip into the Oval Office virtually unopposed!

While comic book readers (and anyone who’s remotely familiar with Superman lore) know Lex Luthor as a brilliant villain, the people in the comics don’t know that and they even think of him to be a benevolent person, employing millions via LexCorp as well as improving the world with his technological advancements. Little do they know the Machiavellian nature behind his actions. Sometimes art does imitate life!

Best and Worst: President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Idiocracy)

Who wouldn’t vote for this guy?

Yes, President Camacho from Idiocracy is stupid and a brute. However, you gotta hand it to him! He knows how to rile a crowd up but he still knows that there are problems that need to be fixed. Oh, and he actually tries to fix them. Sure, he could learn a few things here and there… but at least he’s trying to make the world a better place!

Who is the best and worst fictional president in your opinion? Let me know in the comments section below!

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