Wednesday, November 05, 2008

5 Best Presidents in Film

Congratulations to President - elect Barack Obama for winning the nomination!!! Now comes the hard part. He has to come through on all of those promises from the campaign, and let me tell you the last guy in office didn't do him any favors. With the Financial Markets in shambles, Jobs are scant, two wars in the Middle East and an angry world that likes to use America as a punching bag. He's got two months to figure out how to tackle these challenges before his inauguration on January 20th. So we thought we'd give him some advice. Which is why we are going to suggest a few (fictional) Presidents to give Obama the encouragement we know he'll need.

1. President Josiah "Jed" Bartlett (The West Wing) "We hold these truths to be self-evident," they said, "that all men are created equal." Strange as it may seem, that was the first time in history that anyone had ever bothered to write that down. Decisions are made by those who show up."

I know I speak for many people who enjoy politics and a good drama when I say that the West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin, was probably the best fictional show about politics ever! That President Bartlet, played by the excellent Martin Sheen, was the greatest fictional president ever! This is a guy who could tell you the detailed history of Macroeconomics in developing countries while simultaneously reciting the U.S. Constitution in Latin. Given the economic crisis I think Bartlett would have liked Obama's calm and cool approach to fixing the problem. It always feels good to have someone in the oval office who is ten times smarter than you, it makes you feel safe. Tack on the fact that he isn't always interested in doing what is politically viable only what is right. It's sad that a fictional President inspired me to do greater things, but damnit all, he did, and he did it with passion and verve. It got me through eight miserable years of the real Bush administration. Just recently I was watching TV and I got that tingle of inspiration again this time from a real person, President-elect Barack Obama. Bartlet to Obama: "It's time to roll up your sleeves Mr. President, Break's over, what's next."

2. President David Palmer (24) "Listen to me. All of you. I know you're not in the same room with me but you can see and hear me plainly enough. Take a good look. Do I seem scared? Am I breaking into a nervous sweat? Am I babbling? At a loss for words? Is my voice shaking? Can any of you look me in the eye and tell me I'm disabled?"

President Palmer, as played by the wonderful Dennis Haysbert, was the second fictional Black President of the U.S. (Morgan Freeman got there first in Deep Impact.) Palmer, like Obama was a former senator, and lawyer and like Obama made history as the first black president. Palmer was tough and pragmatic, he always seemed very cool headed when having to deal with nuclear armageddon and terrorist attacks every 24 hours. Not to mention he always had to reign in that hot head Jack Bauer every few minutes(He does get the job done though). You would have to have a calm demeanor after having a conversation with that guy. Obama could learn a few things from Palmer when it comes to who you can trust. When it comes to disloyal family members or ass hole staffers. You need to find your ace in the hole.

3. President Andrew Shepherd (The American President) "We've got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you'd better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President."

If you couldn't tell I'm a huge Sorkin fan, well then you haven't been paying attention. Sorkin writes the best political dramas. Period. And he proves it again with the character of President Andrew Shepherd, a single father who gets into hot water for dating an environmental lobbyist(Annette Bening). Michael Douglas' Shepherd is a well spoken and thoughtful leader. He, like Obama, was quick to remind the American people that these are serious times and that we need serious people to do what is not always popular but what is right. Shepherd learned quickly not to screw with the environmental lobby over a crime bill that apparently was not too tough on crime. He is a fervent defender of the Constitution and the ACLU, and rightfully so. Both have been a bit of a punching bag for the ultra-right the last few years since 9-11. We need a new voice going into what will hopefully be better times. So it's always good to keep the American President on your que, Mr. President-elect, in case you need to extrapolate a few zingers for your first State of the Union address.

4. President Jackson Evans (The Contender) "Greatness. It comes in many forms, sometimes it comes in the form of sacrifice - that's the lonliest form."

Jeff Bridges plays a troubled President who is forced to choose a new VP after the death of his old one. Evan's staff does a bad job vetting Laine Hanson (Joan Allen), and the opposition holds hearings on her sexually deviant past. Director Rod Lurie was of course making a social commentary on the skewering of President Clinton and his personal life. But there is a message here especially now as Obama is preparing his transition team and is vetting possible cabinet members. One wrong choice can be political suicide in the age of the 24 hour news cycle. Bridges' normally calm and cool President Evans gets the headache of a lifetime as the strong woman he picked is humiliated on national TV. Evans best advice to Obama, take your pick: Tums or Mylanta.

5. President James Marshall (Air Force One) "Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons. And to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and will no longer be afraid. It's your turn to be afraid."

I know I have two Presidents that deal with terror, but let's be honest. One of them is tough behind the scenes while the other one is defending his life, the life of his family and the whole damn country aboard Air Force One. Harrison Ford, as President Marshall, could have taught Bushie a thing or two about hitting the terrorists where the sun don't shine. It's good to be firm on your policies regarding terrorism, and it helps to have a Commander in Chief who can whoop some ass if need be. I don't think Obama will necessarily have to do this, god forbid, but it might be helpful for him to take a few hand-to-hand combat training courses. I'm sure the Israeli's would be willing to teach him Krav Maga. It couldn't hurt.

I hope that, you, President Obama, will be able to utilitze the knowledge from these fine (fictional) presidents and from time to time counsel (Netflix) with them when you find yourself hitting a snag. Who knows maybe something they have said or done will come in handy some day.

Stay tuned--in January the Bucket will have the 5 worst Presidents in film just for the outgoing President Bush.

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