Letter from the Editor: They aren't really president, but they play one on TV

  • Martin Sheen, left, as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, on "The West Wing" with co-stars Richard Schiff and Rob Lowe. When I started asking people about their favorite fictional presidents and politicians, I was pretty surprised it took so long to get to Jed here. Martin Sheen also played political candidate Greg Stillson in the 1983 film "The Dead Zone," based on Stephen King's book of the same name.

    Martin Sheen, left, as President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet, on "The West Wing" with co-stars Richard Schiff and Rob Lowe. When I started asking people about their favorite fictional presidents and politicians, I was pretty surprised it took so long to get to Jed here. Martin Sheen also played political candidate Greg Stillson in the 1983 film "The Dead Zone," based on Stephen King's book of the same name. Associated Press file photo, October 2001

  • Bill Pullman as Thomas Whitmore in "Independence Day: Resurgence." So, Thomas Whitmore. Great fictional president? Yes. But, to me, he will always be Earl from "Ruthless People." ("This could very well be the stupidest man on the face of the earth. Should we shoot him?") If you haven't seen "Ruthless People," you really, really should. The "Give. The Bag. To Bozo." scene is one of my Top 10 funniest moments in film. Also it was made in 1986, so there is the unintentional, but still fantastic, humor/cringe of the hair and clothes.

    Bill Pullman as Thomas Whitmore in "Independence Day: Resurgence." So, Thomas Whitmore. Great fictional president? Yes. But, to me, he will always be Earl from "Ruthless People." ("This could very well be the stupidest man on the face of the earth. Should we shoot him?") If you haven't seen "Ruthless People," you really, really should. The "Give. The Bag. To Bozo." scene is one of my Top 10 funniest moments in film. Also it was made in 1986, so there is the unintentional, but still fantastic, humor/cringe of the hair and clothes. 20th Century Fox via AP

  • Kevin Kline played Dave Kovic in the sweet 1993 film "Dave."

    Kevin Kline played Dave Kovic in the sweet 1993 film "Dave." Associated Press file photo, September 2009

  • Mary McDonnell, left, shown here with actress Brenda Strong, played President Laura Roslin on "Battlestar Galactica." She was the education secretary who became president after the people ahead of her in the line of succession were killed when Cylons attacked the Twelve Colonies.

    Mary McDonnell, left, shown here with actress Brenda Strong, played President Laura Roslin on "Battlestar Galactica." She was the education secretary who became president after the people ahead of her in the line of succession were killed when Cylons attacked the Twelve Colonies. Associated Press file photo, May 2013

  • Michael Douglas portrays President Andrew Shepherd in "The American President."

    Michael Douglas portrays President Andrew Shepherd in "The American President." Associated Press file photo, June 2013

  • Lisa Simpson becomes the first female president of the United States in the "Bart to the Future" episode from the 11th season of "The Simpsons."

    Lisa Simpson becomes the first female president of the United States in the "Bart to the Future" episode from the 11th season of "The Simpsons." Associated Press file photo

  • Melynda Findlay-Shamie

    Melynda Findlay-Shamie

 
 
Updated 1/14/2021 3:11 AM

As I believe I have mentioned approximately eleventy billion times, I am a politics junkie. So as you might imagine, Inauguration Day to me is what the Super Bowl is to people with more normal interests.

There is so much to love about it: Pomp! Circumstance! Politics! Parade! (former band kid here) A ball! With gowns! (Have I also mentioned my love of all things princess-y)

 

It really is one of the best days every four years.

The fascination, for me, started with President Jimmy Carter's inauguration in 1977.

I was pretty little, but because I'd shown such an interest in the election, my mom -- for the only time in my life -- called me in "sick" to school so I could watch the excitement unfold on TV.

I put on my favorite dress, lacy socks, a crown (as one does) and ate Mickey Mouse pancakes (special occasion food at my house).

Weirdly, the only thing I really remember about it 43 years later is that Amy Carter and I had the same winter boots. So as soon as I discovered that, they were added to my already-fancy ensemble.

So, all that said, now that we are just a few days from the Biden-Harris inauguration, I thought it might be fun to talk about our favorite presidents and politicians -- but the fictional ones (less arguing, right?)

Surprisingly, I heard from at least 10 people before anybody mentioned President Jed Bartlet from "The West Wing."

Here's a sampling of the answers:

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Dave Kovic

I certainly thought of Bartlet first but (wrongly!) assumed it would be everyone's answer.

So I thought of a couple: My favorite all-time fictional president, without a doubt, is Dave Kovic, played by Kevin Kline in the 1993 movie "Dave." Kovic runs a temp agency and just happens to look exactly like the current president, Bill Mitchell. When Mitchell suffers a stroke, the Secret Service and Mitchell's scheming Chief of Staff (Frank Langella) recruit Kovic to fill in for Mitchell.

It's a sweet, funny movie and, frankly what makes Dave Kovic such a perfect president is that Kevin Kline is inspired casting.

Thomas Whitmore

I know I can't really make this list without mentioning Bill Pullman's portrayal as Thomas Whitmore in the "Independence Day" movies. But here's the thing: Have you ever seen the 1986 movie "Ruthless People?" If so, he's always going to be Earl to me. "This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth."

Greg Stillson

Photographer Joe Lewnard chose a Martin Sheen role -- but still not Jed Bartlet. He chose the "potentially twisted" Greg Stillson from the 1983 film "The Dead Zone," starring Christopher Walken, based on Stephen King's novel.

Christopher Walken's Johnny Smith shakes his hand and has a vision of what could be ... and what could be is, in typical Stephen King form, terrifying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Laura Roslin

Multiplatform editor, local music writer and husband Brian Shamie chose Laura Roslin, played by Mary McDonnell in the mid-2000s "Battlestar Galactica" series reboot: "Laura Roslin had the Presidential nametag pinned to her unwillingly. The Secretary of Education when the Cylons attacked the Twelve Colonies, Roslin was 43rd in the line of succession and was in no way prepared for (or expecting) the position. But her first act in office was to rescue survivors. Her courage kept her from running, and her wisdom kept her from retaliating. She was by no means unflawed, and like all of us, had her own demons to stare down, sometimes making destructive mistakes. But she was also wise enough to know when to ask for help from her advisers and Commander William Adama. And throughout the series, her compassion and empathy were always hallmarks of her administration, more than once giving the survivors hope, even when all hope seemed lost in the dark vacuum of space."

Andrew Shepherd

Copy editor Kim Becker chose Andrew Shepherd from "The American President": "For me, from the movies, Andrew Shepherd from The American President, played by Michael Douglas. He showed his human, dopey side by falling in love, yet he showed his presidential side by not being bullied by Richard Dreyfuss character. He was conflicted but still stood by his principles."

Jed Bartlet, Lisa Simpson

Daily Herald food editor Susan Stark chose Josiah "Jed" Bartlet from "The West Wing" (because of course! finally!) and Lisa Simpson, who became first female president of the United States in the "Bart to the Future" episode of "The Simpsons" in the show's 11th season.

A few other people mentioned: Selina Meyer from "Veep," James Marshall from "Air Force One" and David Palmer from "24."

So, what do you think? Do you have any to add? Drop us a line if you do!

• Melynda has worked at the Daily Herald for 21 years. She isn't planning to wear an inauguration crown but does have one available, just in case.

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