It has been 2 years since George W. Bush, and according to a Los Angeles Times poll, he still holds a 47% approval rating. It seems that, like Hoover, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter before him, Bush appears to be doomed to be forever hated and blamed for the bad timing of his presidency and the actions he took, or didn’t take while in office. But, when you think about it, in the grand scheme of things, Bush wasn’t that bad of a President, right? I mean, he’s got to be a better President than Darth Vader would be, right?
And he does look better in that suit.
But, unfortunately, Darth has never been elected President of anywhere, so we can’t reasonably compare him to Bush. What we can do, however, is show you six fictional presidents that W. would most likely beat on Election Day.
5. The President (Henry Fonda) in Fail Safe
No matter how opposed you are to the Iraq war, and how much you dislike Bush for starting it, you have to admit that when compared with the magnitude and tension of the Cold War, the Middle East conflict has all the potency of a Bar brawl. The movie Fail Safe takes place in 1964, only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union were at their most strained. Suddenly, a computer glitch in NORAD’s highly sophisticated defense system malfunctions, and directs a bomber group chock full of nuclear weapons to head to Moscow and bomb the shit out of it.
Now where do you suppose we’ve heard that before?
There’s no way to call the bombers back, because they’ve already crossed the “fail safe” point and the pilots are taught to ignore radio chatter because it could be the enemy trying to misdirect them. Knowing full well someone was going to get fired over this mess, the generals in charge alert the President. As is to be expected, he’s more than a little pissed off. What is unexpected is that he develops a plan of action faster than the military guys: use our own fighter jets to shoot the bombers down. A great plan, except the fighters ran out of gas before they reached the bombers and crashed.
The President was not best pleased by that.
So, it was time for him to resort to plan B. He contacted the Soviets to advise them of the situation and told his commanders to assist the Russians in shooting down the rogue planes through any means necessary. They manage to shoot down all but one of the bombers, but that one plane still has enough explosive to level the city. Moscow is destroyed, and millions are killed. The Soviets of course realize this was an accident, and it wasn’t like they were going to now fire off all their ICBMs in retaliation, but the President decides to avoid World War III by the most insane means possible: a self retaliatory strike on New York City.
It’s not like we needed this piece of crap anyway.
That’s right: The President of the United States decides it’s an appropriate course of action to order our own bombers to nuke Manhattan. His response to millions of accidental deaths? Millions of intentional deaths. Even the Soviets are telling him that this is crazy, and not to do this, but he didn’t listen. To grind the wound even further, he tells one of his friends to give the order, knowing full well that the guy’s wife and kids are in the city. You’re telling us that ANYTHING George did is worse than THAT?
Has not yet added “Metropolis Destroyer” to his list of accolades.
4. President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) in Independence Day
Tommy Whitmore had the misfortune of being the Head Man when aliens in humongous ships show up and blow up his house on Pennsylvania Avenue, and using lasers of mass destruction on major American cities. His response to this was to fly out to Area 51, home of the Alien corpses, and put the fate of the world in the hands of his press secretary’s ex husband.
Even Jeff Goldblum is confused by this decision.
The President has a telepathic experience with a captured alien, before having his bodyguards shoot it several times. Then he approves a bold plan to take care of the invaders once and for all. The remaining Air Force fighters would draw the aliens out to do battle, while Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith would go to the mother ship in a stolen fighter and upload a virus that would destroy the aliens. Let’s ignore the compatibility issues and all that bullcrap; it happened in the movie, so we accept it.
It may cost us a bit of our souls sometimes, but we accept it.
What puts President Whitmore on this list is the fact that he decides the best course of action is to lead the fighters in the attack on the nearest Disk of Death. This is highly stupid for several reasons. Firstly, he may be a former fighter pilot, but how much airtime has he had in the seat of an F-16 lately? He’s got to be out of practice, and a small mistake is enough to take a nosedive into the desert at Mach One. Secondly, he’s the President, which makes his fighter Air Force One, which means all the other pilots are going to go out of their way to protect him. If you’re too busy saving the President’s ass to complete the mission, you could get yourself killed, or worse, fail the mission, which in this case would have disastrous results.
Besides, Clint Eastwood hasn’t flown a jet since Firefox.
But most egregious of all is the fact that the President is probably the only member of the chain of command still alive by this point. We saw the aliens blow up Washington DC, toasting countless public officials, and they told us that the aliens took out NORAD, along with most of the nation’s military leaders. The President is probably the only man left who can command both the civilians and the military. If he gets his ass shot down, even if the mission succeeds, who’s going to lead the nation in the rebuilding effort? The nation’s political, military, and economic centers are all gone, it’s going to take someone with a strong hand to get America back on track. And that man is not Jeff Goldblum.
Suave though he may be.
3. President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) in Air Force One
Harrison Ford would probably make a list of “Most Badass Fictional Presidents,” and there’s a reason for that. After Sirius Black and a crew of very angry Russians hijack Air Force One, The President kills every single one of them, with a variety of guns, with his bare hands, and occasionally, with the very wind itself.
You know, I’d be willing to bet that there’d be a lot more respect for W. if he had led the invasion of Iraq himself.
But amidst all that condensed awesome, the bigger picture of how stupid the President’s decision to go John Wayne was. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, he shows blatant disregard for the lives that were sacrificed to protect him. During the initial takeover, when the highly trained Secret Service agents somehow missed every single terrorist while it only took a single burst from a machine gun to kill them, two agents dodged the gunfire to grab the President and take him to the handy escape pod located in the belly of the plane. He decides it’s best not to get in the pod, and everyone who was killed trying to protect him: the Secret Service agents, the people caught in the crossfire, the flight crew, all of them died for absolutely no reason at all.
At least Henry Fonda the Nuke Dropper agonized over his decision, this guy doesn’t even give a fuck.
His executive chicanery caused more deaths, including the flight crew of a KC-135 aircraft and the pilot of an F-16 when they were exploded, and the poor folks who fell out of the aircraft without parachutes towards the end of the movie. But that’s not even the worst part. If the President got his ass killed, not only would it make the United States look weak, but it would also be a major victory for terrorists the world over. They would be encouraged to try even bolder stunts, smelling blood in the water. Many more innocent people would be killed. And there’s a still worse possibility to consider. With the death of the President, the Vice President would assume the Presidency, and that’s Glenn Close. Do you really want Cruella De Ville to be your leader?
God help us all.
2. President Alan Richmond (Gene Hackman) in Absolute Power
Gene Hackman is the kind of man you’d expect to be elected President of the United States. He’s charismatic, has a good speaking voice, is very intelligent, he aged well, and he’s beautifully corrupt.
This guy retired from acting a few years ago to start writing novels about pirates. He’s just that awesome.
In Absolute Power, the Hack Man plays the President, Alan Richmond, who’s having an affair with the wife of his best friend and chief political backer. Not only is this normal practice in Washington politics, sometimes it’s actually necessary to get things done. How do you think Kennedy resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis? He did what he did best: bone something.
Wondering what he’s thinking about? I already know. Hint: it involves boning.
Things go south when the woman goes letter opener crazy on the Commander in Chief, and Secret Service Agent Scott Glenn is forced to shoot her several times. His secretary arrives on the scene and decides the best course of action is to frame a burglar for the shooting. This plan would have worked out beautifully-except that there actually was a burglar in the house at the time-one Clint Eastwood.
Can I sneak in another In the Line of Fire joke? No? Oh well, this badass picture will have to suffice.
After attempting to kill Clint, Eastwood takes offense and presents the woman’s husband with the incriminating evidence-the bloody letter opener. The guy then walks into the President’s office, stabs the guy with the letter opener, and then comes out and tells everyone it was suicide. That man’s balls of steel aside, there are many mistakes the President makes here. Firstly, he forgets that as the President, he’s entitled to as much ass as he could handle, as long as it doesn’t make him look bad. Hell, he could probably call up a hooker on the White House secure line, have her driven to the White House, do the nasty with her in the Oval Office, and then stroll naked out of the place with a big smile on his face and no one would say a word to him.
But why in the name of all that is holy would you want to be getting it on with the wife of your best friend, the guy who made your political career happen, and someone who could ruin it just as easily? That’s like the one woman, short of the Queen of England, that you wouldn’t want to be caught having sex with. Secondly, once the woman was lying dead on the floor, would you take the chance by blaming it all on some fictional burglar? You could have come up with a million explanations: you could have made her body disappear without a trace, thrown it in the woods and say the BTK killer did it, you could have even killed some homeless guy and made it look like they killed each other in a shootout.
I hear Chappaquiddick is an excellent place to dispose of unwanted corpses.
But no, you’re going to let the police get involved, and cops aren’t stupid, there’s a very good chance you’d get found out. Finally, you discover there’s a witness to your crime, so you have to silence the witness. You could pay him off, make him disappear, send him on a slow cruise to Hawaii, make him Secretary of the Interior, Christ, anything other than trying to snipe the guy in broad daylight at a café with a bunch of other witnesses. That’s just dumb.
Besides, everyone knows you can’t kill a man when he’s wearing a fedora.
1. The President (Stanley Anderson) in Armageddon
An asteroid the size of Texas is set to hit Earth in 18 days, destroying all life on Earth down to the last microbe. It’s 1998, so we haven’t had enough time to invent space lasers, so NASA is forced to improvise. Their plan: to send a team of roughneck oil drillers and some astronauts up to the asteroid, drill a hole in it, drop a nuke down the hole, and blow the SOB in half, which would send the pieces safely around Earth. The President approves this plan because what else is he going to do? Negotiate?
“America does not negotiate with asteroids.”
So, The Prez makes an epic speech, and sends his boys on their way. Things go according to plan, except the opposite. Because the astronauts keep blowing shit up and going out of radio contact. Half of them are dead. What’s a President to do? Well, for this President, he panicked.
“Hold on a second Mr. President. This is no time to call in the dogs.”
Because the U.S. military always has a backup plan, and also because the military was already scraping the bottom of the barrel in the first place with this plan, you know that the backup plan was going to be Gary Busey crazy. And this one was. If, for any reason, the astronauts came out of contact with mission control, the plan was to detonate the nuclear weapon. In this case, the nuke was on the surface of the asteroid, where it would do about as much damage as a faceslap to Arnold Schwarzeneggar. It would also kill all of the remaining astronauts, and pretty much doom the Earth. Isn’t this a brilliant plan?
Not even this guy could make it come together.
It’s a plan that doesn’t make sense. The President has been told that detonation on the surface won’t work. He also knows that the astronauts are still alive, and that the nuke was their only hope. This is like throwing yourself into a volcano in the hope that you can push the button to make it stop erupting, which is almost at the lava, and is only 3 inches wide. So, blowing the USA’s load prematurely would probably result in all of them dying, just like if the astronauts failed. So why not give the astronauts a chance?
After all, this guy is overqualified to save the day.
As it was, the astronauts were able to stop the countdown, but as a result, were unable to detonate it remotely, which meant that Bruce Willis had to sacrifice himself to complete the mission. Thanks a lot, Mr. President, you killed a true American Patriot. Because you’re a pussy.
By Ben Adelman