With all the demagoguery and negativity this election season, wouldn’t it be nice to escape to the world of fictional presidents, where every conflict ends with an inspirational speech? In no particular order, here’s a list of TV and movie presidents to idealize when you're tired of hearing about Obama vs. Romney.
(1) President Andrew Shepherd
Movie: The American President
Played by: Michael Douglas
Approval Rating: Falls from 63% to 41% over the course of the movie, but presumably swings back up to startling heights thanks to the power of loooove.
Highlight of Presidency: Delivering a kick-ass speech in the White House pressroom, in which he simultaneously wins back his lady love, stands up for his principles, and effectively dispatches his opponent. (“This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your 15 minutes are up.”)
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Woodrow Wilson: A fellow widower who remarried while in office.
(2) President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet
TV Show: The West Wing
Played by: Martin Sheen
Approval Rating: Probably up around 65%. He is reelected in a landslide and has been referred to as “the most popular Democratic president in recent memory.” “Jed Bartlet 2012” is the second-most popular Google search containing his name.
Highlight of Presidency: Over seven seasons, there might be too many to pick just one. Top contenders include appointing the first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, schooling his opponent in a debate, and raising the level of political discourse in the country
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Creator Aaron Sorkin modeled Bartlet after Bill Clinton, except Barlet’s big secret is his battle with multiple sclerosis, not an affair.
(3) President James Marshall
Movie: Air Force One
Played by: Harrison Ford
Approval Rating: It’s Harrison Ford! 100%.
Highlight of Presidency: Singlehandedly takes down the Russian terrorists who hijack his plane.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Andrew Jackson, who foiled his own assassination attempt and nearly beat his assailant to death with a cane.
(4) President Thomas J. Whitmore
Approval Rating: Initially low, but undoubtedly higher after he helps the world pull through an alien invasion.
Highlight of Presidency: Gives a rousing pre-battle speech, inspiring his listeners to go kick some alien butt.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: FDR, who gave a mean inspirational speech in the wake of the Pearl Harbor tragedy.
TV Show: Commander in Chief
Played by: Geena Davis
Approval Rating: Pretty high, given that she almost always solves the crisis-at-hand in one episode.
Highlight of Presidency: Shatters that glass ceiling by becoming the first female president, ascending from the vice presidency when the president dies.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Teddy Roosevelt, who took over upon William McKinley’s assassination and proved himself more than worthy of the office.
Movie: Deep Impactt
Played by: Morgan Freeman
Approval Rating: Does anyone have time to conduct polls about approval ratings when the world is about to end?
Highlight of Presidency: Leads the country through an asteroid collision that threatens to destroy the whole planet.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Abraham Lincoln, who led the country through crisis with the same gravitas.
(7) Dave Kovic (pretending to be President Bill Mitchell)
Played by: Kevin Kline
Approval Rating: Climbs throughout the course of the movie, as the general public notices with delight that the president seems … different.
Highlight of Presidency: While impersonating the incapacitated president, Dave uses his Washington naïveté to cut through corruption and rewrite the federal budget.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Barack Obama, who also came into the office lacking experience, but making up for it with plenty of enthusiasm for social justice.
(8) President Merkin Muffley
Played by: Peter Sellers
Approval Rating: There’s no one left to ask after the events of the movie.
Highlight of Presidency: Maintains his character by refusing to order nuclear bombs to kill the entire Russian population. Also, he has excellent phone skills.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Although Adlai Stevenson never actually became president, Sellers modeled Merkin on the two-time nominee.
(9) President George Richmond
Played by: Dabney Coleman
Approval Rating: Apparently pretty low. Protestors charge him with “totally [destroying] everything this country once stood for,” and the police officer who arrests him for speeding throws him in jail.
Highlight of Presidency: Learning to accept his daughter’s desire to date like a normal teenager.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: George W. Bush, who also had to deal with a wild daughter, and had a similar focus on family values.
(10) President David Palmer
Played by: Dennis Haysbert
Approval Rating: Given how rapidly dramatic events unfold on this show (Palmer being forced out of office, assassination attempts, and so on), Palmer’s approval ratings probably yo-yo like crazy.
Highlight of Presidency: Helps prevent the detonation of a nuclear bomb in the U.S. thanks to his partnership with Jack Bauer.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Barack Obama is the obvious choice, given that Palmer was described on the show as the first black president, and Haysbert himself has said that he thinks the portrayal of Palmer paved the way for Obama’s election. But in surviving two assassination attempts, Palmer might more closely resemble Gerald Ford.
(11) President Jackson Evans
Played by: Jeff Bridges
Approval Rating: He has the support of at least one influential person—Obama called Evans his favorite fictional president.
Highlight of Presidency: Fighting for vice presidential nominee Laine Hanson, as she’s attacked with an exaggerated sex scandal.
Real-Life Presidential Doppelganger: Weathering a sex scandal with success? Charisma AND a healthy appetite? Sounds like Bill Clinton.