In honor of March, the bracket-iest month of the year, The Wire decided to go all out and create a tournament for everything. Every weekday for the rest of the month, we're presenting a different tournament to determine the very best (or worst) thing in a given field. And we're doing it the way that God intended: Bracket showdowns.
We picked the field, but you vote for the winner. Fill out our interactive bracket, round-by-round, to determine the people's champion, then read through our choices to find out who we think is the best of the best. Each day is a new champion!
America’s had plenty of boring regular presidents who did serious historical things like sign the Emancipation Proclamation and talk on the radio about days living in infamy. But none of them ever kicked a terrorist off his plane, or threatened to blow up the moon, or started World War III with the Soviets. For that, we have to delve into the rich and vibrant world of fictional presidents.
Real America has only had one non-white president, and we’ve never elected a woman. Fictional America has elected… a few women! And people of color! Honestly, the balance is still overwhelmingly old white men, but it’s white men like Jed Bartlet of The West Wing, who basically functioned as an alternative fantasy option for disillusioned liberals during the Bush years.
But many of these men and women never even faced a public vote, they were simply written into their offices by lazy Hollywood screenwriters. It’s time for the people to decide. It’s time for America to decide. Who is the best fictional president of all?
Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet, The West Wing (played by Martin Sheen): He served two glorious terms in charge of Aaron Sorkin’s America, an intimidatingly smart Nobel laureate in economics who gets shot at by white supremacists, conceals his multiple sclerosis from the nation, and ends up doing all sorts of important things like brokering peace in the Middle East and “fixing” Social Security. Sometimes came off as a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream President.
Tom Beck, Deep Impact (Morgan Freeman): At first, people think he’s covering up an affair with a woman named Ellie. But she’s no mistress: it’s an acronym for ELE, Extinction Level Event, aka a giant asteroid that’s about to hit the earth. His administration’s space mission to blow it up only kinda works, but he survives the movie, so that’s something.
James Marshall, Air Force One (Harrison Ford): GET OFF MY PLANE.
David Palmer, 24 (Dennis Haysbert): The man has gravitas, but his record is mixed — in season two, he’s briefly removed from office for (rightly) refusing to attack other nations, and in season three he brings back his crazy ex-wife who gets killed as part of a sex scandal involving his brother, which means he doesn’t run for a second term.
Alison Taylor, 24 (Cherry Jones): This show produced a lot of presidents, but its only Emmy-winning head of state was this one. She ends up resigning because of a huge political scandal, but she was pretty boss.
Merkin Muffley, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers): “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” Under this man’s watch, nuclear war is declared. Not an outstanding record to run on.
Andrew Shepherd, The American President (Michael Douglas): Kind of a prototype for Jed Bartlet, but sexier, plus single and ready to mingle.
Dave Kovic, Dave (Kevin Kline): Not jerky Bill Mitchell, who slips into a coma at the start of the movie, but his do-gooder lookalike replacement, who brings in his accountant friend to balance the federal budget. Worth noting that his actions technically count as treason.
Thomas J. Whitmore, Independence Day (Bill Pullman): He’s a fighter pilot, but a bit of a wimp, although he steps it up by the end of the movie when he helps shoot down an alien spacecraft. You never saw Chester A. Arthur do anything like that.
"The President," Love Actually (Billy Bob Thornton): He’s a combination of George W. Bush’s unpopular foreign policy (and accent) and Bill Clinton’s wandering eye. Hugh Grant lectures him on national television. Not our finest hour.
Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, Idiocracy (Terry Crews): Introduced thusly: “Five-time Ultimate Smackdown champion, porn superstar, and President of the United States.”
Mackenzie “Mac” Allen, Commander in Chief (Geena Davis): Our only confirmed Independent president, who took office after the death of a Republican firebrand. Her show was neither as good nor as popular as The West Wing, but it was a big deal for a hot second there back in 2005.
Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III, Scandal (Tony Goldwyn): On the one hand, he’s a bracingly moderate Republican for the current political landscape. On the other hand, the election was stolen for him and he smothered a Supreme Court Justice to death in her hospital bed. On the other other hand, she did try to have him shot. Man, this show is convoluted.
Jack Stanton, Primary Colors (John Travolta): A very thinly-veiled Bill Clinton analogue, but he just barely counts as fictional. Just barely.
Jackson Evans, The Contender (Jeff Bridges): Our only Oscar-nominated performance. He keeps ordering and eating sandwiches throughout the movie. He’s also trying to confirm the first female vice president.
Charles Logan, 24 (Gregory Itzin): The real black sheep of the group. Part of a corporate cabal of villains intent on netting more Asian oil for America through nerve gas attacks. Partly responsible for the death of David Palmer. Has a crazy wife.
Your vote: Jed Bartlet
The Wire's vote
The Sweet 16
Jed Bartlet vs. Charles Logan: At no point did Bartlet order the assassination of any other U.S. Presidents. Winner: Bartlet
Tom Beck vs. Jackson Evans: Tom Beck almost dooms the world to cataclysm with his crappy space mission, while Jackson Evans confronts the equal crisis of the White House kitchen having no Munster cheese. Beck has more gravitas though. Winner: Beck
Allison Taylor vs. "The President:" Billy Bob Thornton doesn’t even have a name! Cherry Jones wipes the floor with this guy. Winner: Taylor
Andrew Shepherd vs. Thomas J. Whitmore: The battle of handsome 90s white guys! It takes a while for Whitmore to get going, but the man shoots down an alien spacecraft. With the help of Randy Quaid. Winner: Whitmore
Dave Kovic vs. Mackenzie Allen: Geena Davis could maybe take Kevin Kline in a fair fight, but her show was crappy. Dave wins. Winner: Kovic
Merkin Muffley vs. Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho: Anyone who doesn’t think Dwayne takes this in a cakewalk can find themselves another bracket. Winner: Camacho
James Marshall vs. Jack Stanton: Jack Stanton is barely even fictional! GET OFF MY PLANE. Winner: Marshall
David Palmer vs. Fitzgerald Grant: Palmer is a pretty shockingly bad president based on the two days in office we see during 24. But he still beats out the adulterous nightmare that is Fitz. Winner: Palmer
The Elite Eight:
Bartlet vs. Beck The eastern seaboard is wiped out during the Beck administration. Bartlet works to make college education tax-free for Americans. Winner: Bartlet
Taylor vs. Whitmore Alison Taylor does what she thinks is right, but that means she ends up resigning in public disgrace. Whitmore does obliterate Houston in an unnecessary nuclear strike, but he eventually wins the war against alien invaders. Winner: Whitmore
Kovic vs. Camacho Look, Dave Kovic seems like a perfectly sweet guy, but Camacho would break him in half and take Sigourney Weaver away from him. Winner: Camacho
Marshall vs. Palmer James Marshall faces his first real challenge. Luckily for him, James Marshall eats challenge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Palmer goes out the plane. Winner: Marshall
The Final Four:
Bartlet vs. Whitmore Okay, Whitmore. You can’t play the “I beat the aliens” card forever. Did you ever confirm a liberal Supreme Court Justice played by Edward James Olmos to the bench? Didn’t think so. Winner: Bartlet
Camacho vs. Marshall Camacho has been marching through this contest through sheer brute force, but he’s finally met his match. Marshall is the ultimate battle tactician. There’s some catchphrase that feels relevant here. Hmm… I can’t remember it. Winner: Marshall
Bartlet vs. Marshall Sure, Bartlet won a Nobel Prize. He also ordered the covert assassination of suspected terrorists and smartly maneuvered his way to peace between Israel and Palestine. But, one on one with Harrison Ford in a cargo hold? I’m pretty sure he would have to GET. OFF. THAT. PLANE. Winner: Marshall
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.