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Follow the Leaders

A handy guide to our TV presidents.

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President Mackenzie Allen (Commander-in-Chief, ABC)
Played By
Geena Davis. Creator Rod Lurie originally wanted Joan Allen—and kept her last name as a tribute.
Governing Style
Sternly compassionate, yet compassionately stern.
Legacy
Premiering on September 27, the show focuses on the East Wing, i.e. domestic issues. Can Allen juggle teens and terrorists?
Obligatory Humanizing Flaw
As a woman and an Independent, she finds a lot of enemies. Plus, people are envious of her cheekbones.


Ex-president David Palmer (24, Fox)
Played By
Dennis Haysbert played the solemn, secretive first black president—a good man hampered by a Lady Macbeth of an ex-wife.
Governing Style
Rumpled brow.
Legacy
Palmer was forced out of office last season when it was revealed he’d tacitly sanctioned the murder of a U.S. operative by terrorists. He chose not to seek reelection.
Obligatory Humanizing Flaw
None, unless you count his impeccably high moral standards (read: self-righteous control-freak tendencies). And the whole forced-out-of-office thing.


President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (The West Wing, NBC)
Played By
Martin Sheen, who’s enjoyed six seasons as America’s literate, impassioned, deeply ethical bizarro leader . . .
Governing Style
Clinton’s politics plus Truman’s fortitude plus Reagan’s hairline.
Legacy
Like many of Aaron Sorkin’s characters, Bartlet is a (liberal) voter’s dream: Even his mistakes are in the name of the greater good.
Obligatory Humanizing Flaw
Refuses to admit to weakness—including the multiple sclerosis he concealed from the voting public.



Presidential hopefuls Arnold Vinick and Matt Santos (The West Wing, NBC)
Played By
. . . until this year, when he’ll be succeeded by either Alan Alda’s moderate Republican, Vinick, or Jimmy Smits’s maverick liberal, Santos.
Governing Style
Vinick: McCain-esque in politics, Dole-esque in emperament. Santos: Deanian in both.
Legacy
The show has regained its post-Sorkin mojo with a nuanced new race for office—yet lost none of its trademark wish fulfillment. (A right-wing senator who refuses to talk religion?)
Obligatory Humanizing Flaw
Vinick is caustic, and Santos’s idealism can be self-destructive. Like we said: Dole-esque and Deanian.


President Henry Hayes, (Stargate-SG1, Sci Fi Channel)
Played By
Busy character actor William Devane.
Governing Style
Steadfastness, mixed with incredulity at the existence of an inter-galactic portal.
Legacy
Well, he certainly looks presidential: Devane's also played a secretary of State on The West Wing, a secretary of Defense on 24, and, in 1974, JFK.
Obligatory Humanizing Flaw
Inability to entirely get his head around the existence of an intergalactic portal.


President Julia Mansfield
(Hail to the Chief, ABC, 1985)
Played By
Twenty years before Geena Davis, Patty Duke played a female prez—although she played it for laughs.
Governing Style
Harried.
Legacy
Shoddy domestic policies: Her husband cheated, and her son knocked up the chief of staff’s daughter.
Obligatory Humanizing Flaw
It’s tough to be president when you’re working with a laugh track.


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