By Alasdair Wilkins
Looking to get a jump on the history books? Science fiction already has a complete list of the men, women, and murderous aliens who occupy the White House in this bright new 21st century.
The late twentieth century had a bit of a rough time when it came to fictional presidents, what with Richard Nixon’s controversial five-term administration, the suspected impersonation of a comatose president by some two-bit lookalike, and the short-lived Rigelian takeover of the White House in order to build a giant ray gun for an interstellar war (and feel free to blame me – I’d sooner be blasted into space than vote for Kodos). But with all that behind us, the future looks bright for a brave new twenty-first century of honest, inspiring fictional presidents who could restore honor and dignity to the White House…
Well, that didn’t last long, did it? Sure, Lex Luthor seemed like such a refreshingly different choice - a successful industrialist, an inventive genius, and a man so wealthy there was no danger he’d ever have to bow to special interests. He was like Ross Perot without all the crazy except, as it turned out, he was just a little too obsessed with killing Superman. He did have an early success when he led the successful defeat of the cosmic destroyer Imperiex, but his naturally criminal inclinations soon got the better of him. His attempt to frame the Man of Steel for launching a kryptonite asteroid at Earth was foiled by Superman and Batman, leading to his removal from the presidency. Vice President Pete Ross took over briefly, but then it really, really looked like he was the supervillain Ruin, so he had to go. After all this turmoil, Jonathan Vincent Horne rather quietly led the US through two crises, World War III, and an entire year without the world’s most powerful superheroes, without once suspected of being a supervillain (although there was that evil robot…).
He teamed up with Spider-Man, shook hands with the Savage Dragon, helped fight back an alien invasion, handed the Avengers over to noted psychopath and goblin enthusiast Norman Osborn (although that might not technically have been him)…and that was just the first three months.
46. Arnold Schwarzenegger (2017-2021), from Doctor Who, Demolition Man, The Simpsons Movie
After accidentally electing a space monster back in ‘96, I guess a non-natural-born citizen wasn’t quite as big a deal for the American electorate (or the Constitution, for that matter). His decision to encase Springfield, the country’s most polluted city, inside a massive bubble proved controversial, although this was ultimately revealed to be the work of his villainous head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Russ Cargill. More politically damaging was the secession of Los Angeles, which had never recovered from the earthquake of 2011, to found the new city-state of San Angeles. His sense of fashion was still known and honored in the year 200100, when two homicidally fashion-conscious androids complimented Captain Jack Harkness on his presidential dress sense before trying to forcibly rearrange his face.
7. Henry Kolladner (2021-2024)
48. Charles Haskell (2024-2029), from Moonfall by Jack McDevitt
Both administrations were inextricably tied to the massive comet that destroyed the Moon in 2024. This cataclysmic event caused a great deal of damage down on Earth, including killing President Kolladner when his helicopter is struck by lightning as he tries to flee a tsunami-destroyed Washington, DC. It then fell to Haskell, who had been on the moon shortly before its destruction to open a new lunar base, to keep the country together in the aftermath of such carnage. He moved the capital back to Philadelphia and was successful enough to win reelection at the end of 2024.
The short-lived CBS scifi legal series presented a world of fifty-two states, lunar colonies, increased life expectancies, and, most shockingly, universal healthcare. The legendary talk-show host and philanthropist served as America’s first female president (she also was one of the oldest presidents ever elected), and her vice president was an openly gay, retired four-star general.
50. Malia Obama (2033-2041), from Life on Mars
From one of the oldest to one of the youngest presidents, the second President Obama oversaw the first manned mission to Mars. Unfortunately, she wasn’t there to personally see the first white loafer set foot on Mars, as she had returned to Chicago with her sister to care for their ailing father.
51. Robert McCallister (2041-2049), from Jack & Bobby
WB’s impossibly high-concept show was about two brothers growing up in 2004, one of whom went on to be the 51st president of the United States. Robert McCallister, known as “The Great Believer”, weathered no end of crises, including wars, scandals within his administration, questions regarding his own integrity, personal tragedy, and terrorists detonating a nuclear bomb in Chicago. Oh, and he had an affair with his Vice President, Karen Carmichael. Keep in mind that none of this was actually ever shown but merely described in interviews - the meat of the show was a teen drama. It was on the WB, after all.
52. Chelsea Clinton (2049-2053), from Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century
It’s been either predicted or joked about roughly a million times, but it took a trilogy of Disney Channel movies to make it a reality. The Zenon movies, set in 2049, referenced but never showed the younger Clinton as the Commander-in-Chief.
53. President Nguyen (2053-2057), from Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman
President Nguyen, likely named for South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu, was mentioned as being president in 2054. I would say more, but the 2050s have not been a particularly good time for presidential science fiction, for whatever reason.
54. Graveney Westwood (2057-2065), from the Spy High series
President Graveney Westwood, bringing back a traditional of somewhat silly-sounding presidential names not seen since the days of Millard Fillmore and Rutherford B. Hayes, found himself the target of an assassination attempt. He survived thanks to the help of the kids from the titular training academy for secret agents.
55. President Roberts (2065-2069), from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
During the world’s war of nerves with the alien Mysterons, American President Roberts was also targeted for assassination. Or was he? As it turned out, those wacky all-powerful aliens were really out to destroy an ocean liner that was being christened the “President Roberts” in his honor (one can only assume “President” was also his first name). Which, for the record, they totally failed to do, because humans are awesome.
56. Robert L. Booth (2069-2073), from 2000 AD
He rigged the election of 2068, and then he manipulated public opinion by telling the American people that the rest of the world was freeloading. He started seizing foreign oil, killed anyone who got in his way, and ultimately initiated a nuclear war that devastated the entire planet. He then fled to the Rocky Mountains, where he fought his last stand along with his army of murderous robots against the Judges that now ruled the country. He was finally captured, put on trial for war crimes, and sentenced to a century in suspended animation. He’s not generally considered one our better presidents.
57. Hugo Allen Winkler (2073-2081), from The Tercentenary Incident by Isaac Asimov
The world patched itself back together after the disastrous Booth presidency, reforming as a federation in which the United States was only one constituent member. President Winkler was not terribly well respected, seen more as a mediocre career politician than as a capable leader. This all magically changed in the aftermath of an assassination attempt on July 4, 2076, when he dramatically took to the stage and gave an inspiring speech that provided a new plan for the country and set him on a path towards a landslide reelection and soaring approval ratings. Wild, unfounded rumors that he had actually been killed and replaced by a robot duplicate circulated around the political fringe, but these were dismissed as the ramblings of those unable to accept he had simply finally become the man he was always supposed to be.
58. Jim Briskin (2081-2088), from The Crack in Space by Philip K. Dick
Campaigning as America’s first black president (I guess the nuclear war wiped out all records of the Obama, Winfrey, and Obama administrations) Briskin came into office at a time of rising racial tensions, as severe overpopulation had forced millions of people, many of them minorities, into cryopreservation until such time as space could be found for them. The sudden arrival of a seemingly empty alternate Earth through a transdimensional warp provides a possible solution for this problem, but things rather quickly go wrong. Indigenous populations of Homo erectus are discovered on the planet, a time distortion meant to speed up colonization causes a 100 years to instantly elapse on the alternate Earth, and one of the colonists (who, in typical Dick fashion, happens to be conjoined twins) has set himself up as a god in the ensuing century and launches a war against Earth. Oh, and then Briskin gets elected, leaving him his two terms in which to deal with these problems, although he ran into trouble towards the end, as we’re about to find out.
59. Andrew Harrison (2088-2093), from The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams
This cyberpunk thriller mentions that a military state was declared in 2088, where only soldiers and veterans could vote and the country was run by the president and an inner cabinet made up of the heads of the armed forces. President Harrison, a 41-year-old retired admiral, served out the duration of the crisis.
60. FXJKHR (2093-2097), from Futurama
Like the first robot president, John Quincy Adding Machine, the question of whether this alien would go on a murderous killing spree was a key issue in his campaign. Unlike President Adding Machine, he made no promises he couldn’t keep, following through on his pledge to devour as many humans as he possibly could. He declined to run for reelection, feeling he had accomplished everything he set out to do.
History has not bothered to record who precisely the time-displaced Victor Von Doom deposed to become president, so completely had the office been taken over by corporate interests. The Latverian ruler’s time in the White House was brief, however, as Steve Rogers, the legendary Captain America, reappeared to take back the country and ultimately became president himself. Whether or not this President Rogers was in fact an evil nanotech creation of the mega-corporations is still a matter of lively scholarly debate.
*For the record, I realize that Lex Luthor should be the 43rd president, assuming all previous presidents were the real ones. For the purposes of this list, however, I’m assuming that isn’t the case, as my description of fictional 20th century suggests. By my reckoning, assuming everything is the same until Richard Nixon has five straight terms, followed by the chain of events I described, then Luthor would be the 42nd president, following Bill Mitchell and Gary Nance from Dave, Bill Clinton from real life, and Kang from The Simpsons.
This post was originally published on April 4, 2009.