By the time you read this, we will have chosen a new commander-in-chief. Whichever guy it is, there’s no chance he’ll be as cool as Jack Nicholson—just imagine that elastic grin and devilish glare in the Oval Office. That’s exactly what director Tim Burton did imagine in his 1996 sci-fi spoof. Best line, and one only unflappable Jack could successfully deliver: “I want the people to know they still have two out of three branches of government working for them, and that ain’t bad.”
Dr. Wilbur Daffodil-11 Swain
Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut’s semi-autobiographical, post-apocalyptic farce finds the disfigured, 7-foot-tall leader of the free world ruminating on his life and failures in the ruins of the Empire State Building. It’s Vonnegut at his most deliciously weird; freed from the restraints of logic and linear storytelling he weaves a tale of loneliness and lost love that’s almost as touching as it is absurd. While Dr. Swain (whose platform consists mostly of imposing an intricate social structure under which people are randomly assigned hundreds of cousins and siblings to promote unity) probably wouldn’t give Obama, McCain or even Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin a run for his money, in these surreal, heady times maybe we need a leader with big, crazy ideas who’s a few nails shy of a toolbox.
It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
Though the leader in question is never named, Dylan’s scalding poetic opus offers a timeless line that’s worth remembering whenever we consider an elected official: “Even the President of the YOU-nited states sometimes must have to stand naked.” Buried amongst a pile of other lyrical gems that slice to the heart of angst and youthful disillusionment without ever devolving into maudlin cliché (no mean feat), the words serve as a stark reminder that, for better or worse, the hands that hold the country’s tiller are merely flesh and blood.
“Diamond” Joe Quimby
OK, so we’re stretching the definition of chief executive to include the Mayor of Springfield, home of America’s longest-surviving dysfunctional family. But Quimby—a first-rate slimeball whose boozing and womanizing are matched only by his venality and incompetence—does speak with a Kennedyesque cadence. And the official seal in his office bears a slogan that contains more political honesty than you’ll find anywhere else, real or imagined: “Corruptus in extremis.”MTW