On the occasion of President-elect Obama almost completing his real one.

cliff-barnes-28. Cliff Barnes, energy czar, “Dallas.” In the prime time soap’s 14th and final season, the failed congressional candidate revived his political career with an appointment as the president’s “energy czar.” (It was never made clear how energy czar differed from energy secretary. Oh well. Let’s assume it wasn’t a case of government redundancy.) What I want to know is what kind of president gives Cliff (Ken Kercheval) a job. During the course of the series, Cliff: was twice arrested for shooting members of the Ewing clan, acquitted for accidentally killing a New York mobster, accused (and not without merit) of using various government posts he held to pursue personal vendettas, carried on multiple extra-marital affairs, fathered an illegitimate child, almost ran his mother’s multi-million dollar oil company into the ground, attempted suicide and was embarrassed by the revelation that a girlfriend died after aborting his child. In the real world, this guy couldn’t get appointed assistant deputy dog catcher.

karen-hayes17. Karen Hayes, national security advisor, “24.” You can’t always count on this character to do the right thing, but she’s pretty good most of the time. As I recall – and “24” is so convoluted, you can’t blame me for having a spotty memory – Hayes (Jayne Atkinson) was at first suspicious of super agent Jack Bauer, but ended up becoming one of his most valuable allies. Her Wikipedia entry says she once fired her husband to save her own career. Come on, Karen! You know better than that!




james-heller26. James Heller, defense secretary, “24.” I love this guy for so many reasons. He’s an unabashed nepotist (his staff includes his daughter, Audrey Raines, and her boyfriend, Jack Bauer), his fathering skills are questionable (his son, Richard, is an anarchist who frequently participates in government protests) and he’s indestructible (after apparently dying in a car wreck on day five, he returns in fine form in day six). William Devane, my favorite actor from “Knots Landing,” portrays Heller with the appropriate combination of grit and humanity. He’d make a fantastic president in the “24” universe.



lewis-berryhill55. Lewis Berryhill, secretary of state, “24.” Hey, look! It’s William Devane again! He’s pretty much wasted as Berryhill – the character made just two appearances on “The West Wing” – but I so love the idea of him as secretary of state that I’m giving him a fairly high spot on this list. Aside from Martin Sheen, no one plays politics better than Devane. Both have dashing, Kennedy-esque looks, so it’s no wonder both have played JFK: Sheen did it in the miniseries “Kennedy – The Presidential Years,” while Devane did it in the made-for-TV movie “The Missiles of October” (which featured Sheen as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy!) In addition, Devane portrayed a U.S. Senate candidate on “Knots Landing,” the patriarch of a Kennedy-esque dynasty on “The Monroes” and an evil presidential campaign manager in the awesomely named TV movie “The President’s Child.” If Sheen hadn’t been available to play Josiah Bartlet on “The West Wing,” I think Devane would have made a fine second choice.

nancy-mcnally34. Dr. Nancy McNally, national security advisor, “The West Wing.” Tina Fey once said Condoleezza Rice speaks like she’s making a hostage tape, perhaps the most fitting description of Rice I’ve ever heard. Her nervous, halting cadence wasn’t very comforting during the first Bush administration, when she served as national security advisor. So it was nice to imagine stern, decisive McNally (Anna Deavere Smith) was really in charge of keeping the country safe.

catherine-walker23. Catherine Walker, chancellor of the exchequer, “The Amazing Mrs Pritchard.” Andrew and I were hooked on this BBC miniseries when it aired on American public television last year. When supermarket manager-turned-political phenomenon Ros Pritchard becomes Britain’s prime minister, Catherine Walker (Janet McTeer), a senior member of the Conservative Party, joins her team as chancellor of the exchequer, roughly the British equivalent to the U.S. government’s treasury secretary. Catherine is one tough broad, but McTeer makes her vulnerable – especially when she becomes pregnant after having an affair with a young aide. Go Catherine!

leo-mcgarry22. Leo McGarry, labor secretary, “The West Wing.” OK, we never actually saw McGarry (John Spencer) as labor secretary. When “The West Wing” debuted in 1999, it was explained his character – President Bartlet’s chief of staff – had served as labor chief in a previous Democratic administration. Still, you just know our beloved Leo was an awesome cabinet member.






laura-roslin41. Laura Roslin, education secretary, “Battlestar Galactica.” You know how one member of the cabinet stays behind when the president gives his State of the Union address, just in case some calamity strikes the Capitol and wipes out the entire administration during the speech? It’s a horrific thought, I know. But if it were to happen, you’d hope the person picked to stay behind would be someone like Laura (Mary McDonnell). Yeah, I know. She isn’t perfect. She’s a little too eager to toss Cylons out the airlock, and her whole preoccupation with religion is a little creepy. But you gotta give her credit: When the Cylon attack wiped out most of humanity – including President Adar and the rest of his cabinet – Roslin rose to the occasion with graceful determination. Thanks to flashbacks, we also know she stood up to Adar when he tried to fire her for being too chummy with the teachers’ union. She’s wonderfully human (or is she?), and the fact that McDonnell doesn’t have an Emmy by now is a frakkin’ shame.