The American President

From Academic Kids

This article is about a movie. For the leader of the United States, see President of the United States.

The American President is a 1995 romantic drama movie directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin. It stars Michael Douglas, Annette Bening and Martin Sheen.



Andrew Shepherd (Douglas) is a widowed Democratic President nearing re-election for a second—and final—term. Luckily, he's wildly popular with the American people. He meets and starts wooing an attractive lobbyist, Sydney Ellen Wade (Bening). Personal and political difficulties ensue.


Though this film may be mistaken as a tribute to Bill Clinton and his presidency, it was made before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, and therefore could not have been made as a commentary on that event. Despite this, the movie has some interesting parallels to Clinton's presidency, though there are numerous differences; for example, although Clinton committed adultery with the young Monica Lewinsky, the unwed Shepherd dates another single adult his age. The film is unabashedly liberal, generally portraying Democrats as noble, forthcoming and trustworthy and Republicans as pro-hunting, tobacco-smoking and deceitful, stopping at nothing to get into office. The film is more likely a criticism of American conservatism.

Apart from this, the film often disregards the real operation of American politics. A main plot element is Shepherd's attempt to introduce and get a bill passed in Congress. In the U.S., Presidents can't introduce bills; they can only voice support or veto them. Also, later in the film, Shepherd refuses to introduce a bill to Congress. Again, this is beyond the President's authority—the President can't prevent any bill from being brought before Congress or the Senate.

While Presidents can't introduce bills, they can have friendly members co-sponsor them thanks to Procedural Extension of Powers determined by the Congressional Rules Committee. However, in the film, Shepherd directly introduces the bills himself.

The West Wing

The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin, and some ideas he developed would inspire his television drama The West Wing. The two productions also share ideologies and follow the staff of a largely Utopian White House. The set of the Oval Office was later used in The West Wing.

Actors from the film who later went on to star in The West Wing include Martin Sheen, Anna Deavere Smith, and Joshua Malina. Interestingly, Sheen plays the Chief of Staff in this film, but the President in the series.

Sorkin was accused of lifting ideas from an earlier screenplay by William Richert, but the WGA denied him credit.

Political issues

Many political topics are touched on in this film, including:

External links


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