The American President
President Andrew Shepherd
- For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character. And although I've not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I have been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation - being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is: 'Why aren't you, Bob?' Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, 'Why would a Senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?' Now if you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago. America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, 'You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.' You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.
I've known Bob Rumson for years. And I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only -- making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she's to blame for their lot in life. And you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, 'cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league. I've loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer. And I lost the other 'cause I was so busy keeping my job, I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now.
Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It's White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a twenty percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I'm throwing it out. I'm throwing it out and writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and hand guns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door-to-door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns. We've got serious problems, and we need serious people.
And if you want to talk about character, Bob, you'd better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I'll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I am the President.
- [Discussing whether or not President Shepherd should call Sidney]
- President Andrew Shepherd: This is not the business of the American people!
- A. J. MacInerney: With all due respect, sir, the American people have a funny way of deciding on their own what is and what is not their business.
- Lewis Rothschild: Who're we calling, sir?
- President Andrew Shepherd: I'm calling the Organization of the United Brotherhood of It's None of Your Damn Business, Lewis. I'll be with you in a minute.
- President Andrew Shepherd: What I did tonight was not about political gain.
- Leon Kodak: Yes sir. But it can be, sir. What you did tonight was very presidential.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Leon, somewhere in Libya right now, a janitor's working the night shift at Libyan Intelligence headquarters. He's going about doing his job... because he has no idea that in about an hour he's going to die in a massive explosion. He's just going about his job, because he has no idea that about an hour ago I gave an order to have him killed. You've just seen me do the least presidential thing I do.
- President Andrew Shepherd: You're attracted to me, but the idea of physical intimacy is uncomfortable because you only know me as the President. But it's not always going to be that way, and the reason I know that is there was a moment last night when you were with ME, not the President. And I know what a big step that was for you. So, Sydney, I'm in no rush. Here's my plan. We're going to slow down, and when you're comfortable, that's when it's going to happen.
- [Sydney emerges from the bathroom wearing nothing but one of his shirts]
- President Andrew Shepherd: Perhaps I didn't properly explain the fundamentals of the slowdown plan.
- Sydney Ellen Wade: [feeling the bed] No, you explained it great.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Are you nervous?
- Sydney Ellen Wade: No.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Good. My nervousness exists on several levels. Number one, and this is in no particular order, I haven't done this in a pretty long time. Number two, uh, any expectations that you might have, given the fact that I'm... you know...
- Sydney Ellen Wade: [approaching seductively] The most powerful man in the world?
- President Andrew Shepherd: Exactly, thank you. I think it's important you remember that's a political distinction that comes with the office. I mean, if, uh, Eisenhower were here instead of me, he'd be dead by now.
- Lewis Rothschild: Yeah, just vote your conscience, you chicken-shit lame-ass! [hangs up] We lost Jarrett.
- Leon Kodak: Well, I hope so, because, you know, if that was an "undecided", then we need to work on our people skills.
- Lewis Rothschild: You have a deeper love of this country than any man I've ever known. And I want to know what it says to you that in the past seven weeks, 59% of Americans have begun to question your patriotism.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Look, if the people want to listen to-...
- Lewis Rothschild: They don't have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we've had Presidents who were beloved who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand 'cause they're thirsty. They drink the sand 'cause they don't know the difference.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Is the view pretty good from the cheap seats, A.J.?
- A. J. MacInerney: I beg your pardon?
- President Andrew Shepherd: Because it occurs to me that in twenty five years I've never seen your name on a ballot. Why is that, A.J.? Why are you always one step behind me?
- A. J. MacInerney: Because if I weren't, you'd be the most popular history professor at the University of Wisconsin.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Fuck you!
- Leon Kodak: [cut to conversation in progress] You see, the country has mood swings.
- Lewis Rothschild: Mood swings? Nineteen post-graduate degrees in mathematics, and your best explanation for going from a 63 to a 46 percent approval rating in five weeks is mood swings?
- Leon Kodak: Well, I could explain it better, but I'd need charts, and graphs, and an easel.
- Lucy Shepherd: My Dad told me to tell you that he's on the phone with his dentist, and that I should behave myself and entertain you until he gets back.
- Sydney Ellen Wade: Oh. Your father's on the phone with his dentist?
- Lucy Shepherd: No, he told me to tell you he's on the phone with his dentist. He wants you to think he's a regular guy.
- Sydney Ellen Wade: Oh. Well, who's he on the phone with?
- Lucy Shepherd: The prime minister of Israel.
- A.J.: Excuse me, Mr. President, I just got off the phone with the federal mediator in St. Louis. Management just walked away from the table; the baggage handlers, pilots and flight attendants are all getting set to walk out in forty-eight hours.
- President Andrew Shepherd: You know, I studied under a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and you know what he taught me?
- A.J.: Never have an airline strike at Christmas?
- President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, however much coffee you drink in the morning, I want you to reduce it by half.
- Lewis Rothschild: I don't drink coffee, sir.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Then hit yourself over the head with a baseball bat, would you please?
- A.J.: Good night, Mr. President.
- President Andrew Shepherd: A.J.?
- A.J.: Yes, sir?
- President Andrew Shepherd: When we're out of the office, and alone, you can call me Andy.
- A.J.: I beg your pardon, sir?
- President Andrew Shepherd: You were the best man at my wedding, for crying out loud. Call me Andy.
- A.J.: Whatever you say, Mr. President.
- [Playing pool]
- A.J.: Nice shot, Mr. President.
- President Andrew Shepherd: "Nice shot, Mr. President"? You won't even call me by my name when we're playing pool?
- A.J.: I will not do it playing pool, I will not do it in a school. I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I Am.
- [Shepherd calls Sydney at home]
- Sydney Ellen Wade: Hello?
- President Andrew Shepherd: Yeah, hi, is this Sydney?
- Sydney Ellen Wade: Leo?
- President Andrew Shepherd: No, this is Andrew Shepherd.
- Sydney Ellen Wade: Oh! It's Andrew Shepherd! Yeah, you're hilarious, Richard, you're just a regular riot!
- President Andrew Shepherd: No, this isn't Richard, this is Andrew Shepherd.
- Sydney Ellen Wade: Oh! Well, I'm so glad you called, because I forgot to tell you today what a nice ass you have. I'm also impressed that you were able to get my phone number given the fact that I don't have a phone. Good night, Richard.
- President Andrew Shepherd: Uh, this isn't Richard- [Sydney hangs up] This used to be easier.
- Why can't the most powerful man in the world have the one thing he wants most?
- Michael Douglas - President Andrew Shepherd
- Annette Bening - Sydney Ellen Wade
- Martin Sheen - A. J. MacInerney
- Michael J. Fox - Lewis Rothschild
- Anna Deavere Smith - Robin McCall
- David Paymer - Leon Kodak
- Richard Dreyfuss - Senator Bob Rumson