John Kennedy's "great heart," Jimmy Carter's "morality" and Bill Clinton's "intelligence,"
all rolled into one, make up the "fantasy" of The West Wing's "President Bartlet," actor Martin Sheen suggested last
week to PBS's Charlie Rose. Sheen declared of President Clinton: "I think he was probably the brightest President of the 20th
In contrast, of Ronald Reagan he opined: "I don't think he was a great President."
On the October
3 Charlie Rose show, Sheen said he'd have great difficulty playing a President based on Reagan. When Rose asked if
he'd give Reagan "some credit" for the "decline of the Soviet empire," Sheen refused: "No, I think there are other ways to
do that sort of thing. But, no, he pounded them into the dust, basically, you know, he made it impossible to compete." Sheen
complained about "the cost. We're still not able to get rid of all the weapons that were built on both sides, you know. We're
still stuck with these."
MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth took down the relevant portions of the interview with Sheen, who
plays Democratic "President Josiah Bartlet" on NBC's The West Wing.
Sheen proposed: "I think if you took three
Presidents that I happen to admire very greatly and put them all together, you'd have the fantasy of Bartlet and that would
be John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton."
Rose: "Really? Which part would you take from each?"
"Well, I would take John Kennedy -- his charm and his wit, and his great heart. And I would take Jimmy Carter's morality,
and I would take Bill Clinton's intelligence. I think he was probably the brightest President of the 20th century. I really
do. The fact that he got there."
Rose: "A lot of people believe that actually. And others will say Carter was even
smarter, I mean, in terms of raw IQ.... And I don't know, I mean, everybody said Clinton's smart, I never met a person that
didn't say he's one of the smartest guys I've ever seen."
Sheen: "He has that intellectual curiosity about everything
and everybody all the time."
Rose soon wondered: "Would you have played this character if he was not a liberal Democrat
Catholic from, if in fact he was a--"
Rose: "Yeah. If he was a combination of, let's
say, Teddy Roosevelt's a Republican. Ronald Reagan is a-"
Sheen, referring to Roosevelt: "But he would have been a
Democrat if he were living now, I believe. He was more Democratic than he was a Republican."
Rose: "You're not letting
the Republicans off here."
Sheen: "No, sir."
Rose: "If he was a combination of Ronald Reagan, say, who had a
Sheen: "He had a great heart and a gift as an actor. But I don't think he was a great President, no."
"What about, I mean, won't you give him some credit for the Soviet, decline of the Soviet empire?"
Sheen: "No, I think
there are other ways to do that sort of thing. But, no, he pounded them into the dust, basically, you know, he made it impossible
Rose: "He made them realize they couldn't win. And they realized they couldn't compete."
"They couldn't compete, but look at the cost. We're still not able to get rid of all the weapons that were built on both sides,
you know. We're still stuck with these, you know. The treaties are still trying to be worked out."
Rose tried again:
"Would you play if it was a combination of George Bush, 43, Ronald Reagan, and Herbert, and not Herbert Hoover-"
"George Bush Sr."
Rose: "Well, Senior, take Senior if you'd like, number 41. George Bush Sr., Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald
Reagan. Suppose it was an amalgam of them?"
Sheen: "Well, I don't know if I could, frankly."
"I played President Kennedy once and I didn't feel up to it at all. I mean, I didn't think anyone could do it and maybe no
one should have because he was so powerful and he was, he was so beloved, you know, it was very difficult. But, in fact, I
did him because I loved him and my wife talked me into it basically because she said if by your doing him, you prevent someone
from playing him who didn't love him, it's a good thing. So I went with that."
Rose: "Okay, but I'm not getting an
answer to my one question."
Sheen: "I'm not trying to answer it."
Rose: "Would you play it if it wasn't somebody
you admired, they had values that they were conservative, they were a hawk, and they wanted to dominate the world."
to The West Wing's creator/writer, Sheen replied: "I'll put it this way: If Aaron Sorkin wrote it, I would do it."
"You think that much of him?"
Sheen: "I would play anything that he writes with pleasure."