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Obama will have to do better than these black Presidents
Happily, it won't be hard.

David Palmer (24): A trusting man easily manipulated by those close to him and apparently consumed with fear over public riots, his accomplishments include authorizing an illegal raid into xYugoslavia that later triggered a wave of kidnappings, murders and attempted assassinations during primary season. This would turn out to be the high point of his career, since he was later temporarily deposed by his own cabinet and the incompetence of his trusted intelligence agencies led to the the hostile detonation of a nuclear device on American soil. Sorry, make that the first hostile detonation of a nuclear device on American soil. It wasn't the last.

Inexplicably, despite Palmer's many catastrophic decisions the US would later elect his brother - then notable for an extra-marital affair that ended with blackmail, two or three murders, a kidnapping and a suicide - as President.

Can Obama outperform David Palmer? Yes, because even George W. Bush outperformed David Palmer.

Tom Beck (Deep Impact: An inspiring orator and apparently competent administrator, he had the monumental bad luck to be President in the run up to what could have been an Extinction Level Event for the world. Although America took part in (and probably paid for most of) an international effort to destroy the asteroid responsible, these efforts were only partially successful and much of the Eastern seaboard was lost.

The creation of Arks filled with the best and the brightest probably annoyed all those people who failed to make the cut, many of whom would have survived to the next election.

Can Obama outperform Beck? Statistically, natural ELEs are a fairly atypical event in US politics and I expect this particular challenge will not come up. It's not hard to be luckier than Beck.

Douglass Dilman (The Man): Although President, he was not elected to the position but rather was rose to the position after a freak accident killed the previous President and two of his successors.

Can Obama outperform Diman? Yes, because unlike Dilman, we know Obama is capable of winning an election and earning the legitimacy that comes with winning an election.

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You are forgetting our most successful: President Lindberg (The Fifth Element). He maintained control of a tense situation, and ultimately it was his leadership that kept Evil and Zorg at bay.

I thought about him but was he a US president or some large polity's president?

I thought he was "President of Earth".

Wait, you mean that isn't the same thing?

Tangentially, has there been much written set in an alternate world in which Al Gore became president? Just wondering.

I think Ken MacLeod had something but I did not read it.

Very mild spoilers for The Execution Channel

Yeah, The Execution Channel. The gimmick is that virtually nothing changes (indeed in the apparently obligatory-these-days "extras" at the back, he admits to doing it entirely to free himself up creatively for writing near-future stuff). There's a nice DBWI moment where a libertarian-caricature blog post talks about how 9/11 is Gore's fault for Cruise-missiling bin Laden and provoking Al Qaida, or something like that.

Re: Very mild spoilers for The Execution Channel

I have to read this some time because I am quite unfairly irritated at the descriptions I've heard of this book, which to me seem to verge on Naderesque "they're all really the same, you know." If I am going to have a conditioned negative reflex to a book, it should be to the book itself and not second hand descriptions.

Re: Very mild spoilers for The Execution Channel

It's slightly more subtle than that. MacLeod's point is not that Gore would've been the same as Bush, but that history is not determined by who's president as much as by more fundamental geopolitical currents.

Re: Very mild spoilers for The Execution Channel

Concur. I didn't think it was heavy-handed or snide at all.

Also it has an excellent North Korea joke near the end.

Do you remember this one: I presume Obama will do better than Wilde, although there are still some weeks to his inauguration.

Note that a libertarian wrote this book.

Don't forget that Beck apparently didn't think it worthwhile to try and evacuate the US East Coast in the months before impact, instead letting everyone hang around until the last minute and therefore insuring lots more folks died. I can only imagine what happened when people actually caught on to this fact.

I thought the original impact site was supposed to be in Canada? The ocean strike was because the first attempt to destroy the rock split it into one faster moving fragment and one larger, slower moving fragment. Or do I misremmeber?

From the plot description, the initial strike was evidently of K-T Event level, so why bother? And after the comet was split, even with enough time to run a lottery, there evidently wasn't enough time to evacuate people properly.

Of course I'd still be inclined to get people to move away from the coasts as a precaution, because even if the comet was properly destroyed, there might be enough smaller pieces coming down to result in massive tidal waves. But I'd probably put in a disclaimer to the population that if the nuking doesn't work, no place should be considered safe.

I don't suppose this counts as fiction, precisely, but I seem to recall that Heinlein's expanded Expanded Universe (which Heinlein didn't want sold outside the U.S., IIRC) had a what-if-type essay in which a black woman ends up as president of the U.S. because she was a balance-the-ticket vice president.

And she Fixes Everything.

...but only because she has red hair? ;')

Does Nichelle Nichols have red hair? Because that's who RAH makes POTUS.

Neal Stephenson's "Interface" involves a black woman VP becoming President when RoboPresident slips his electronic leash and is shot exposing the conspiracy that turned him from President to RoboPresident.

Hey, why so harsh on Dilman? He won at least one election to the Senate (might have been two or three: it's a few years since I read the book), and Obama won one election to the Senate. Obama's just won one bigger election, but Dilman was President pro temp (not due to his advanced age, as most of them now are, but due to racial politics, but anyway...). And that freak accident killed the President and the Speaker, the Vice President having died earlier of some illness.

Okay, I admit it, The Man is one of the books about fictional Presidents on my "keepers" shelf. It took me forever to find it the first time (do you know what a bitch it was going into a library and asking for a book titled "The Man"? Every damn sociology and anthropology book on the shelves, but nothing from the fiction section). Actually, I even mention it in the introduction to my book.

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