West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Characters * Josiah 'Jed' Bartlet, Ph.D. (POTUS)

President Bartlet Martin Sheen as President Bartlet © NBC
Position: President of the United States
Age: 58ish when the show starts (?)
Played By: Martin Sheen - nominated for an Emmy for the role
(Footnote: played as a young man, circa 1960 in #44 by Jason Widener)
See His Life's Time-Line

Spouse: Abigail (Abbey). ("I've been married to her for 32 years." [#104])
Children: Elizabeth / Liz ( who has a husband, Doug, and two children, see "grandchildren" below), Eleanor / Ellie (who is 24 and in medical school at Johns Hopkins in the third season and gets married at the White House in "The Wedding" and about to give Jed and Abbey another grandchild - April Whiteside reminded us to include this info) and Zoey (who entered college at Georgetown around the middle of the 1st season and graduated at the end of the 4th season)
Grandchildren: Annie (age: 12 in pilot,about 17 in the 5th season) & Gus (age: 5 in 5th season) --- they are about 12 years apart in age.
His Mother: May or may not be alive (On the one hand he speaks of what she says in the present tense, on the other hand as Michelle Rose points out, she isn't listed as one of the first 17 people who knew about Bartlet's MS). Catholic.
Father: Is not alive He wasn't Catholic. Was headmaster of what looks like a prep school. Had a doctorate in something. (Played in #44 circa 1960 by Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.) See also more information on Fathers in general on this show.
Siblings & In-Laws: Has a brother John. [#25] Also has a brother-in-law so he either has a sister or Abby has a brother. [#104]
Grandmother: Began her teaching career in a two room school house. [#29]
Ancestors: Claims that his great, great, great grandfather was one of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. [#22] See our information on the fact that the signer person had two T's in his name (including a copy of the Declaration).

His alma mater is Notre Dame ("...the President graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Notre Dame with a major in American Studies and a minor in theology. He received a Masters and a Doctorate at the London School of Economics and an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Dartmouth University where he was a tenured professor." [#316] -- information sent by Joanne Bertrand). Some time ago (long before there was any mention of the President attending Notre Dame) Justin duRivage pointed out, that POTUS can often be seen wearing a Notre Dame sweat shirt. (Mr. duRivage said, "It is possible that he is just Catholic, and as such support the Fighting Irish but I doubt that.")
  • He was accepted at Harvard, Yale and Williams and chose Notre Dame "'cause I was thinking about becoming a priest." [#29]
  • He went to graduate school in economics and at least some of his graduate work, maybe all of it, was at the London School of Economics [#9].
    Ph.D. in Economics.
    He doesn't have a Law Degree [41] even thought he speaks of having had a "Civil Procedures Professor" [#22] "Well, I'm no lawyer." [Yamamoto]

How did Josiah Edward Bartlet get the nickname "Jed"?:
Jed is from the first letter of the first name and the first two letters of his middle name.

Catholic & religious:
  • "The President's a deeply religious man. . . . He worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Catholic League. He spent eight months traveling around the country discouraging young women from having abortion. . . . He does not believe that it's the government's place to legislate this issue, but that's never stopped him from playing his role as a moral leader. Something that cost him dearly in the campaign." --- Leo [#101],
  • "I've read my Bible from cover to cover." [#101]
  • He uses a rosary as the time of execution approaches for a man, who he holds the power to save. Later he asks a priest to hear his confession. [#14]

Military Service: "Not one day in uniform" [13] but was Commander in Chief of the New Hampshire National Guard (he does not seriously suggest that that qualified for military service) [#102]
Work History & Prizes Awarded:     Note: Did he give up Congress to become Governor? Maybe he promised to only serve six years. He didn't lose his seat since he says "I have never lost an election in my life." [#120]
Where From: New Hampshire (his family has lived there since the second Continental Congress and Leo claims they "founded the state" [#23&24]). Has property in New Hampshire which has had improvements made in the form of a helicopter pad and security needs. [#104]. Leo says of the President and his home "You live in the middle of nowhere" [#45]

"I have accidental death insurance as well as considerable personal worth. Were I to die, my family would not miss my government salary." [#41]

Personality Traits:
Knows a great deal of useless information and to show off and get back into the role of professor, he likes to test those who work for him.

  • Basketball & Tennis & Chess (sometimes he plays chess against himself [36])
    "The President doesn't play golf."
    "What does he play?"
    "Chess." [#104])

    In another episode he is seen playing basketball and we hear about him playing tennis.
  • Also has been seen to play solitare. [#419]
Watches: Anything (Celtics fan)

Musical Instruments Played: Trombone in the school band ("I took trombone lessons when I was a kid." [31])

Pets: "I'm seriously thinking about getting a dog" (although the president was drugged up with pain killers for his back when he said this). [#104]

Leisure Activities: Watches Sports on TV

Medical Facts:
Blood Pressure: at one point, 131 over 84 [#102]
Multiple Sclerosis [#12] (at the point at which he had surgery for the gunshot wound in May/August of second year he was in the White House, only 15 people knew about this including the Chief of Staff, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Vice President.)
Has a bad back and his pills make him "goofy".
"President is allergic to eggnog." [#110] (It must be the eggs since as Harvey Lang points out in "The Midterms" he drinks "chocolate syrup, seltzer, and milk" or maybe it's the nutmeg)
He smokes two cigarettes a day and does it outside. [#36]
Doesn't have life insurance. [#41]

What He Says About Himself:
  • "...my wife, Abbey, she never wants me to do anything while I'm upset.... Twenty-eight years ago I came home from a very bad day at the state house. I tell Abbey I'm going out for a drive. I get in the station wagon, put it in reverse and pull out of the garage full speed, except I forgot to open the garage door. Abbey told me not to drive while I was upset and she was right. She was right when she told me not to get on that damn bicycle while I was upset. But I did it anyway and I guess I was just about as angry as I've ever been in my life." [#101]
  • "I am not comfortable with violence. I know this country has enemies but I don't feel violent towards any of them." [#102]
  • "Jokes are part of my folksy charm. . . . It's at the heart of my popularity."
    "Don't you have a job approval rating of like 3% or something?" --- President's doctor.
    "Oh we're having some difficulty getting the word out." [#102]
  • ". . .you see how benevolent I can be when everybody just does what I tell them to do." [#105]
  • "I'm a National Parks buff. . . . I have been to all of them" [#108]
  • "Did you know there's an underground tunnel out of here?" he asks Josh
    "I haven't been able to find it even though I search almost every day."
  • "I loved college so did my other daughters." [#116]
  • "I used to like parties." [#116]
  • "I live in the world of professional politics." [#116]
  • "I'm a human starting gun." [#116]
  • "I am an economics professor with a big stick up my butt. . . ." [#105]
  • "I got a great night planned. I've got two books on Mars and a book on Galileo. . . . I'm going to go to the residence and read." [#31]
  • "When I was in tenth grade me and my friends took my father's Ford Country Squire on a joy ride to Vermont. He locked me in the garage until Easter." [#32]
  • "I've never been nervous talking in front of big crowds. It's talking to one person." [#46]
  • "I was never supposed to win." [#46]
  • "I don't think much of blind loyalty, but I think a lot less of blind betrayal." [#401-402]
  • "There's a lot of science in economics to be sure but like a lot of things, a lot depends upon the user." [#401-402]
  • "I'm a puzzle." [#401-402]
  • "What I lack in memory, I more than make up for in exceptional powers of deductive reasoning. . . . My powers of deduction are not to be mocked." [#401-402]
  • "I made a mistake. I corrected it. I'll make more." [#405]
  • When asked what he got on the S.A.T.s, he says, "I got 800/790. For the life of me, I can't imagine what I got wrong. Then I took the test again and got 800/790." [#411]

What Others Say About Him:
  • "You have a once in a generation mind." [#102]
  • "Jed Bartlet, Nobel Laureate in Economics, three-term congressman, two-term Governor...." [#102]
  • "He's an extraordinarily kind man who places a high premium on civility." ---Josh to Charlie when Charlie first meets the President [#103] (This seems contradicted by the way he treats his staff during the campaign for President.) [#223&224])
  • "We try to avoid having the President make aesthetic decisions." ---Sam [#104]
  • "Let the poets write that he had the tools of greatness, but the voices of his better angels were shouted down by his obsessive need to win." ---Toby [#105]
  • "The President is a very protective father." --- C.J. [#106]
  • ". . .one of the things that happens when I stay away too long is that you forget that you don't have the power to fix everything. You have a big brain and a good heart and an ego the size of Montana. . . . You don't have the power to fix everything. But I do like watching you try." --- First Lady to Pres [#107]
  • "You're quite a nerd, Mr. President." -- Josh[#108]
  • "He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham, your President's a geek!" --- Leo [#101]
  • "President Bartlet's a good man. He's got a good heart. He doesn't hold a grudge. That's what he pays me for." --- Josh [#104]
  • ". . .you should feel free to give us a quiz on inane trivia." Josh, sarcastically on the President's habit of asking his staff school type questions. [#106]
  • "The President has never spoken briefly in his life." ---Josh [#115]
  • "He's got that look on his face like he's thinking about ways to kill himself." --- Sam [#116]
  • White males, "see you as smart and having vision. But they also see you as a wimp." [#116]
  • "He likes to unwind by watching sports on TV. . . . Whatever's on." [#122]
  • He takes "such a weak-ass position on gay rights." [#113]
  • Has "an encyclopedic knowledge of the ridiculous and dorklike." --- Josh [#108] - (supplied by Robyn)
  • "The President likes to hear from smart people who disagree with him." --- Leo [#26 or 204] - (supplied by Robyn)
  • "Nobody likes a know it all." --- C.J. to the President [#31 - 209]
  • "He thinks he's so smart, just because, you know, he's so smart." --- C.J. on the President [#31 - 209]
  • "The president likes steaks, he likes lobsters, he likes spaghetti, he likes ice cream. . . . he doesn't like green beans." --- Charlie [#31 - 209]
  • "The President. . . . likes white tie." [#32 - 210]
  • "He usually talks during the movie." [#37 - 215]
  • "Look at you. You're a boy king. You're a foot smarter than the smartest kids in the class. You're blessed with inspiration. You must know this by now." [#44 - 222]
  • "You stuck your hands in your pockets, you looked away and smiled. That means you made up your mind." [#44 - 222]
  • "The President has been a candidate in seven state-wide and national elections and every one of the has been a substative and issue based campaign which is one of several reasons why the voters have elected him each and every time his name has appeared on a ballot." [#60]
  • "The President graduated Summa Cum Laude. from the University of Notre Dame with a major in American Studies and a minor in theology. He received a Masters and a Doctorate at the London School of Econmics and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Dartmouth University where he was a tenured professor." [#60]
  • "This President can do three shows a night but there's no one in the Western Hemisphere that has a worse reaction to jet lag than he does. Any trip eight hours or longer and someone gets fired at the end of it and it's already been me three times. . . " --- Sam["Enemies Foreign and Domestic"]
  • "He doesn't like the appearance that his staff is covering for him. . . . Nothings not his fault in the Oval Office." [#401-402]
  • "The President is nothing if not contemplative. The man makes the Prince of Demark seem reactionary." --- Leo [#414]
  • "He's the Commander-In-Chief. He's going to reserve the right to, you know, command." [#414]

Converstions with him:
  • ". . . what I think we should do. . . is. . . keep more people alive and send them to school and get some peace and prosperity going."
    "You feel you haven't done enough about it?"
    "Stanley, the width and depth of what I haven't done about it, yet. You know you can't do anything abut hurricanes. The President can't do anything about nature or bad luck, I ought to be able to do something about. . . "
  • "I've been spacing for a minute out at meetings. Three times this week. I hear someone talking and I realize I haven't been listing to part of it."
    "That's unusual?" Stanley asks.
    "Very." [#411]
  • "I'm just as big a cotton candy ass as they are," Bartlet tells Josh about some Congressmen who are warning him about changing language in a speech.
    "Yes, Sir."
    "You just going to let that hang in the air?"
    "Of course not, sir. You're a much bigger cotton candy ass than they are."
    "Damn right." [#414]
  • "That was impressive!" Leo tells Bartlet after being briefed on the first step in a military operation to stop a genocide.
    Leo laughs "No, them. I meant ---"
    "I get it."
    "I'm saying ---"
    "And I agree with you."
    "I'm not saying that I don't think you can be impressive in the Situation Room."
    "I can tell by the way you laughed in my face at the suggestion that I was." [#416]
28 Amendment
Don't miss Neal Rechtman's election thriller The 28th Amendment in which an actor
who portrays a fictional US President on television gets drawn into real-world politics
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