Monday, January 31, 2011

Dale vs. Harding

James Dale
Fictional President of the United States played by Jack Nicholson
Served: In the film Mars Attacks! (1996)
Age during term: Nicholson was 59 at the movie's release

PROS: No fear — When face-to-face with a laser gun-toting alien in his bedroom, Dale springs into action. He jumped over his bed and tackled the alien to the ground. This was a short scuffle because the alien overpowered him and pointed the gun to his head. Had there been no gun, I imagine Dale would have kept fighting.

To what degree of effectiveness would he have kept fighting? We'll never know. Point is, Dale saw the opportunity and he took it. That would serve him well in a fight.

Unflappability — Even after the aliens vaporized both houses of Congress, Dale is as cool as a cucumber and uses the opportunity to paraphrase Meatloaf. He says "I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them and that ain't bad."

He won't let anger blur his judgment in the ring, which would serve him well. Speaking of judgment...

CONS: Complete lack of judgment — What we see of Dale's presidency is a veritable parade of poor decision making. When thousands of alien warships surround the planet, the only person in the room he doesn't listen to is the general who calls for building up the defenses and taking it down to Defcon 4.

Instead, he heeds the advice of his idiot press secretary, the a professor who is clearly talking out of his ass and a seemingly peacenik lieutenant general.

At ease, Gen. Facepalm

If he can't make the right decision during an alien invasion, what chance does he have in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™?

Too trusting — Aliens land and vaporize everyone they can. They apologize and say they want to address Congress. They vaporize Congress. An alien sneaks its way into the White House and tries to kill the president and first lady while they were sleeping. Aliens invade the White House a little later and successfully kill the first lady, followed by his top general.

Even after all that, he still wants to work things out. I feel like this wouldn't make for a very good fighter. It kind of makes you glad that the alien kills him after Dale's speech about getting along.

Warren G. Harding
29th President of the United States
Served: 1921-1923
Age during term: 55-57

PROS: Self-reliance — Harding got his start when he and a few friends scraped together a cool $300 to buy a local paper, the Marion Daily Star. A few years later, Harding became full-owner, and in less than a decade, held the most popular newspaper in Marion county. Did we mention he was in his early twenties at that time? Yeah, kid was good. Oh, and when he sold that newspaper in 1923? It went for $550,000. That's a return on investment.

Temper — if you're going to be competing in a no-holds barred fight to the death, you're gonna want a little anger in your blood. And boy, Harding had it. Before Harding ever got into politics, rumors had been floating around that somewhere a few generations back in his family tree, he had an African-American ancestor. Since this was a time when America was even more racially dumb-assed than it is now, that meant that one single drop of African-American blood would have made Harding... African-American.
It was basically the late-19th century equivalent of "since
you have a funny last name, we're going to
accuse you of being a Kenyan Muslim," only a
thousand times worse and with even less proof.

When Harding's Daily Star was warring with the other Marion county papers, the rumermongering over his heritage got so bad that Harding and his father both engaged the competing Marion Independent in quite the spirited debate. Only by "spirited debate" we mean "they demanded a retraction. At shotgun-point." What we're saying is, Harding had a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

CONS: Extremely poor health/judgement — While the aforementioned newspaper squabbles were angering up Harding's blood, they were also seriously fraying his nerves. Things got so bad for the future president that, at the age of 24, he checked himself into a sanitarium for "nervous fatigue." He made five return visits over the next fourteen years. So, really, he was never a well man. Just the qualities you want in United States President!

By the time of his presidency, Harding's physical health was starting to go, and by 1923, Harding was clearly ill, though medical science at the time could not quite figure out the cause. Hint: he complained of pains spreading from his chest and shooting down his arm. What would be the most logical course of action? Why, to embark on a cross-country trip to reconnect with the electorate! While this plan had the benefit of getting him out of Washington in the summer, it still meant traveling slowly across a continent by train. Before air conditioning had been invented. So, while on the plus side, Harding was able to become the first president to visit Alaska (and by extension, we assume, the first to see Russia), the trip took so much of a toll on him that he died in California during the return leg of the journey.

Corruption — Harding managed to have one of the most scandal-plagued administrations in U.S. history... and given that he only served 2.5 years, that's saying something. Of course, said scandals should not have been too surprising, as much of Harding's career was built around the quid pro quo of the Ohio State Republican machine. This led to Harding delegating many positions to his "friends" from back home, which led to the inevitable series of scandals. And what does this have to do with fighting? Well, if your entire career is based on boss systems and patronage, and you suddenly find yourself dumped into the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ without any of that support to fall back on, you might run into problems.

The Fight

Doug: Thank goodness. After last week's slaughter, this week we have ourselves quite a fight. Unfortunately, we know very little about James Dale other than his final days in office. And maybe that wouldn't be the best way of judging his character. It was kind of a stressful time, what, with the full-scale alien invasion and all.

Tony: But does the brief window we get into Dale's soul tell us more than you're imagining? After all, we get to see how he handles a crisis (that is, not well), and I can think of fewer crises more daunting (at least on a personal level) than being dumped into an unarmed fight to the death against a single opponent.

Doug: All that being said, despite the sudden turn his presidency takes, Dale seems to remain calm for the most part, which is a pretty good sign that he rarely lost his temper prior to this. Granted, this led to him being so calm and cool that he didn't realize he was in danger, which eventually led to his death.

On the other hand, Harding spent his life so full of fury that he turned his heart into a ticking time-bomb. So there's a chance that Harding's heart could turn on him before he has a chance to really do any damage to Dale.

Also, Dale seems to be too trusting. All Harding would have to do is call for a truce and use the handshake as an opportunity to get in a really good sucker punch. However, I can't see Harding doing that. He comes at you and you know it. I don't think Harding is even capable of making a blatantly insincere attempt at pretending to offer an olive branch. Dale wouldn't fall for Harding's tricks because Harding doesn't have any tricks.

Tony: So, interesting thing about Harding: sure, he had his temper-tantrum moments, but in his political life, he was known to be extraordinarily affable. This is how he wound up a presidential candidate in 1920; he was so nice that he made a good compromise candidate for the Republican party. So would he really be walking around as a ticking rage bomb?

Tricks? Need I remind you that Harding was a product of turn-of-the-century political machining? You know, with boss systems, nepotism, and the like? Harding had ALL the tricks, my friend. All of them.

Dale might have a somewhat badass pedigree, but Harding's got the upper hand.

Doug: I should clarify when I say "tricks." Clearly, Harding had tricks. The slippery bastard was full of them and everyone knew that. That's why people liked him. It was either be nice to him and end up with a cushy job or get a shotgun pointed to your face. The choice was clear and there seemed to be no betrayal of trust or back-stabbing here. Well, maybe not right away. That's what I meant about "tricks," he seems to be very up front about his ... Hardingness.

My point was, Dale's in the arena against Harding, he knows why they're there. He won't try to reach an agreement. Kind of like when he was faced with an alien in a pretty dress standing at the foot of his bed shooting at him and his wife. In that situation, Dale went into attack mode, and that's the Dale we'd see in the arena. And the Harding we will see in the arena will most likely have the blood type of B+, as in positively boiling. (I know people's blood types don't change. I was making a stupid little joke)

Tony: I dunno about this "up front about his Hardingness" business, and that's without consulting a dictionary about the use of the word "Hardingness." It seems to me you're trying to say he was all about being tricksy, but really he wasn't. Well, which one? Which, I say?

Dale's ability to quickly take the offensive — at least in a personal combat sense — is going to be a plus for him, I acknowledge. But where are the tactics? As you yourself point out, Dale was not able to overcome the deployment of higher ordinance against him. Wouldn't that be the first thing you'd want to resolve? Weak tactics.

And as for positively boiling, well... I'm just kind of sad for you, now.

Doug: I thought I clarified this. Yes, he used tricks. That's all he had. However, he seemed pretty upfront with what he was up to, so he wouldn't necessarily catch Dale off-guard. That was the point I was trying to make there.

All things being equal, I think a lot of presidents in this pool wouldn't survive a full-on alien invasion (we'll get into James Whitmore in a few weeks), but I'm pretty sure that Dale could survive a circa 1923 train journey to Alaska and back. Granted, that's a lot of speculation, but lots of people survived train rides back then. That was the appeal of trains, lower body count than the Oregon Trail. Harding, however, couldn't survive a cross-country trip. How well would his body respond to the arena?

And I think you're just upset that you didn't come up with the positively boiling thing yourself.

Tony: Fair point about Dale's health. He was almost definitely made of sturdier stuff than Harding. Despite that, I can think of two points in Harding's favor — one, his health did not seriously decline until a good two years into his presidency. If we take him into the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ at the start of his term, he will probably do much better. Two, his health declined over a rather long period of time. I don't see his match vs. Dale being more than a half-hour affair, if that. I think he could hold it together over the short term, and emerge victorious.

I would disparage your blood joke some more, but I wouldn't want to B-.

Doug: Harding's health didn't decline until two years into his presidency? Well, no, it didn't. When you check yourself into a sanitarium for "nervous fatigue" SIX TIMES before the age of 40, you already have a few toes in the grave at the very least. The only place to go from there is something that Miracle Max would define as "mostly dead."

Tony: I dunno, I mean, if Harding's opponents couldn't beat him, those tactics must've been pretty shrewd. Even if Dale knows what's coming, can he stop it?

THE CHIEF descends from on high

Tony & Doug: The Chief!

The Chief: Ugh, your bickering is harder to take than usual. I think you two are arguing the same point. The real question here is what will give way first, Dale's inability to fight or Harding's health? That's pretty much the heart of the debate and you're not going to take this debate any further. Just throw it to the readers to vote.

Oh, and you really shouldn't write defamatory statements about someone's blood type. That just seems like a bad idea. From a legal standpoint, that could be considered — well, I almost said "blood libel," but clearly, no one in their right minds should ever use that term in the 21st century. Just be careful in the future.

Polls will be open until Friday 9 a.m. Mountain Time. Winner will be announced noon.

Dale vs. Harding

NOTE: We apologize for color scheme Blogger has chosen for the little Poll Gadget directly above. If you're having trouble reading it, click and drag over the names and they should become easier to read.

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