7th President of the United States
Ages during term: 62-70
PROS: Toughness — Jackson earned the nickname "Old Hickory" (or "Ol' Hickory," depending on your personal level of ole timey-ness) during a long military career that spanned from the American Revolution, to the War of 1812, to various anti-Native American campaigns which are slightly less-popular in the textbooks these days. He carried this toughness into his political career, where he endured highly personal attacks during his run for the presidency, and battled dissent within his own Cabinet once in office. Add to that, Jackson was the first president to come under physical attack while in office, and the first to have an assassination attempt against him. Speaking of...
Providence — Jackson somehow managed to survive a frontier childhood filled with disease, war, and an interrment in a POW camp. Add to that the fact that he survived his ensuing military career intact. Then add to that what happened on January 30, 1835, when Jackson crossed paths with Richard Lawrence. Their meeting was somewhat strained, given that when Lawrence spotted Jackson, he drew a pistol and fired at the president. That pistol jammed. Lawrence, thinking ahead for someone who would later spend the rest of his days in a sanitarium, pulled a second pistol and fired. That pistol also jammed. Legend has it that Jackson proceeded to beat the crap out of Lawrence with his cane. We should choose to believe this legend, lest Old Hickory come after us from the grave. Anyway, after the incident, multiple tests were performed on the pistols to see why they failed; however, they never failed again. So what we're trying to say is, Jackson was one lucky son of a bitch.
CONS: Age? We're kind of reaching here. If we say that Jackson's presidential fitness peak occurred early in his term, he would be 62 years old for this bout, a full decade older than his adversary. Sure, he was more experienced at ass-kicking, but he was also more experienced at becoming old and frail.
Also, I guess we could point out that combatants in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ are not allowed weapons, so that cane of Jackson's won't be making an appearance. So, there's that.
Ages during term: 51-55
PROS: His weight — Taft was the heaviest president to serve. He stood at 6'2" and weighed over 300 pounds. If we don't point out the fact that the White House needed to be fitted with a special bathtub to accommodate him, someone would be sure to do so in the comments section. Point being, he could use his weight as an asset; whether it's packing a mighty punch or just crushing a foe.
Job Diversity — Taft is the only president to later become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Before his presidency, he served as the Provisional Governor of Cuba, Civil Governor of the Philippines and Solicitor General among other things. If there were a post that required kicking butt, he'd probably try it for a bit, just to get his beak wet.
CONS: His weight — While his weight could probably give him some needed power, it would probably make him much slower. It also gave him a bevy of health concerns.
If we were to base all we know about hand-to-hand combat on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, we would be able to compare Taft to King Hippo.
The guy was from the South Pacific, yet inexplicably white. (That has nothing to do with Taft, it's just worth noting.) He had 18 wins and they were all by KO. However, once you got him down, he stayed down. If you knew his weakness, you could beat him in about a minute.
The Election of 1912 — He became the only sitting president to come in third in a re-election bid. Pretty embarrassing to finish behind a third-party candidate, even if that candidate is Theodore Roosevelt. Luckily for him, coming in third will be an impossibility here.
Also, I guess we could point out that combatants in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ are not allowed armor, so that White House bath tub of Taft's won't be making an appearance. So, there's that.
The FightDoug: I'd have to say a surprising number of people I've spoken to think that Taft can beat Jackson and that it's just a matter of Taft crushing Jackson under his massive body. If Taft is going to win this one, that's going to be his key to the second round.
Tony: Yeah, I don't know. Jackson was an ornery old bastard. You've got to figure there's no way someone with any sense of military tactics falls for the ol' "Stand here and wait for me to fall on top of you" trick. That said, I can see Taft's girth being a big advantage. How are you going to land any decisive blows through all that?
Doug: I want to say there was a movie or a TV show where a fat guy get punched, but the attacker's fist got stuck in the guy's gut. I don't know if this is ringing a bell with you.
Tony: Yeah, I imagine that's been done several times. Seems like it could be a good Looney Tunes bit?
Doug: While I question how likely something like this would happen in reality, it's pretty funny to imagine Taft getting a good few head shots in while Jackson tries to free his fist from between Taft's rolls of fat.
Tony: I tried searching for "gut punch fist stuck" on YouTube and got a bunch of people punching themselves in the stomach, which is... interesting but not useful.
Doug: Anyway, I also imagine this would only anger Jackson further, and history does not look to kindly on people who have pissed off Jackson.
Tony: You make a good point. The guy spent his entire life being pissed of at the British. While he was a prisoner of the British during the Revolutionary War (he was, mind you, a child at this point), an officer tried to make Jackson shine his boots. Jackson refused, and the officer slapped the future president around a bit, leaving scars that would last him his entire life. And as if that wasn't enough, his brother died in that same prison camp. And, oh yes, his mother died of cholera after trying to nurse other prisoners of war. So, yeah, it's safe to say that when Jackson finally got to face the British at the Battle of New Orleans, it was personal. And whaddaya know, Jackson delivered an Agincourt-level beatdown on the Crown.
Doug: Nice wall of text, there.
Tony: Point is, I don't think Taft could compete with Jackson if President $20 ever worked up a full head of steam.
Doug: On the other side of the temper coin is Taft, who seemed to be a pretty affable guy who reportedly had an infectious laugh. What could possibly boil Taft's blood? The guy was a huge baseball fan and called it a "clean, straight game." Those aren't the words of someone looking for a fight. Not like Duely McDuel-So-Much, aka Andrew Jackson, who would challenge you to a duel just for saying his wife's name in a less-than-glowing tone.
Tony: I don't know that Jackson got into too many duels, though. I mean, things were wild out there in the rough and tumble Tennessee frontier-- that's how he got a bigamist wife. But full on duels? Actually I don't think it matters. Even if he wasn't big on duels, I'm sure he could beat Taft like a kettle drum.
THE CHIEF descends from on high.
Tony & Doug: The Chief!
The Chief: Hello, boys! Just wanted to let you know that, according to our more advanced research, Jackson may have been in as many as thirteen duels in his life, and was said to sound like a bag of marbles due to all the bullets lodged in him.
Tony: Oh. Balls.
The Chief: Just wanted to clear that up before this post goes live! We wouldn't want a serious error like that making it through, would we?
Doug: That would be awful.
The Chief: Too right! Well, back to headquarters I go!
THE CHIEF ascends.
Doug: Well, then. All I know is, duels had fallen out of fashion by the time Taft was around. Even then, Taft wasn't one to get furious over things. Even his political rivalry with one-time mentor Theodore Roosevelt was pretty non-Jacksonian.
That being said, I offer this thought-provoking video:
Tony: That video actually helps me prove it, because even though the guy taking the punch was somewhat portly, the punch still knocked him back a bit. I figure Jackson works the body for a while, then starts taking head shots.
Doug: Sounds like it's time we let our readers decide!
Polls will be open until Friday 9 a.m. Mountain Time. Winner will be announced noon.