Monday, March 28, 2011

Clash of the Clevelands

Grover Cleveland
22nd President of the United States
Served: 1885-1889
Age during term: 47-51

PROS: Success Magnet —Cleveland's résumé from the years leading up to his first term was fairly impressive. He had served as Governor of New York, and before that, mayor of Buffalo. This, mind you, was when both of those jobs were slightly more prominent than they are today. Even more remarkably, Cleveland managed to win those elections by being possibly one of the more honest politicians in America... at a time when the political system itself was pretty much rigged to prevent honest people from winning. Yeah, he was just that good. Before entering politics, he was a successful lawyer, successful sheriff, and successful assistant district attorney. Yes, success clung to Cleveland like everything to one-a-them katamari balls.
See, in this metaphor, success is the squid, and the huge boat, and the baseball stadium, and so forth, and Cleveland is... the cows? Yes. The cows. The rainbow, meanwhile, symbolizes our furthering a radical gay agenda.
And as President? Well, Cleveland was successful in reducing the effects of the spoilage system, keeping America's nose out of any foreign entanglements, and he even got married, to boot! Yes, his streak of victories would come to a crashing halt with the election of 1888, but Cleveland was unbowed. In fact, as he and his wife were leaving the White House, Mrs. Cleveland turned to a staff member and said, "I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again."
The "...or I will cut you" was left unsaid, but heavily implied.
CONS: Lack of martial experience — While Cleveland was well-versed in the nuances of political combat, such combat is a non-factor in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™. So, what about his actual combat experience? Well, there we hit a slight snag. Yes, Cleveland was alive, and young, when the little shindig called the War Between the States broke out, and as such, you might expect that he would have fought in it, right? Not so much. While there was a draft, of sorts, conscripts were able to get out of serving if they were able to find some sucker who could fight in their stead (granted, they had to pay $150 for the privilege of not fighting; in 1860s money, that was probably the modern equivalent of a couple grand). Cleveland took advantage of this system, and his wartime duties were filled by a Polish immigrant. Had Cleveland known that that military experience could have helped him in a fight to the death against his older self, well, maybe he would have joined. But he didn't, and he didn't.

Grover Cleveland
24nd President of the United States
Served: 1893-1897
Age during term: 55-59

PROS: He's a winner, even when he loses — One thing the older Cleveland can boast that his younger self cannot: winning the popular vote three times. He was elected president in 1884 and 1892. While Cleveland lost the election in 1888 to Benjamin Harrison, he actually got 48.6% of the popular vote over Harrison's 47.8%.

Cleveland is one of three presidents who have won the popular vote three times. At the time, the only other person to do that was Andrew Jackson, and he isn't one to be messed with. The third person to do it was FDR, and he actually did it four times. He probably would have tried for five, had he not died before 1948.

Married — When Cleveland took the oath in 1885, he did so as a bachelor. By 1893, he was a married man. Statistically speaking, the life expectancy of married men is longer than unmarried men.

This brings a mental image of bachelor Cleveland subsisting on the 19th-century equivalents of Top Ramen, frozen hot dogs and Hamburger Helper when he wanted to be a bit fancy.

"Time to go grocery shopping. And by that, I mean order another pizza."

"What's the point in keeping dirty underwear off the floor?" bachelor Cleveland asked, from behind his beer-can pyramid, "It's not like any dames are stopping by."

Because it's dirty, bachelor Cleveland, that's why. And living in a dirty home is unhealthy.

Plus, there's the fact that Frances Folsom Cleveland was 27 years younger than husband Grover. If that's not enough to make a man feel young again, I don't know what is.

CONS: Obvious age disadvantage — Age is kind of a tough thing to gauge when comparing two different people who lived two different lives in two different eras. For example, James K. Polk — who was the youngest president to die of natural causes — was dead by his 54th birthday. Yet, when Ronald Reagan wasn't elected to his first political office until he was 55. There's no real way of having all things being equal.

Except for here. All things are equal here. Older Cleveland is the same guy, only eight years older. No way around that fact.

Secret Cancer — Older Cleveland won't let on, but he's got a secret: cancer. In 1893, he had a lump removed from the roof of his mouth. He didn't tell anyone, though, because he worried the country would spiral deeper into the Panic of 1893 news got out that the president was sick.

So as not to rouse suspicion, the Clevelands "went on vacation." Only it wasn't really vacation, Cleveland was going to get the lump removed. And to make extra-sure no one would find out, the surgery would take place in an isolated spot where no one could accidentally happen upon them: aboard the Oneida, off the coast of Long Island.

Oral surgery sounds unappealing enough, I can't imagine getting it in the 19th century. While on a boat. There's a reason why people get sea sick. It's because of the constant motion. That's hardly the best place to have someone cut into the roof of your mouth.

Point being, I imagine the recovery time on that one was a bit lengthy.

The Fight
I think it's fairly evident that with our two fighters this week being so similar, it's all going to come down to the little things. And those little things? Will subsequently be made huge. You know, like the ego/chest of any given Jersey Shore character.

So, here's what I think gives 22 the edge. One, age, which you obviously alluded to. 22's more agile than 24. He's more resilient than 24. He's, most importantly, less-cancerous (literally!) than 24. And virile? Forget about it! 22 married a woman less than half his age. That is getting it DONE.

Plus, 22 has the confidence you need. He hadn't been beaten down by any hardships, like say, the election of 1888, or the Panic of 1893. Or by getting cancer. 22 is a pure winner. And 24? Is toast.

Doug: I think anyone in 22's position would be baffled. He would have so many questions for his future self. "We didn't end up building that canal in Nicaragua, did we?" "Do I end up having kids with my wife who is also my late best friend's daughter?" Most importantly, "Hold the phones, why am I in here twice? How do I become president again?"

24, on the other hand, isn't confused. He knows all of these answers: "No, Yes (one, Ruth, gets a candy bar named after her, only not really), and the only reason why 24 is in there is because 22 got defeated by Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

This makes 24 embittered at the sight of his younger self. He sees 22 as naive and knows that 22 is the reason for a lot of his problems and recent failures. Maybe if 22 was able to win re-election, Harrison's economic policy wouldn't have caused the Panic of 1893. Even if the panic was unavoidable, he would have been out of office for it. 24 wouldn't even be in the arena had it not been for 22 losing the election! He would have left office in 1893 and retired happily.

The more 22 thinks about what's going on in the arena, the more confused he gets. The more 24 thinks about it, the angrier he gets.

24 has got this.

Tony: I dunno, I think anyone dumped into the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ against an opponent from the future is going to lose their wonder over the situation rather quickly. After all, protecting yourself from kidney shots is far more important than, well, most other things.

If anyone's going to be angry between the two of them, I think it should be 22. 24 is the one who failed, not 22. 22 is all about unbridled optimism towards the future, but when 24 shows up, things have clearly gone wrong. Everything bad is 24's fault, and 22, resolving himself to attempting to change the future should he live to have a chance, will want to wipe the timeline clean of the horrendous mistake that is 24.

Doug: 24 isn't in the ring because he screwed up. He's in the ring because 22 is about to screw up. 24 is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. And in this situation in which he finds himself in, he's going to use his extra eight years of life-experience to wipe the floor with himself. 24 knows two things: The U.S. shouldn't annex the Republic of Hawai'i and 22 must die. He saw to it that Hawai'i remained independent on his watch. He's not going to shirk his 22-killing duties.

Tony: Yeah, so 24's got up to eight years on 22. First, if you think that 24, at the end of his presidency, would be able to take 22, you're even more crazy than you are for suggesting 24 could win at ANY point in his presidency. I'm thinking that between it being the dog days of the 19th century, the aforementioned economic panics, the dissension and strife within his own party, and alllllll of the other garbage swirling around, 24 did not have time to get into peak physical form. Now, okay, "peak physical form" probably meant something different back then (probably something to do with how fast one could consume a pound of butter), but still. This is clearly an area where youth will win out over, um, not-youth.

Doug: To be fair, neither Cleveland was in "peak physical form." He may not have been Taftian, but he was pretty friggin' close.

And I think all of this so-called garbage swirling around 24 will give him a "nothing else to lose" attitude. Shit's going down the tubes. And whether that's the fault of 22, 23 or 24, the only thing left for 24 to do is go down fighting. Wide-eyed, hopeful 22 would have no idea what hit him.

And as 24 is pummeling 22, he could say, "Hey, Grover! Why are you hitting yourself?"

Tony: Ah, yes, the ol', fighting to the bitter end, maneuver. Noble, certainly, but is it useful here? We all like to think that that "backed into a corner" mentality brings out the superior fighting, but is that really true? I mean, really?

Doug: "Backed into a corner" mentality wouldn't normally work, if he were fighting another person. But since he's pretty evenly matched — because he's fighting himself — I'd say it would give him the needed edge. Or will it? I suppose that's for the voters to decide.

Tony: Ooh, one last minor, but important detail. I hate to bring this up, but wouldn't any grievous wounds inflicted on 22 also show up on 24 somehow? Or should I not think too hard about the temporal mechanics of this thing?

Doug: Yeah, we'd have to assume that if 22 was killed in the ring — which I argue would be the outcome — 24 would not suddenly disappear. We also need to ignore Dr. Emmett Brown's warning about someone running into their past or future self. The encounter would not create a time paradox, nor would it cause either of them to faint. After all, 2015 Biff was able to talk to himself in 1955, and nothing happened (apart from the creation of an alternate 1985).

If Biff Tannen can do this without unraveling the very fabric of space-time continuum,
I don't see why Grover Cleveland would have a problem doing it.
By the same token, 24 wouldn't remember being 22 in the ring, fighting himself. It's just how the arena works. Also, that would probably give 24 an unfair advantage — one he doesn't need, because he will clearly win anyway.

Tony: Man, I knew talking about temporal mechanics was going to lead to a Back to the Future reference. I was all, "Where this debate's going, we don't need other science fiction touchstones."

Doug: This may be the only time I'd be able to fit in a Back to the Future reference, so you bet your bippy I was going to take it.

That's right. Bippy.

Tony: Bippy? When did this turn into Laugh In?

Doug: Besides, I think Cleveland can handle the temporal mechanics of the situation just fine. After all, he had a presidential time machine. Or he used to. The Monarch seems to have it now.

Obscure reference is obscure.
Tony: Too right! Well, I think it's time our readers had their say. Who will it be: 22, or 24? Vote now!

As always, polls close at 9 a.m. Friday Mountain Time. This week's fight may end up being a close one, so be sure to leave a comment in case of a tie.

Cleveland vs. Cleveland


  1. I say older Cleveland. While Grover the Younger was younger (obviously) and scrappier (maybe), Grover the Elder lost a presidential election but came back to win. He's a fighter! Well ... this leads into where does Younger end and Older begin? It's a Grover and the egg question. If we say Younger ends midway through Harrison's term (reasonable enough), then Younger went out a loser and Older came in winner. Younger probably lost some confidence after such close defeat, though maybe he has a "come back and win" attitude. Though this attitude would have transferred into Older which likely lead to his victory. Yes, logic is clear: the loss of Younger will drive the victory of Older.

  2. I think the dictates of the Arena are that each president is only counted through their respective term. So, 22's reign ends in 1889, while 24's reign begins in 1893.

    Then, you have to figure out when each president was at their peak, fighting-wise. If you think 22 would be a better fighter after his defeat in 1888, run with it.

  3. Leaving the Cleveland Metamorphosis aside, I'll still take Grover the Elder. Grover the Elder started out a winner and Grover the Younger ended a loser. What do winners do? They win! Also, as you noted above, Grover the Elder went out a cancer surviver--and had his surgery on a boat no less! Most people can't even eat on a boat. Grover Cleveland II, the original tiger-blooded winner!

  4. Not to pick on semantics here, but technically they both started out winners, because neither Elder nor Younger inherited the presidency; they were both elected. In fact, if you look at the string of wins Young "Muppet Baby" Grover had shortly prior to entering the White House, your point becomes even more moot.

    Now, I'm not saying I disagree with your side here, as winning regularly tends to make people lax. In a fight between Confidence and Redemptive Effort, I'll take the latter any day. Grover the Elder was toughened by his loss and amped up to win again--it's THAT kind of energy that can win a fight. I mean, after recovering from total amnesia and a host of disappointments on his way to Broadway, Kermit (The Frog, not to be confused with Roosevelt's second son) would totally beat up Muppet Baby Kermit, right?

  5. Possibly, but either way, I think I know what our next blog will be.

  6. Hey, Ike here, and I thought I'd offer my opinions. You know, like how like when Spartacus appeared on "Loincloth Tonight," the Roman pre-curser to Sportscenter with Cicero as the Chris Berman. Anyways, I think 24 will defeat 22, and here's why. Bitternees, rage, and pie. 24 had 4 extra years to build up on all of that. And yeah, there's the mystery Cancer, but Krik Douglas had a stroke and I'll be dammed if you tell me he still couldn't whip Colin Firth's arse. Damn straight.
    Anyways, maybe this could be a regular thing. What a novel idea, or "Ikea!" (trademark) What's that Dulles? Damn Swedes. Ike out

  7. It seemed so reasonable at first to vote for Cleveland the Younger; after all, he is younger, healthier, and probably a bit svelter. But now I've starting thinking about who would win in a fight to the death between my younger self and I, and I have to say that I believe both 24 and I have the advantage over our younger selves. Elder Cleveland knows his opponent and knows his weaknesses- after all, if I were in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena with Elsinore the Younger, all I would have to do is shout, "Look! It's Jesus!" and that distraction would allow me to land the final blow. I'm sure 24 has something similar up his sleeve.

  8. Simple: Benjamin Harrison doesn't seem that tough. Yet Old Cleveland lost to him, even with greater popular support. Young Cleveland doesn't have that black mark on his record.

  9. This thing is tighter than a nunny's cunny. 17 votes apiece as I type this.

    Important note: I am pretty sure I voted twice, once on my work computer and once at home. I think it's possible that either 22 or 24 wins the electoral college despite losing the "correct" popular vote, which: historical humor FTW.

    FYI, I'm not telling you snoopy bastards which one I voted for twice, I have my rights as a voter and no dead presidents will sway me. Unless that person is Grover Cleveland on the front of a $1,000 bill (an entirely truthful denomination)

  10. Lithgow was sooooooo mad when those Grover Clevelands got spread all over Gabe and hal's mountain

  11. No, I am not drunk. I am a BGHPer. And I'm also drunk.

  12. But seriously, I think you need more references to the movie Cliffhanger.

  13. And Predator. Predator quotes are the coolest.

  14. What's the matter, Dylan? The CIA have you pushing too many pencils?

  15. OK, I just looked it up and it's "Dillon", not "Dylan". Once I typed it, it looked strange for a black dude.

  16. Do you think Dillon was a first name or last name? Or neither? Because it could just be a cool nickname like "Dutch" but then why choose something as pedestrian as "Dillon"?

  17. My last two word scrambles to post comments were "brible" and "wohre". I found both to be funny.

    OK, I'm done. Time to go to bed. Sorry to bomb your comment board, but the Chief said to bring it.

  18. Did you know that Jesse Ventura's character in Predator was named Blain? I didn't know that.

  19. Controversy! It looks like the votes taken since BHGP linked to this battle have been erased. We're now back to a 6-5 race mere hours after my drunken rantings. Boo vote rigging boo.

  20. This has actually happened to us before-- the poll widget has mysteriously dumped a bunch of votes, but they were restored the next day. It's vexing, but I think we'll be able to get through this without having to stare at any hanging chads.

  21. So after watching 24's music video, it somehow led me down the rabbit hole, through a journey of the darkest corners of my mind. On this odyssey I passed some old youtube friends along the way including 2x Ultraviolet music videos, Autotuned Antoine Dodson, Rick Astley, and Keyboard Cat... I came away from the experience in a trance, a bit afraid, and somewhat turned on. It was like that time I woke up in the Hinterlands with nothing but Troll Sweat in my bags... the horror... the horror.

    If 24 has the power to control mystical forces such as this, he surely knows his younger self's weakness. It's probably pride, pride is a weakness, pride will do.