Monday, May 16, 2011

Marshall vs. Roosevelt

James Marshall
Fictional president in Air Force One (1997)
Portrayed by Harrison Ford
Age: Ford was 55 when the movie was released

PROS: Medal of Honor — We are told briefly that during the Vietnam War, Marshall flew a bunch of rescue missions, enough for him to earn the highest military decoration bestowed by the U.S. government.

Since more than half of its honorees were done so posthumously, living to get the medal shows a mix of heroics and survivability.

Granted, that was the Vietnam War. What about more recently?

Have you even SEEN Air Force One? — Marshall kicked ass for pretty much the entirety of the movie, and it’s a pretty insane storyline, too.

If you’ve yet to see this movie I should warn you that the following is pretty much going to be a spoiler alert a-go-go. Feel free to skip this section and take our word for it or just read and have the movie spelled out for you.

Three weeks after special forces from the U.S. and Russia apprehended the self-proclaimed leader of Kazakhstan, General Alexander Ivan Radek, six Radek sympathizers (Radekists?) hijacked Air Force One on its flight out of Moscow. They had hoped that with the president as a hostage, they could demand Radek’s release. However, at the first sign of trouble, Marshall is hurried to the escape pod.

The First Family was still on board, as were major top advisers, so there was still plenty of hostage material for the hijackers. But what everyone on the plane didn’t know was that even with his own men getting picked off right outside of the pod, Marshall sneaked out of it before it launched, choosing "killing bad guys" over safety.

While hiding in the bowels of the craft, Marshall was able to pick off a few of the hijackers and get in touch with the White House. At which point, he ordered U.S. craft to fire a missile at Air Force One, knowing that the missile wouldn’t actually hit the craft, but would give enough of a jolt to give him an opportunity to kill more bad guys. He spoke Russian to bait one of the hijackers to the lower level, which allowed him the opportunity to free most of the hostages, including the new Postmaster General-designee.
I told you there were going to be a lot of spoiler alerts.
Then, he killed the main bad guy while giving a typical action movie zinger. And it was a good one, too.
But at that point there was still about 20 minutes left of movie left, so there was still plenty of ass for Marshall to kick.

With all of the bad guys — that they know of — dead, as well as everyone qualified to fly the plane, Marshall took the helm at the cockpit. Remember, he had experience flying in the Vietnam War, but that was with flying helicopters and single-engine planes. Air Force One has four engines, and that’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.
"It's an entirely different kind of flying."
Air Force One was later damaged by a group of MiGs, making it unable to land safely, so a nearby craft rescued most of remaining passengers via zipline. Marshall was left dangling behind the plane as Air Force One plummeted into the Caspian Sea.
In the words of Wilson Philips: Hold on
Though he was not properly secured in his rescue harness, he was still able to get winched in to safety.

I’d say the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena wouldn’t be much of a problem after that ordeal.

CONS: Impulsive — There’s a line between being heroic and being dangerous. Marshall blows past that line with such vigor, he probably didn’t even see the line, not that he would have cared about the line in the first place. There were plenty of times in the movie where Marshall could have easily been killed.

We learn early on that Marshall just doesn’t give a shit. Just before the hijacking, Marshall made an appearance in Moscow. Without telling anyone, he switched speeches just as he was about to make an address during a function in Moscow. In this new speech, he declared that the U.S. will no longer let its self-interests deter it from doing what’s morally right. In other words, if a nation starts dabbling in, say, ethnic cleansing, the U.S. will no longer play the weak hand and impose trade sanctions and things like that. No, the U.S. will go in and remove the genocidal maniac.

There’s no way Congress will go for this and this could totally screw with his chances for re-election, but he doesn’t care. He says it’s the right thing to do.

While I agree and it’s the way the world should work, I can't imagine if we adopted this policy today. You think our military is spread thin now? What if we took it upon ourselves to depose every dictator in the world or if we stuck our nose in every pro-democracy movement going on right now in Northern Africa and the Middle East — not just the ones with oil?

What if we got serious about telling China to knock it off with the human rights violations? Yeah, that's a whole mess waiting to happen.

Gary Oldman — Don’t get me wrong, Oldman is an excellent actor. However, if I’m in a movie and I see him, I’m going to keep an eye on him. I’m no enemy of civil rights, but c’mon. The dude usually spells bad news.

Oldman plays the bad guy so well, there’s no reason not to suspect him of being up to anything. Ever.

It has honestly been a long time since I’ve seen The Fifth Element, but the Wikipedia article tells me that he was the ally of Great Evil, so I’m going to go ahead and assume he was the bad guy. He played the bad guy in Léon. He even played Dracula in Dracula!

For crying out loud, if you’re on security detail for Air Force One, and Oldman shows up posing as a Russian journalist, make a mental note. If he later complains about having to have his bag searched again, keep on him for the entire flight.
Sorry, Mr. Korshunov, but we're going to have to handcuff you to your seat.
You were the pimp in True Romance.
I’m not saying Oldman always plays the bad guy. I’m just saying it’s Air Force One and maybe it's not all that great of a time to start gambling. If Marshall doesn’t put everyone on 24-hour Oldman Watch, then who knows what kind of simple mistakes he will make in the arena?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States
Served from 1933-1945
Age during term: 51-63

PROS: Durability — Prior to FDR's presidency, there had been something of an unwritten rule saying that no president would serve more than two terms. The closest anyone had come was, coincidentally enough, FDR's distant cousin Teddy Roosevelt, who ran (unsuccessfully) for a third* term in 1912. In general, though, the "two terms" rule was a generally respected gentleman's agreement among presidents.
Other gentlemen's agreements that were eventually discarded: not letting Nicolas Cage get any ideas.
Funny thing, though: when your administration gets credited with helping turn around something called The Great Depression, people want to keep re-electing you. And when a two-fronted international war breaks out shortly thereafter, people tend to want to not rock the boat that much. All of which means: Roosevelt blew through that two-term limit like it wasn't even there. Which... technically, it wasn't. In the end, FDR was elected to an unprecedented four terms, and even though he didn't quite finish out that fourth term, he still set a record for presidential endurance, which, thanks to that pesky 22nd Amendment, isn't going to be challenged any time soon.
Though some people seem to have missed that.
*-Okay, would Teddy Roosevelt have won his third term had he won in 1912? Well, depends on how you look at it. Teddy became president fairly early into what would have been McKinley's first term. By the terms of the 22nd Amendment, that would have counted as a "full" term. Of course, by the terms of the 22nd Amendment, this would have made Teddy ineligible in 1912, so... never mind? 

Creativity — So, Roosevelt wasn't the first person to think up the idea of spending your way out of an economic catastrophe, but he was definitely the first person to apply those principles to something the size of, you know, the Great Depression. Roosevelt championed a policy of relief, reform, and regulation, which generally translated to "get people jobs, get the economy moving, and clamp down on shenanigans." This meant radically increasing the size of government to unprecedented levels. And whaddaya know, it kinda worked! The economy started to creak back to life, and started chugging back in the right direction... well, until 1937, when the wheels fell off again. Unfortunately, by that time, a bipartisan coalition of conservative legislators had gotten together to help thwart Roosevelt's continued reforms (because when you have someone with a track record of fixing the economy, the best thing you can do is throw a stick into his spokes).
"Because the opposite of 'progress' has gotta be 'Congress,' amirite?"
This led to arguably Roosevelt's most creative plan — an attempt to increase the number of Supreme Court justices, which he could then use to stack the deck in his favor. Sure, it didn't work, but it showed some out of the box thinking that could serve FDR well in the arena. And he wasn't done with unconventional thinking — once WWII broke out, FDR somehow managed to funnel vast amounts of arms and materiel to Britain and China, all while somehow preserving American neutrality. FDR: getting it done.

CONS: Oh, right, he was paralyzed — No real way to sugar-coat this one, but... yeah. While vacationing in Nova Scotia in 1921, FDR contracted a mysterious illness. Initially diagnosed as polio (though it probably wasn't), the end result was that the future president became paralyzed from the waist down.
"Remember, child, no one must ever know about this."
Subsequently, FDR devoted a big part of his life to hiding the fact that he was, you know, paralyzed. With the help of metal leg braces, he was able to stand upright for brief periods, and would otherwise be bracketed by helpful sons and aides whose job was to prop him up. He also managed to learn how to "walk" short distances, and even had a car made with special hand controls to enable him to drive. Aside from that, though, he was wheelchair-bound — not that anyone knew that; Roosevelt generally  managed to avoid having his picture taken in his wheelchair. Somehow, all the subterfuge worked (only two known wheelchair pictures were ever taken, for example), and the American people ended up electing a paraplegic four times.

However, you have to assume any opponent born after FDR's reign is going to know the truth of the situation, and Marshall is definitely born post-FDR. Once FDR goes down, he's not getting back up.

And, the rest of his health wasn't so hot, either — Starting around 1940, a mounting series of health problems started to besiege FDR. And when we say "health problems," we mean diseases including chronic high blood pressure, emphysema, systemic atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease with angina pectoris, and myopathic hypertensive heart disease with congestive heart failure." (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Things were so bad, one doctor, upon seeing Roosevelt in a newsreel in 1944, remarked "It doesn't matter whether Roosevelt is re-elected or not, he'll die of a cerebral hemorrhage within 6 months." Sure enough, five months after being sworn in, FDR made that guy look like a real asshole.
Not that his colleagues were surprised.
Yes, FDR's poor health was very widely known, near the end. We mentioned this whole thing when we were talking about Truman, but FDR's original Vice President was considered maybe a teeeensy bit too "Soviet" for anyone's comfort level, and when the 1944 election got underway, Democratic party leaders decided they needed a new V.P. in case FDR didn't last the term. Yes, Truman was the first guy brought onto a ticket on the "one heartbeat away" reason, and it turns out, it was a fairly valid reason.

The Fight
Tony: Okay, I'll be the first to acknowledge that this might not seem like a fair fight. But you know who knows a bit about unfair fights? Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After all, dude managed to pull off a succession of difficult elections, conduct the greatest war in human history, and go toe-to-toe with Joseph Freaking Stalin, without spilling the beans that he couldn't stand up long enough to sing the national anthem. Dude's been through his share of unfair fights, and if Marshall doesn't recognize, he's going to be left face down in the arena while FDR steams onto the second round.
Plus, what's Marshall's biggest asset? Luck? Yeah, deep down, you don't really want to invest in luck. It has a tendency to give you a horrible ROI.

Doug: Succession of difficult elections? In his four elections, he never received less than 80% of the electoral votes. Oh, I suppose he was really given a challenge in 1944 when Republican nominee Thomas Dewey racked up 99 votes... almost triple digits... oooh!

I sound like I'm arguing for FDR, but really, I'm pointing out that these were political battles.

I don't want to seem like the lesson of The Tortoise and the Hare was completely lost on me, but you really can't get around the wheelchair factor.

Tony: First, I would think that ANY election, especially one for national office, would be difficult if you were trying to hide the fact that you couldn't really walk. But I digress. What you're discounting is that Roosevelt went through two post-paralysis election cycles running for Governor of New York. Given that he only won election in 1928 by 1% of the vote, I'd call that tough, thanks. He did much better in 1930, but there was quite a lot of mudslinging and corruption accusations for that match. Just because he breezed to four terms as president, doesn't mean he didn't know how to scrap in the trenches, as it were.

Okay, yes, we're talking about political battles. Roosevelt doesn't have any combat experience, but he was assistant secretary of the Navy during World War I. That's something, right? Right?

No, you can't get around the wheelchair factor, but consider THIS: Roosevelt could only stand up with the help of rigid metal braces on his legs. Yes, this means he's going into the arena with an advantage: body armor. With a little ingenuity, he can cobble something together that will make his opponent's job a lot tougher. This isn't gonna be a cake walk for Marshall, is what I'm saying.

Doug: Oh, it most certainly will be a cake walk, alright. It will be much like Claude Debussy's Golliwogg's Cakewalk — only less racist.

Tony: Anyone who drags Debussy into this argument is a Clair de Lunatic. Goodness.

Doug: Look, I'd call shenanigans on FDR being allowed to wear leg braces, since it was argued that Kang wouldn't be allowed a breathing apparatus, but I'm not going to. I'll leave that for The Chief or for the voters to do. Marshall can take care of FDR, even with FDR's leg armor. An unarmed Marshall beat up armed terrorists — multiple times.

The leg-braced FDR that Marshall would be fighting would be Tin Man-esque at best.
Only with a heart

Tony: No, we're clearly going to have to defer to the readers on this. Isn't that what we did with Kang? And Kang won. So, I guess I can see why you'd want to keep the voters out of it, as their precise and focused judgment spells doom for your boy Marshall.

Doug: I find you referring to me as a lunatic oddly ironic.

Tony: Ironic? Okay, this I'd like to hear explained.

Doug: You're calling me a lunatic, yet arguing that FDR — who couldn't even stay standing for the lengthy of the national anthem — has a chance against Marshall — who has killed a Gary Oldman character. Not only are you implying that FDR has a chance, you're making it sound like FDR would turn the Arena into an almost literal "Temple of Doom" for Marshall.
While terrible, another Harrison Ford character survived Temple of Doom

And I never said anything about wanting to keep the voters out of it. No, believe me, I want voters to tell us who they think will win: the paralyzed man (with or without the leg braces) who led us through our Nazi killing period or the guy who fought terrorists. Like, literally. Hand-to-hand. And won.

The only thing that might stop Marshall from obliterating his opponent is that he might take pity on FDR. Marshall probably doesn't want to beat up FDR, it's not the right thing to do. Is that why you think I said I didn't want to take this to voters? Because I was afraid the pity vote would come out?

Get off my plane! (That's my Air Force One equivalent to "Get out of town.")

The Chief: As always, polls close 9am on Friday. Vote and comment!

Marshall vs. Roosevelt


  1. Really? We're honestly debating a Captian Kirk vs. Captain Pike (from The Menagerie) scenario here? Excuse me FDR, but the only "New Deal" you'll get is a first class ticket out of the tournament.

  2. Oh, someone is making a STRONG run at COTW. Take notes, people!

  3. Just a note on FDR's remarkable PR strategy (because those History of Journalism classes have to be good for something): FDR didn't hide his paralysis by keeping it from the press. Rather, most of the major White House correspondents at the time knew all about it and had spent some time with him. And although you would think a reporter hungry for a scoop would love nothing more than to blow that story wide open, reporters were charmed by him and felt a sort of patriotic duty to hide/downplay his health so he could keep being a leader. Who's to say Marshall won't be overcome with the same patriotic sentiments? If the press went easy on him, Marshall might too.

  4. This fight is a bigger injustice than the Arthur remake. FDR should bd allowed legs, in the form of my legs, and I'll kick Marshall's ass so bad he'll need to be rebuilt like post-WWII Europe. Hey Truman, what did we call the rebuilding of Europe again?

  5. All ya'll are forgetting a small but very important little redhead motivational speaker who FDR has in his corner: Annie. Haven't you all seen the musical, or at least one of the two movies? Annie talks her way into meeting FDR and then leads him in a rousing chorus of Tomorrow. You know, "The sun'll come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow...there'll be sun." FDR now knows how to stick out his chin, and grin, and then do a wheelie and smack his wheelchair into Marshall's unsuspecting ass. These are the obvious lessons that Annie has taught FDR. The implicit lessons are to not let bullies (in the form of an alcoholic orphanage manager, her brother who thinks howling fowl noises is attractive and his slut girlfriend) run you down by being really persistent and perky. And people, there is nothing more fucking irritating than persistent and perky.

    Which means, of course, that irritating persistent perkiness will probably enrage Marshall into decapitating FDR.

  6. Damn, I was hoping you'd end with, "which means FDR is going to give Marshall some of that Hard Knock Life treatment, in the form of some fists!" That's how Ike sees it.

  7. I don't think there's any competition here:

    Marshall kicked terrorists off his plane! FDR kicked Japanese-Americans into internment camps.

    Marshall has a badass action line ("Get off my plane!"). Has FDR said anything memorable? I can't think of anything.

    Marshall doesn't have polio. FDR is a tad overweight.

    Anyway you do the numbers, Marshall wins every time!

  8. Ok, if FDR dies in the arena, try to resist the temptation to make the headline The Marshall Plan. That's just cruel. My heart still thinks FDR can pull it off. How did FDR get put as the UNC-Ashville of US Presidents? Why not a Zachary Taylor here or something?

  9. William Howard TaftMay 19, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    I believe D.Eisenhower deserves a lot of credit for helping FDR get so many votes. I wonder if his leadership here will one day benefit he future? Will he be the successor to FDR? Will he run in '48? I know he has my vote!

  10. FDR has nothing to fear but fear itself. That means that he weill go in unafraid of whatever Han Solo has to dish out. Besides, if Han let Greedo shoot first, who's to say that he wouldn't let FDR make the first move...and he won't screw around. FDR convince Americans for years that he was able-bodied, I think that means he's a superior brand of American and will rise to this challenge and win. Happy Days are here again!