Monday, May 23, 2011

McKinley vs. Palmer

William McKinley
25th President of the United States
Served: 1897-1901
Age during term: 54-58

PROS: Fighter — McKinley has quite the resume when it comes to scraps. First off, he served in the Union army during the Civil War (under the command of some guy named Rutherford B. Hayes), rising to the rank of captain (and "brevet major," which our research indicates means, "quasi-major-but-not-really").
Also, his civil war photo? Not super-inspiring.
When he was out of the army, he spent some time building a legal career, then embarked in politics, partially to support his old commander, who was running for governor of Ohio.

McKinley then went on to win a number of highly contested elections, first for the U.S. House of Representatives, then for his own governorship. He wasn't always successful (he lost his house seat in 1882, and again in 1890), but he always bounced back. This gave him the advantage of learning how to campaign under any circumstance, from heavy favorite, to heavy opponent. Both tactics would come in handy during his presidential runs; he began the 1896 campaign as a definite underdog to popular Democratic orator William Jennings Bryan, but came back to win handily. In 1900, McKinley's administration was hugely popular, and coming off an easy war, to boot, and he again crushed Bryan. Be his maneuvers political or military, McKinley knew how to deliver victory.

Revolutionary — McKinley's election in 1896 was remarkable for a number of reasons. It marked a realignment of political power into Republican hands, and ushered in a new age of progressive politics. The election itself is one that historians have studied for a good long while, as McKinley wound up winning across large swaths of the electorate, including farmers, professionals, factory workers, etc.
As president, McKinley worked to enact a series of reforms, both to the nation's economic climate, and to civil service regulations. For the former, McKinley's campaign had been largely based on backing the gold standard, as a way to bring the American economy in line with world markets. For the latter, McKinley reorganized civil service in order to ensure that people in federal jobs knew exactly what the hell they were doing.

McKinley's legacy ended up being largely obscured by that of his Vice President, Teddy Roosevelt, who became president following McKinley's assassination in 1901. However, Roosevelt was just carrying out McKinley's policies. Sometimes, life just ain't fair.

CONS: Prone to blunders — We'll be honest. McKinley didn't really screw up all that often. But when he did? Well, let us put it this way: there's a line in one of the Harry Potter books where Dumbledore says something along the lines of "I don't screw up that often, but since I'm always in the middle of some high-level shenanigans, when I do screwup, the consequences tend to suck." Now, we're not really trying to compare William McKinkley to a fictional wizard, but his screwups did tend towards the dramatic.

For example, during his term in the House, McKinley ended up a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In this capacity, he drafted the McKinley Tariff Act, a bill designed to protect U.S. Goods from foreign imports by dramatically driving up import costs. It backfired spectacularly, with prices on consumer goods spiking, and the result was a Democratic landslide in the mid-term elections of 1890. Two years later, the Democrats took the White House, as well. That is a screw-up of rather epic proportions.
You'd think he could have forseen some of these issues.
When he got to the White House, McKinley almost topped himself, through a little something we like to call the Spanish-American war. We don't want to get bogged down in the war's causes (60% American imperialism, 20% yellow journalism, 19% wanting to beat up on Europe, 1% the U.S.S. Maine), but the simple fact is that McKinley couldn't prevent the wheels of history from moving the country into war.

Problem was: America wasn't exactly in any shape for a war. The army was in tatters, and its ranks had to be filled by volunteer militias (you may have heard of these, as Teddy Roosevelt ended up leading one). Fortunately for everyone involved, Spain was in even worse shape, and America quickly had the whole war wrapped up. Cuba was (briefly) turned over to the United States, and as a bonus, Spain also gave up the Philippines! Yes, a war that began in part to strip Spain of her imperialist trappings wound up gifting those same trappings to America. Still, it was an incredible risk, and it could have had some seriously disastrous results had Spain been able to muster any form of defense. In sum: two big risky moves. One went right, the other was a disaster. Do you really want your odds in the Arena coming out to 50-50?

Couldn't close the deal on civil rights — McKinley certainly talked a good game on civil rights, giving many speeches in support of civil rights causes. He said things like:
Our black allies must neither be forsaken nor deserted. I weigh my words. This is the great question not only of the present, but is the great question of the future; and this question will never be settled until it is settled upon principles of justice, recognizing the sanctity of the Constitution of the United States.
But, yes, about that "sanctity of the Constitution" part: McKinley felt that, in terms of taking action on things like, oh, enforcing the 15th Amendment, his hands were largely tied by his need for support from white southerners. So, he didn't act, and conditions for African-Americans steadily declined, thanks to Jim Crow laws emboldened by the recent Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. 
Maybe that's where he got the "have I forgotten something" look he always seemed to have on his face.
This brings us to a couple of important points: first, don't think you can just waltz into the Arena, talking a big game, and expect to win. You've got to back it up. Second, white southerners ruin everything.

David Palmer
Fictional president in the TV series 24 (2001-2006)
Portrayed by Dennis Haysbert
Age: Haysbert was 48-49 when his presidential episodes aired

PROS: Survivor (usually) — I’m not sure if it had ever been discussed if Palmer had ever had ink done, but he seems to have spent the entire series with a bull’s-eye tattooed somewhere on him.

His first assassination attempt occurred while he was running for president. This was a pretty stressful time in Palmer’s life to begin with. In addition to a presidential campaign and the assassination attempt, he was splitting up with his wife. Why? Long story. Suffice it to say that she seems a little unhinged.

He got through all of this, and wins the election, without gaining a single gray hair, though proper credit for surviving the assassination attempt itself should go to Jack Bauer.

Palmer won the election and a year or two down the line, he’s doing another victory lap. Again, it’s a long story. In short, Palmer was reinstated as president (vice president, Cabinet, 25th Amendment... long story) just in time to avoid war with three nations wrongfully accused of an attack on U.S. soil.
Bauer helped again.
While shaking hands with a crowd of well-wishers after a tough day (oh yeah, the logistics of this show requires everyone to have an unrealistically busy day once in a while), Palmer shook hands with Mandy, who was waiting in the crowd. She had been hired to assassinate him while he was running for president and she wanted to make another go at the Palmer-killing thing. This time, she had a deadly virus in her hand, and he collapses immediately. Yeah, I guess that's how that works.

But Palmer survived to see a third assassination attempt. That time, a sniper shot him while he was in his penthouse apartment. He didn’t live through that one.

With a guy with that many assassination attempts against him, he was bound to be killed eventually. Two out of three ain’t bad.
He was kind of already on borrowed time.
Jack Bauer connection — One thing about this show is pretty clear: Jack Bauer is a badass. I’m not saying Bauer would help him in the arena. Clearly that would be a violation of the rules.

But consider this: a nuclear bomb may detonate in the U.S., and our nation needs our best men to get to the bottom of this. Where’s Jack Bauer? He’s an inactive agent, mourning the loss of his wife. It’s fun to imagine him living in the mountains with an unkempt beard at this time.

The Counter Terrorism Unit contacts Bauer for his help, but he ignores their calls. Then Palmer calls him.
Him taking the call probably looked something like this.
He’s not only willing to answer the call, he stops the whole reclusive thing and goes to save the world... because Palmer told him to.

Someone who commands that much respect — with Jack Bauer, no less — will most assuredly be a force to be reckoned with in the Arena.

CONS: Like we just said, no Bauer — Palmer may have grown accustomed to depending on Jack Bauer to get him out of jams, but he won’t be around to help him. Since it’s Bauer, we’ll probably ensure he’s being held at a secure but undisclosed location far away from the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena, so that no funny business takes place.

How would we do that? I don’t know. Does it matter? He’s a fictional character. In fact, if you busy yourself thinking of all of the logistics of this blog, you're missing the point. You're also probably going to go insane.

Illness — That virus that Mandy uses to try to off Palmer really does a number on him. Six months later, he appears on television and appears healthy and in control. The fact of the matter is that he’s bound to a wheelchair, heavily medicated and Vice President Jim Prescott is running the show.
He's also been pixelated.
It isn’t until Prescott’s assassination attempt renders him unable to serve (what the hell is going on here with the assassination attempts?) that Palmer steps back in. How healthy is he at this point? Healthy enough for the Arena?

The Fight
Doug: When David Palmer learned that his daughter's rapist was killed by his son, and not through some other means as he previously thought, he felt it was important to inform the public. Even if it ruined his chances at the presidency. Why? Palmer always does what he feels is the right thing to do. 

Tony: Wait, so his son killed his daughter's rapist, and this was seen as a bad thing? I mean, I'm all for due process and the like, but if the President of the United States came on TV and said "Hey, look, my daughter was raped, and my son went out and killed the bastard," I would probably think something along the lines of "Well, this is a regrettable circumstance, but this does not really reflect on the administration itself." It seems, at the very least, that Palmer would pick up the "anti-rape" vote, which I would imagine to be a considerable voting bloc.

Doug: Yeah, well we're pretty reasonable. I agree. I'm usually against killing people, but if someone limits their killings to rapists... I mean, there are worse things in the world. And of course, that has nothing to do with the killer's father's ability to hold office. The anti-rape bloc is pretty big, but do you know what's an even bigger bloc? The unreasonable voter bloc.
We're quite familiar
I would think that that Venn Diagram has overlap. People would turn that around to favor of his opponent in ways neither of us could even imagine. Remember when some wouldn't let it go that Barack Obama was once in the same room as a one-time "terrorist" whose body count was zero? Let's just say it throws a wrench in his campaign. But this is all besides the point.

So, Palmer made this public because it was the right thing to do. The right thing to do in this case? Beat up the guy who kowtowed to white southerners on civil rights. Yeah, Palmer's a bit of a cool customer, but he kind of has a lot at stake in terms of the civil rights movement, so I can't imagine he'd go easy on McKinley for that nonsense.

Tony: Look, I'll be the first person to say that McKinley isn't exactly a fun, sexy candidate, but he's got a solid resume, and I don't think he's going down so easy. Palmer may think McKinley's a pushover; he should ask the Confederacy about that, since McKinley spent four years wrecking secessionist grills. McKinley may feel conflicted, but he knows what his mandate is in the Arena. He's gonna win this.

Doug: I don't know if Palmer would think that McKinley was a pushover, but if he did and McKinley got the upper hand, Palmer could handle the pressure and eventually prevail. Palmer handles pressure very well. When he was being pressured to respond to the nuclear device in Los Angeles, he didn't jump to retaliate against the nations who he suspected were being wrongly accused of the attack. He's good in the clutch, even back in his college days when he scored the game-winning basket in the 1979 Final Four against DePaul.

(In real life, DePaul actually did lose to Indiana State in the Final Four in 1979 76-74. It makes me wonder what the guy who actually scored those points feels about this.)

Tony: Palmer may be able to handle pressure well, but how does he handle, you know, actual combat? Seems like he always delegates that stuff to Jack Bauer and the CTU-Tones. Except: whoops! They're not going to be around, are they? Meanwhile, McKinley is a battle-hardened veteran of the Civil War. I mean, it's nice that Palmer had clutch shooting during the Final Four. On a team starring Larry Bird, no less! But McKinley had clutch shooting under slightly more dire circumstances. You gotta like McKinley's chances.
McKinley never needed Larry Bird's help.

Doug: Granted, Palmer hasn't proven himself as a fighter, but he hasn't proven that he's incapable of fighting. He's kind of a wild card. McKinley is going to come at Palmer expecting him to roll over like Spain, but Palmer is no Spain. Yeah, it seems like he's too dependent on CTU and Jack Bauer, but he's not completely powerless.

McKinley's going to come in remembering the Maine, but Palmer's going to come in doling out the pain.

Tony: Sorry, but Palmer's entire portfolio of fighting is based on those CTU guys. If not for Jack Bauer's ability to warp space and time in order to maneuver around Los Angeles in ways none have been able to do before or since, Palmer would be up shit creek. I mean, even more than he managed to make it with his little task force buddies.
Sorry to say, in this match, he's going to be a little...
... under-Bauered.

The Chief: YEEEEAAAHHHHHH! Polls close Friday at 9am.

McKinley vs. Palmer


  1. I think Palmer has a chance. I mean, we just saw a cripple take out a certified bad ass. So why not Pedro Cerrano? It's very bad, steal Jobu's rum. Very bad. That's so much more menacing a slogan than Remember the Maine. And if Palmer's son was ballsy enough to kill a rapist, does it not speak of the balltasity of the father? The only yellow journalism that might save McKinley this time is if Palmer pitys him for pissing his pants. I vote Palmer, and I won't campaign for this one.

  2. As long as McKinley doesn't figure out that I mean Palmer can't hit a curve ball then I think you're in good hands, (at least that's Alstate's stand). It may be bad to steal Jobu's rum, but Hayesbert's Palmer has stolen our hearts (and this commenter's vote). Go Palmer, and show McKinley who's got the bigger Unit.

  3. I feel as though we are missing information here that might, in fact, shape how at least one important person (me) votes on this blog. Namely, are the candiates simply thrown into the arena out of the blue? Like one day they are sitting in the Oval Office, then "raptured" away and dumped into the arena? Or do they know of the upcoming fight and have a chance to prepare? Because in this case, if I were Palmer and I knew I'd be going into a presidental death match, even if I didn't know who it would be against, I'd be phoning up Jack Bauer and asking for a crash course in badassery.

  4. You know, it's just that sort of detail that you, the reader, can provide! If you think it's more feasible to imagine a rapture-Arena, have at it! Or, if you think the combatants know what's coming, you could make that the basis of your voting strategy. Your only limits are in your mind!

  5. i feel raped by my car insurance every six months - f*#@ you palmer! goddamn hypocrite.