Monday, May 9, 2011

Ryan vs. Fillmore

NOTE: Although three actors have portrayed Jack Ryan, none of which played him while he was actually president, we decided to have Tom Clancy himself represent him on top here. If you would rather imagine Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck or even yourself playing the role of Jack Ryan this week, feel free.
Jack Ryan
Served as President in the Tom Clancy novels Debt of Honor, Executive Orders, and The Bear and the Dragon
Age: Indeterminate. Wikipedia gives an birthdate in 1950, and Debt of Honor is implied to take place sometime around 1995-96. So, yeah, something like that.

PROS: Have you seen this guy's resume? — Holy crap, what hasn't this guy done. Let's try and tick off the major bullet points from before he becomes president, He...
  • Defended the Prince and Princess of Wales from an Irish terrorist attack, and subsequently defended himself and his family from subsequent attacks
  • Personally helped shepherd a defecting Russian submarine captain, along with his newly-christened and somewhat revolutionary submarine, into American hands
  • Orchestrated a scheme in which he manages to retrieve a high-ranking Soviet official (who also happened to be passing intelligence to the U.S.) AND the chairman of the KGB; during this particular operation, Ryan literally fell out of the plane ferrying the Russians out of Russia and was briefly held by the KGB.
  • Became Active Deputy Director of the CIA's Intelligence wing, whereupon he uncovered and helped to dismantle a highly illegal (and as a bonus, disastrous and ineffective) operation that attempted to destroy Colombia's drug cartels. During this time, Ryan personally traveled to Colombia to help extract U.S. assets (read: soldiers) who had been abandoned when everything started going tits-up.
  • Concocted a highly-complicated (and somewhat successful) Israeli-Arab peace deal involving the Vatican, and Swiss troops.
  • Successfully deterred President Fowler from ordering a nuclear counter-strike following the destruction of Baltimore Denver in a nuclear terrorist strike. Had Folwer succeeded, shit would've really hit the fan (trust us — this part is a little too complicated to explain in a bullet point)
  • Gained access to the Soviet/American "Hot Line" during the above crisis and managed to prevent the U.S. and USSR from starting WWIII.
  • Became National Security Adviser to President Durling, where he enacted a plan to save the American economy following various hijinxs and chicanery by Japanese warmongers.
  • Outfoxed the aforementioned warmongers with a series of covert attacks and other ballsy maneuvers, all of which led to President Durling asking Ryan to become his next Vice President (the previous VP having had to resign due to a sex scandal). Which led to the last bullet point, where Ryan.
  • Narrowly survived an attack where a disillusioned Japanese pilot crashed his 747 into Congress during a joint session (where Ryan was to be formerly introduced to the nation as VP).
"Did somebody start something? 'Cause I'll finish it."
That right there? Is a TREMENDOUS amount of badassery. And, of course, we only covered the time before Ryan made it to the White House. AFTER that? Well, he continued to kick ass, of course, but in the interests of keeping things short (really, we do try to do that around here), we're going to stop there.

Survivability — When we first meet Jack Ryan, he's a mere CIA analyst — a spook, in other words — with no ambitions nor training for field duty. All of a sudden, he has to be flown out to the middle of the Atlantic to help bring in a defecting Russian and his submarine. And he manages to do so with mimimal fuss! Well, by that we mean he manages to do so by shooting a man, and then by hanging out while the sub he is on sinks another Russian sub by ramming it. Welcome to field work, Jack Ryan!
Helllooooooo, sailor!
Over the years, Ryan manages to stare down all number of threats, some physical, others international. While chaos ensues around him, Ryan stands tall, figures out the best course of action, and executes said course. Seriously, the man just knows how to roll with the punches. Best example? We'll say it came at the end of the Sino-Russian war (don't ask what that is), when the Chinese kiiiiiiind of accidentally managed to launch an ICBM... at Washington. President Ryan refused to evacuate, instead opting to stay behind on the U.S.S. Gettysburg, which was carrying an experimental missile defense system. Granted, said system had never worked before, but Ryan's presence alone (we assume) willed it to destroy the incoming ICBM, thus saving the capital, and Ryan. Oh, and as an added bonus, when China's student population discovers that not only was their country fighting a bullshit war in Russia, but it also almost managed to, you know, nuke someone, they rise up and overthrow the Chinese government, literally overnight. The lesson? Is that you do NOT fuck with Jack Ryan. Period.

CONS: Daredevil — More often than not, Ryan ends up charging into various situations without really thinking things through. Like that whole Russian airport scenario we talked about above. Ryan basically risks his life on the premise that, due to his diplomatic immunity, the Russians won't kill him. Now, obviously they don't, but consider that Ryan had just helped two extraordinarily prominent ant-Russian intelligence sources get away from Russia. And consider that once Ryan was dumped on the tarmac, he was in the hands of probably the one Russian who had the most to lose from all that shit going down. Jesus, that's... that's some confidence. If Ryan is that reckless in the ring, he could be in for some trouble if his luck runs out.
Fortunately for Ryan, his universe doesn't have any of... this.
Bites off a bit more than he can chew? — One of the big hallmarks of the Ryan Administration is the Ryan Doctrine. What's that? Well, it's Ryan's declaration that anyone ordering an attack on the United States' "territory, possessions, or citizens" will get blowed the fuck up. There are a lot of good intentions in this idea — Ryan, after all, wanted to tell the world that the United States would not be taking any more shit, thankyouverymuch, and also explicitly said that retaliatory strikes would be designed to punish the shit-kickers directly, rather than affecting the innocent civilians and citizens that shit-kicker may have presided over.

However, it's important to note that the Ryan Doctrine was a terrible idea. Really. First, it overturned President Ford's ban on U.S.-based assassinations of foreign leaders, thus making it open season for any foreign government with a beef against America's president (granted, in the Ryanverse, everyone seems to have wanted the sitting president dead, regardless of anything Ford said, so I guess it's a wash). Second, the doctrine's success is only guaranteed in a universe where a) the United States military can do anything it wants at any time, with little to no consequences, and b) America's intelligence-gathering services never fuck up. Also, the doctrine doesn't consider the aftermath of the United States blithely picking off other world leaders it doesn't like. Can you say "global instability"? We thought so. Though, again, global instability is a real hallmark of the Ryanverse, so given all that, maybe the Ryan Doctrine makes sense. Still, before leaving office, Ryan managed to create another top secret intelligence organization, which he supplied 100 blank pardons to cover any crimes they might commit in the name of keeping America safe.

Yeah, hard to see that coming back to bite anyone in the ass.

Millard Fillmore
13th President of the United States
Served: 1850-1853
Ages during term: 50-53

PROS: Good at being No. 3 — We here in the U.S. have a two-party system. The two parties in question have shifted through the years. Originally, the rivalry was Democratic-Republicans vs. Federalists and now it’s Democrats vs. Republicans. Whigs came and went somewhere along the way (we’ll get to that later).

Every so often, a third-party candidate comes along and shakes things up. Fillmore was one of these people. In 1856, he ran under the Know-Nothing Party with Andrew Jackson’s nephew as a running mate. They ended up getting 21.6% of the popular vote, which is the one of the best showings of any third-party candidate.

Even when the system is stacked against him, Fillmore does better than expected. Though it may speak volumes about our hideously ugly history that more than one-fifth of our voters were supporting a party whose sole platform was "Hey, don't you think there are too many Irish and Germans around?"

His spirit lives on... on TELEVISION — The ‘80s sitcom Head of the Class starred Howard Hesseman as a teacher to a group of gifted students.
In the beginning, the show took place in New York's fictional Monroe High School. Then, somewhere along the lines, they changed it to Millard Fillmore High School.

No, they didn’t up and change schools. The writers just changed the name of the school. Why would they change the name of the school from Monroe, who is pretty well-known and has a Doctrine for crying out loud, to Fillmore, who kind of gets lost in the crowd among other antebellum presidents?

I’m guessing Fillmore visited a show’s writer, either in a dream or in real life... who knows? “Look,” Fillmore said, “I’m not getting any respect. No one knows who I am. Do something about this.” The writer was like, “Whatever, Franklin Pierce, or whoever you are.” Then Fillmore’s ghost must have given him quite a scare because the jock extras at 0:12 in the show’s opening are wearing jackets with F’s on them, not M’s.
Fillmore's wish is granted
Fillmore’s spirit is a very powerful being, and today he can be seen playing a very powerful man on the successful television show 30 Rock.
Okay, that may be Alec Baldwin and not Fillmore, but I think the resemblance is pretty uncanny. You many not think Millard Fillmore could do very well in a fight, but ask yourself how well Jack Donaghy could do.

CONS: Nerd — When he got the White House, Fillmore was a little taken aback by the fact that there were no books to be found — I guess all of the books from the Adams and Jefferson days were in the Library of Congress — so he started the White House library.

No, that’s good. Presidents should like to read.
The supposed favorite of a recent president
I’m not attacking the guy for being an intellectual. If this were a Jeopardy! tournament, this would serve him well. It’s not, though.

Oh, and he did serve in the New York militia, but his military service was limited. So limited that his Wikipedia article dedicates exactly one sentence to his military career.

He had also served as New York State Comptroller, but thanks to the show Archer, when I think of the position of comptroller, I think of Grade-A weiner Cyril Figgis.
Ineffectual weakling or not, the man gets a surprising amount of action.
Last of the dying breed of people who seem to die easily — Millard Fillmore was our last Whig president, and he wasn’t even elected to that position. He was elected vice president to Zachary Taylor, who died in office after serving 16 months. In fact, the only other Whig elected president was William Henry Harrison, who died a month after inauguration.

Whig presidents don’t seem like very hardy people. Maybe that’s why Fillmore tried to run under a different party in 1856. He knew that if he was elected as a Whig, his days would be numbered.

The Fight
Tony: Okay, look, maybe I'm being a little overconfident here, but I really don't see why Jack Ryan is supposed to be concerned with a patsy like Fillmore. The thing about Ryan is? All his enemies get crushed. Terrorists attacking his family? Bam, dealt with. Iranian agents weaponize Ebola and release it throughout the country? Blown up and/or extradited to the U.S. Rogue Chinese militants try to nuke Washington? The entire government gets replaced. So what's supposed to happen here? Millard Fillmore shows up, he's gonna get dealt with, Jack Ryan style.

Maybe Fillmore thinks he can somehow befriend Ryan, but history shows that's not a good idea, either. Ryan's friends and mentors have a bad history of getting assassinated, or coming down with cancer, or getting blown up when a 747 plows into the Capitol. Pretty much, the only survivor in Jack Ryan's world is... Jack Ryan. Oh, and I guess his direct family. But I'm sure once Clancy gets desperate, Jack Jr. is gonna feel some pain.
Doug: I'd have to say, as unrealistic as the premise of our blog is, it couldn't hold a candle to the ridiculousness that is Tom Clancy's "Ryanverse."

That is to say, to me, reanimating each and every single president and having them meet — sometimes with fictional presidents... some of whom are animated — for a Battle Royale seems marginally more likely than a hijacked plane getting anywhere near the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress. Add to that every single thing that happened to Ryan. It's very unlikely that all of this would happen to one person.
Grover Cleveland fighting another version of himself?
Meh, I've read sillier things in Clancy novels.
Ryan will be miffed to learn that his luck won't be that great in the slightly more realistic universe of the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™. It will be like in Last Action Hero when Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) went to the real world and was surprised to learn that simply shooting at a car a few times won't make it explode.

Ryan is up for a bit of a rude awakening when he realizes that just showing up won't ensure survival.

Tony: I can come along with this in theory... but only in theory. Look, Millard Fillmore has about a 0.3 rating on Jack Ryan's threat assessment board. Out of 100.
And that's perhaps being generous. I mean, Jack Ryan has legitimate close-combat experience that Fillmore just doesn't have. What, is Fillmore supposed to draw strength by being vaguely on television? I'm just not seeing it.

Doug: Okay, I'm pretty sure you just made up the Jack Ryan's threat assessment board, along with the scale and the 0.3 rating Fillmore gets, is something you just made up. I'm curious how other things would fall on this scale. What kind of score do puppies get? What about non-WASPs?

Granted, given the things Ryan has survived, Fillmore would probably rank low on the list. However, like we've both said, luck plays heavily in Ryan's life. When luck runs out, it does so in crazy, life-ending ways. For example, think of Bobby Leach. Leach was a daredevil and the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Oh, he suffered injuries, but he survived. That takes a massive amount of luck, right? Well, luck might have a Newtonian element to it, because Leach died fifteen years later... from an infected leg... which he got from slipping on an orange peel.
Because fatally slipping on a banana peel would have been considered pedestrian.

An orange peel may would have probably gotten a 0.3 on Bobby Leach's threat assessment board, which made it all the more easier for the orange peel to kill him. Say what you will about Millard Fillmore, the man's tougher than an orange peel.

Tony: I'm not here to suss out the entire rating scale. The point is that Fillmore's got nothing that's going to surprise or overwhelm Jack Ryan. Though I imagine puppies probably score an "adorrrrrrrrable!" Because they're puppies.
Holy shit, I can't stand the adorable.

The only way Ryan should be worried about your Bobby Leach comparison is if Tom Clancy was into ironic deaths, and he's pretty much not. When he wants you dead, you're going to go in a manner befitting your character and whatever crazy whackadoo plot Clancy's pushing at the time. It's not going to be something like slipping on an orange peel. I don't know what the Ryanverse equivalent of that would be. Getting blown up by your own Predator drone? Sure, let's go with that.

Fillmore may be tougher than an orange peel, but I doubt he has the... zest to kill like Ryan does.

He's going down.

Doug: You make is sound like Tom Clancy is going to decide the outcome of the fight and not our voters. If our voters want an ironic death, they'll vote for an ironic death. Stop disenfranchising our voters, Tony.

Obviously, given Ryan's past experience, Fillmore is going to pretty much be depending on luck or irony for the win, but that doesn't mean a Fillmore win isn't impossible. If the triskaidekaphobic vote comes out in full force, they might decide that having the 13th President in of the United States enter the ring could be just the thing to spell doom for Ryan. Shit, the dude's run has got to end at some point.

The Chief: Polls close 9am on Friday the 13th, a bad day for friggatriskaidekaphobes.
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Ryan vs. Fillmore


  1. Oh Putin. You maniacal, sexy beast you... Oh, I'm sorry. I was distracted by Putin's gleaming abs. Yeah, gonna have to go with Jack Ryan. When he's brought into the HttCttD universe and sees that his world is Putin- free, the frustration of knowing what's missing is going to send him into a jealous rage. And I don't think we want to see Ryan in a jealous rage.

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  3. Fillmore is a dirty MF-er, so don't rule him out. Plus, jack Ryan as pottier by Tom Clancy?! I'm sorry, the pen may be mightier than the sword, but a typewriter is more pussified than a Fillmore beatdown. Which is what Ryan is in for. Besides, my motto has always been if Ben Alleck is cast tp play you, you're a pussy! It was in my 1954 State of the Union address.

  4. Okay, so we have a do-nothing President (Fillmore) going up against a do-too-much-and-f***-up-the-world President (Ryan). In fiction, it's nice to have a president who kicks ass and takes no prisoners, but in real life it's hell to live under such an administration.

    If this were a presidential race, I'd have to go with the invisible president, President Fillmore -- even if he was an anti-Mason, and even if he did support General McClellan when he ran against Abraham Lincoln in 1864. *shrug*

    But this is a death match, and Ryan would have actual munitions. So he'd win this one.