Monday, May 30, 2011

Wilson vs. Benson

Woodrow Wilson
28th President of the United States
Served: 1913-1921
Age during term: 56-64 

PROS: Uncommonly credentialed — Wilson gained a PhD in History & Political Science from Johns Hopkins University in 1886. That PhD right there? Is the only one every earned by a U.S. President. So that's something, huh?

What's really remarkable about Wilson's academic achievements is that young Woodrow didn't learn how to read until he was 10 years old. It's speculated that he suffered from dyslexia, though since dyslexia wasn't a "thing" in the 1860s, it's tough to be sure. Wilson compensated by teaching himself shorthand, which seemed to work out pretty well, as before shipping off to Johns Hopkins, he spent about a year as a lawyer in Atlanta, managing to pass the Georgia State Bar exam after having only attended a year's worth of law school.

Oh, and one more thing about that PhD. Apparently, in order to get that degree? He also had to learn German.

We feel safe in saying that anyone stepping into the ring against Wilson had better have their shit together.

An Opportunistic Uniter — Wilson's political career benefited from his having a somewhat unusual past. He was born in Ohio, but his family moved south before the Civil War (which, seeing as they were pro-slavery, was probably a good idea). Wilson subsequently spent most of his childhood in Augusta, Georgia, but also lived in both North and South Carolina during his pre-PhD years.

Once he graduated from Johns Hopkins, Wilson began an academic career that took him through a number of northern colleges — places like Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan, before finally settling down as a faculty member at Princeton University. Thus, when he entered political life, he was able to do so as a Northerner. This combination of Northern and Southern experience made Wilson an attractive candidate when he tossed his hat into the ring to grab the 1912 Democratic presidential nomination, and he was able to use that attractiveness to snag the nomination itself from a crowded field. Thus, he was a uniter.

In the general election, he just got lucky. The Republican party split down the middle, with the progressives, led by Teddy Roosevelt, breaking off to form their own "Bull-Moose" party. The winners in that little imbroglio? Why, the Democrats, of course! Wilson won the presidency after gaining a somewhat meager 41.8% of the popular vote. Opportunistic!

CONS: Yeah, not so much with the "health" — There's a bit of a historical consensus that Wilson's mother may have suffered from hypochondria. Which would be fine, except... mayyyyyybe she passed it onto her son. Wilson suffered numerous bouts with ill health over the years. One such episode forced him out of Davidson College, another would end his time in law school (though look how that turned out).

Whether any of his other maladies were "real" or not, Wilson did seem to suffer from hypertension, and may have suffered his first stroke at the relatively young age of 39. That's certainly not good. And it would've maybe been okay for Wilson if his presidency had come in one of the less-turbulent times for America, but... no dice. Between the outset of World War I, and the influenza pandemic of 1918, Wilson's second term was especially rocky, and his health took a nose dive. Even as Wilson toyed with the idea of making a third run at the presidency (mostly to attempt to get America involved with the League Of Nations, Wilson's own brainchild), his closest friends and advisers feared he could not survive another campaign.

They were (probably) right. In September of 1919, Wilson collapsed in Colorado during a public speaking tour he had undertaken in order to drum up support for the League. The following month, he suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side. His incapacitation was so severe, he was essentially nullified for the rest of his term. His wife Edith managed to delegate most of Wilson's tasks, leading some to call her the first female president of the United States. Now, obviously this debilitation only lasted a short chunk of his overall presidency, but a stroke doesn't just happen, you know?

Prone to capsize during raft voyages
Wait! Wait, that was another Wilson. Sorry. Sorry, everyone.

Enigmatic! And not in a good way — A close reading of Wilson's record brings up some... strange inconsistencies. For example, we were talking about his ill health above? Well, while he was being a hypochondriac whose illnesses bounced him from higher education multiple times, he also was an avid baseball player, golfer, and cyclist. While he campaigned in 1912 as an advocate of smaller government, he then proceeded to create the Federal Reserve, and more importantly, implemented the Federal Income Tax. And here's the big one — despite basing much of his foreign policy on the idea of spreading good ol' fashioned American Democracy, Wilson steadfastly forgot about the millions of people in his own nation who mayyyyyybe would've liked a shot at some of said democracy's fruits. You know, the African-Americans? Yeah.

This is despite the fact that African-Americans (those who were allowed to vote, that is) voted for Wilson in droves in 1912. They were repaid with an administration that did nothing to reverse Jim Crow laws, and with a cabinet whose officers expanded segregation in federal ranks. While Wilson did allow for African-Americans to serve in the armed forces during the war (and at equal pay with whites), he kept the units strictly segregated, and kept blacks out of combat duty. He also went so far as to say this segregation was "not a humiliation but a benefit." Um... yikes.

The point of this is that Wilson probably won't have time in the Arena to orchestrate any elaborate bait-and-switch tactics, as he was apparently wont to do politically. He's going to have to come up with some other way of beating his opponent.

Thomas “Tug” Benson
Fictional president in the film Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
Portrayed by Lloyd Bridges
Age: Bridges was 80 when the film was released

PRO: Indestructible — Benson has seen a lot of action in his long, storied military career. He has not only survived all of it, but he’s still taking a lot of hits and coming back for more. He once fell out of a plane. Granted, the plane was on the ground at the time, but that’s still a fall of about 10 to 15 feet. He landed on his face and got up as if nothing happened.
He's okay, folks
During his duel with Saddam Hussein — which, by the way, brings me to the point that Benson had a duel with Saddam Hussein — he took an iron rod to the face like a champ. Mind you, this is right after he fell into a lit fireplace and walked out as he casually brushed himself off.
Yeah, he'll be fine.
Fearlessness — There’s a scene where Benson was under the impression that a saboteur was creeping around the Oval Office. He confronted the person, ready for a fight. He didn't let up until a Secret Service Agent informed Benson that the person wasn’t actually a saboteur, but his own wife. He was ready to fight his own wife.
It's funny, because he has access to nuclear codes, but he doesn't recognize his own wife.
And then there’s the business about Hussein. The Commander-in-Chief, himself, stormed Hussein’s palace and told the much-younger Topper Harley to scram so that he could fight Hussein himself. It was a pretty epic duel, though I might only be saying that because of the light sabers.

CONS: Age — At 80, Benson is probably the oldest combatant. While he seems to be in really good physical shape, his mental faculties are obviously diminishing quickly. That episode where he couldn’t recognize his own wife and mistook her for a saboteur shows that he was suffering from paranoia and dementia.

What’s even sadder is that he was running for re-election. Since he was personally involved in the operation that helped drop a piano on Saddam Hussein, he’d probably win another four years. It’s only a matter of time before he puts himself in a truly dangerous situation that he wouldn’t be able to get out of, and that could happen while in the Arena.

Poor physical shape — Okay, so he can survive falling out of a plane without getting a scratch. All of that seems lucky because he constantly spoke of a number of injuries he suffered through various wars. These include, but are not limited to:
  • His intestines were removed and replaced with hemp after taking a torpedo to the abdomen in the North Atlantic.
  • His ear canals are stainless steel after taking a bullet in Corregidor.
  • He had part of his bladder blown off in Guadalcanal. It seems as if this was a separate incident than in the North Atlantic.
Maybe he needs to do better at choosing in selecting medical care. This is all besides the point. The broader point here is that Benson seems to be held together by spit and hope. He could literally just fall apart at any moment.

The Fight
Doug: I don't know. I think what it boils down to is the fact that Benson seems to have the cluelessness of Mr. Magoo and takes a hit better than Wile E. Coyote.
Most people/coyotes wouldn't be able to hold up a sign after surviving such an explosion.

Benson doesn't realize he is in any physical danger, but it doesn't matter, because he'll end up fine anyway. This is a dangerous combination, especially against Hypochondriasis McStrokes-a-Lot.

It's been proven that Wilson doesn't handle stress all that well. How is he expected to handle the Arena?

Tony: I dunno, I sort of suspect Wilson can handle stress well... at least when he really wants to. If he's faced with law school in an age when you didn't really need a law degree in order to pass the bar? Maybe he skives off. If he's doing something he really wants, like say, running for president, he sucks it up.

Clearly, though, this is going to be a battle of attrition. And I think Wilson has the brains not only to survive, but to find the one weak spot Benson has that, when hit, will cause Benson's body to explode into a cloud of sawdust.

Doug: Oh, I'd imagine Benson would have a weak spot like that. For the good of humanity, I would hope that spot exists. There's no guarantee that he has one and Wilson has no way of knowing that he's going to find it in time. And, yes, time is limited. Benson has had his share of scrapes. He probably doesn't pack as much of a punch as he did in his heyday, or at least I'd hope he doesn't, but the fact that he nearly cannot be destroyed really helps Benson's chances.

Wilson will earn his Ph.D in getting destroyed from Tug University.
With honors

Saddam Hussein has that same degree, so he'll be in good company.

Tony: This does make me wonder how different these two are, fighting-wise. I mean, it's pretty clear Benson doesn't give a crap, right? He's just going to go charging off, brushing off attacks left and right. There's a definite non-subtle nature to Benson. I mean, just in general. However, Wilson was kind of the same way. Take the Versailles treaty (and the League of Nations), for example. Wilson wasn't going to bend on any of that. Especially after he had his stroke. So what I'm trying to say is, this fight could wind up just being two old guys wailing on each other until one of them finds the other's self-destruct button. Pull up your chair and getcha popcorn!

Doug: Ehh, I'm down with this idea to a point. While they're both powder kegs in their own right, those close to Wilson saw him quickly deteriorating and worried about him possibly running again. No one seemed too concerned for Benson's health while he was running for re-election.

Though, maybe they should have. Not for physical reasons, but because he seems to be mentally slipping. Why hasn't anyone said anything to him yet? It's actually a little sad and disturbing, now that I think about it.

Tony: I get the feeling that "normal" for Benson is worrying enough. Which doesn't excuse not pointing out his occasional... fumbles....

The Chief: I think I just heard that someone might explode this week, so that sounds interesting.

Everyone have a happy and safe Memorial Day, or if you're not planning on being safe, at least vote and comment before your unsafe Memorial Day to make sure you're counted. Polls close 9am Friday.

Wilson vs. Benson


  1. I think Benson will settle this the Old Navy way: first guy to die loses, and gets an extra 15% off of men's screened t's.

  2. I think if benson has no problem beating a woman (ie. His wife) he should have no problem rolling over wilson's wife - who will probably have to fight for him. My money is on benson.