Monday, June 27, 2011

Bartlet vs. Tyler

Josiah "Jed" Bartlet
Portrayed by Martin Sheen in The West Wing
Age: Sheen was 58 when the show premiered, and 66 when the show, along with his fictional presidency, concluded.

PROS: The (Almost) Complete Package — So, in Bartlet, you have someone with a pretty damn solid résumé. After scoring a 1590 on his SAT's young Bartlet decided to attend Notre Dame in the hopes of becoming a priest. These plans changed when he met his future wife, and though he dropped any further thoughts of the priesthood, he remained a devout Catholic for the rest of his days. Well, aside from that time he got really pissed at God and cursed Him out in Latin, but we won't get into that, much.

After graduating, Bartlet became an economist, and he turned out to be pretty darn good at it, as he eventually earned himself a Nobel Prize in that particular field. But Bartlet believed that he had a duty to help make life better for the less-fortunate, and being the old school Liberal he was, the only place he knew how to make that happen was: politics. He served three terms in the New Hampshire state House, then three terms in the United States House, then two terms as Governor of New Hampshire. It was at this last stop that an old friend, Leo McGarry, came to see him. Leo wrote down a little something on a napkin:
"Bartlet for America"
You see, Leo recognized that Bartlet was the complete package. Someone with legislative and economic experience, the passion to make things better, and someone who was strong in areas typically latched onto by the conservative right. In short, he was a man who would stand up and say, "Hey, I think it would be neat if we reduced the cost of milk so that children get proper nutrition," then waltz into the next room and deliver a smack down like this:
I believe, as the kids say, she just got pwned.

Bartlet's made a career out of kicking ass and taking names for the greater good. Sure, none of that has been actual fighting, but he knows how to transfer knowledge between fields. He's got this.

Popular as all hell — We here at HttCttD try to pretend that our voters will base their votes on the arguments we make here, not on any preconceived notions of the combatants themselves. Occasionally... it's less-than-clear that they're doing that, but whatever.

However, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that, even for a fictional character whose television show ended five years ago, Bartlet remains astoundingly popular. How popular? Let's pull a recent example, shall we? A couple weeks ago, a lone CNN reporter idly wondered on Twitter who, out of anyone in the world, her followers would like to see run for president:
It didn't take very long at all for Bartlet's name to come up:
Eagle-eyed readers will notice Bartlet was one of the retweeters on this message.
Bartlet's new candidacy took off very quickly:
A day later, the results were in!
While Desjardines never released any official numbers for the poll, it was clearly a Bartlet landslide. And you'll notice he defeated Reagan, both in live and zombie form! Zombie Reagan is crazy-popular! Yet, he fell to the fury from New Hampshire.

What we're saying is, in a contest whose outcome is determined by votes, Josiah Bartlet has the support to garner a lot of votes.

CONS: Arrogant — The number one complaint lodged against Bartlet and his administration was they they were, collectively, a bunch of smug, arrogant, know-it-all sons of bitches. And, let's face it, they kinda are. And that leads to... confrontations.

(Okay, brief setup for this next link: it's from the pilot episode of "West Wing," and all you really need to know is that a) Bradley Whitford's character managed to shoot his damn mouth off on a political talk show prior to the events seen here, and b) the Mary Marsh character, aka, the only woman on the Conservative side of the room, was the one who goaded him into it. Oh, also, she's something of a Ann Coulter analogue. Oh! And the day before, while on vacation, President Bartlet ran a bicycle into a tree.)

Anyway, go see what I'm talking about, here.

Everyone back? Cool. Now, it's obvious well before the President walks into the room that there's little love lost between those two sides. But Mary Marsh eventually puts her finger on the button:
They think they're so much smarter! They think it's smart talk, but nobody else does.
Of course, her people can't even get the Ten Commandments straight, so there's that. And it actually leads to a great entrance line for the President, so we'll allow it. Of course, this allows the President to show off, which, come to think of it, is something that he does in the other clip we posted, isn't it? It's not enough for him to show up a conservative radio host (and thin-veiled Dr. Laura stand-in), he has to rub her face in it. He needs everyone to know damn well that he's the smartest guy in the room.

Maybe his political opponents should remind him that the Bible says "Pride goeth before a fall." This would actually be a bad idea, because that's not in the Bible. However, we imagine Bartlet's heard it before.

To be fair, we should point out that the Republicans have a lot of dumbass moments in the series. When Bartlet comes up for re-election, and there's a fairly good chance to get him out of office (for reasons we're going to get to in a second), they run this guy:

Also, there's the whole MS thing — So the reason why Bartlet was so vulnerable when re-election time rolled around? Funny thing- he wasn't even supposed to run for a second term! Why? Because he made a promise to his wife that he wouldn't. And why did he do that? Because they both knew something: that Jed Bartlet had been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
"Maybe we should tell somebody about this? Eh... nah."
Bartlet didn't even tell his best friend and Chief of Staff (the aforementioned Leo McGarry) until a year into his term. Granted, for most of his term, the disease itself wasn't a big deal. Sure, he did faint that one time preparing for his first State of the Union address, and sure, by the end of his term, he could barely walk (with or without crutches), and sure, the revelation that he had MS and lied about it led to a continuous rolling shitstorm for the latter half of his first term, but other than all that, it's not so bad, right?

Well, if there's one thing I wouldn't want to drag into a fight to the death, it's a debilitating physical condition.

John Tyler
10th President of the United States
Served: 1841-1845
Ages served: 51-54

PROS: He’s a loner, Dottie. A rebel — Tyler was the only former president to have been elected to the Confederate government. He had been elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but he died before he was sworn into office. As a result, he is considered to be the only president to die in a foreign country — the distant land of Richmond, Va., which was actually not recognized by the U.S. government as a foreign country — and he remains the only president not to be officially mourned in Washington.

He did his own thing as president as well. Tyler was elected vice president, under William Henry Harrison, in 1840. Harrison is the guy who’s famous for dying a month after taking office. Tyler really wasn’t interested in being vice president. In fact, he peaced out of D.C. before the Congressional session even ended, and he didn’t return until after Harrison’s death.
"Shit, I have to go back to that swampy hell hole?"
When he returned, he decided that maybe the Whig platform wasn’t for him anymore, so he went against the party. The party didn’t really like that, so they kicked him out of the party.

Whatever, he didn’t care. He’s a loner, Dottie. A rebel. You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like that.

He won’t take your nonsense — The Constitution wasn’t all that clear on what happens if the president dies. All it said was:

“In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.”

Okay, the vice president assumes the duties. But what’s his title? Is he still vice president? Is he acting president? Tyler was like, “Aww, hell no. I’m stuck in Washington with you yo-yos, and I’ve got presidential duties. I’m the president.” I'm paraphrasing, of course.

Some prominent members of Congress weren’t necessarily down with this. This was mostly for their own selfish reasons — they were hoping to use this opportunity to wield some presidential powers without actually being elected. Tyler shut this nonsense down and told Sen. Henry Clay to get back to the Capitol and do his job so that he could do his job in the White House.
Clay got told.

Congress eventually passed a resolution declaring Tyler the 10th President of the United States, which set an important precedent. Regardless of this fact, some people still refused to refer to him as president. Any correspondence addressed to Vice President Tyler or Acting President Tyler was returned, unopened.

The guy’s firm, and is in no mood to put up with any bullshit.

CONS: Prolific father — Tyler and his first wife, Letitia, had 8 children. She died in 1842 — the first first lady to die in the White House. A couple of years later, Tyler married remarried, and together, they had seven children. The dude raised 15 children! That must be tiring.
"Whatever, amateur."

To put that in sitcom perspective, in terms of children, that’s 3 Huxtable families (excluding Olivia. I couldn’t stand that girl.) Or, that’s the Bradford Family (Eight is Enough) plus the Lubbock Family (Just the Ten of Us), minus one. Let’s make it Willy Ames. Nothing personal, Mr. Ames, Zapped! was a wonderful film. You're just the only child from either family whose actor's name I recognize.

I can imagine a father of 15 children entering the ring and begging to be put out of his misery. Anything would be better than going home to that zoo.

Okay, granted, by the time Tyler was president, he hadn’t had any children with his second wife, so the number would stand at eight, but we know he has the ability to make at least 15. No disrespect to Tyler, but I wonder how long someone capable of fathering 15 children can go without humping something. I hope it’s longer than the duration of your typical fight in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena, because things might get messy and/or awkward.

Nickname says it all — People who were not in favor of Tyler being given the title of president bestowed a nickname upon him: “His Accidency.” Their opinion was that Tyler wasn’t brought to the White House by the will of the electorate, but by complete accident.

It actually wasn’t the first time his political career advanced due to someone's death. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1816 to fill the position of John Clopton who had died earlier that year. It actually thrusted Tyler into the national political scene.

Granted, he was elected that time, but only because Clopton died. Who knows how long Clopton would have gone on serving had Death’s icy grip not, ya know, killed him? Tyler just doesn’t advance unless someone dies. Granted, that’s the purpose here, but take a look at his presidency. Someone died, he became president. He couldn’t get re-elected on his own.

He’s in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ because Harrison died, but there’s no reason to believe he can advance on his own.

The Fight
Tony: Listen, if there's one thing Bartlet does well, and I mean really well, it's righteous indignation. And if there's one thing that Bartlet respects almost above anything else, it's the sanctity of government, and the office of the Presidency. I guess that's two things. Whatever. The point is, if you throw him in the ring against a guy who disrespected the country by going off and joining the Confederacy? He's going to get angry. And I don't think Tyler is going to like him when he's angry.
Besides that, what does Tyler bring to the table, here? Oh, he didn't take any guff? Bully for him! Bartlet's going to wrap him up in guff like guff is aluminum foil, and Tyler's a stick of gum. And then Bartlet is going to transform that guff into ass whoopage. Q.E.D.

Doug: If this were a debate or an argument, Tyler wouldn't have a chance. No one going up against a Sorkin-scribed protagonist has a chance. But this is all about Bartlet using his fists, and he doesn't have too much experience with that.

I will, however, point out in the earlier cited Mary Marsh scene, Bartlet makes it very clear that he does not have a very good record of acting with a clear mind while angry. If Tyler's rebel ways get Bartlet fired up enough for him to do something stupid, he should just keep the anger coming by telling Bartlet about how he owned slaves his entire life. That should make Bartlet slip up enough.

Then we'll see who's the aluminum foil and who is the stick of gum.

... Wait, why aluminum foil?
Tony: Look, I think we've got two dudes in the arena this week who lack a certain fighting skill set, so I think that's probably a wash. Therefore, it's going to be all about tactics, and Bartlet's got to have Tyler beat on that score. After all, Tyler's go-to move seems to be to flip out and go it alone. Well, he's already going to be alone when he gets dumped into the arena, so that go-to move will be gone. Advantage: Bartlet.

Oh, that seems like a winning strategy: get Bartlet fired up about civil rights. Seriously. Tyler might as well douse himself in gasoline and start waving matches around at that point.

The aluminum foil is the gum wrapper? You know? The wrapper on the gum?

Doug: I'm a little confused about your tactics here. You say Tyler is at a disadvantage because he likes to go it alone. How is that a disadvantage in the Arena, where you're expected to go it alone? It's not like he's going to have Leo McGarry there to offer words of encouragement, telling him that he can do it. So Bartlet is not with the advantage here.

And when I pointed out that Bartlet explained that he acts stupidly when he gets really angry (ex: taking out his garage door, riding his bike into a tree) and that Tyler could use this fact and get Bartlet angry, you make it sound like an angry Bartlet has what it takes to win and won't screw it up somehow.

Okay, I hear aluminum foil, and I think the stuff you wrap leftovers in. I guess some gum come wrapped in a kind of foil with paper. I'll give it to you, I suppose.
For the record, miniature Paul McCartneys are wrapped in paper.

Tony: I guess what I'm trying to say about Tyler is that he enjoys casting off his previous support system. First he's a Whig, then BOOM! He's out. First, he's part of the Union, then BOOM! He's out! It's like a basketball player's first step. Problem is, now he can't do that step, because there's no support system for him to shuck off. As a result, he's going to be discombobulated, and easy prey for pissed off New England Catholics.
You don't think Angry Bartlet has what it takes to win? Go watch that clip where he eviscerates the Dr. Laura stand-in, again. Okay, I'l grant that occasionally when he gets mad, bad things happen in the form of destroying garage doors or sudden arboreal stops. Other times? That happens. Tyler doesn't want any piece of that.

You wrap leftovers in aluminum foil? Saran wrap, Doug. Saran wrap.

Doug: Tyler doesn't need a support system. He spent nearly his entire presidency without a party. Did he go grovelling back when they kicked him out? No. Did he rush out and try to cozy up to another party? No. He doesn't need anyone. That's why he's perfect for the Arena; it's just him out there. This is what he does. He fights his fights all by himself.

Yes, I saw what he did to the Dr. Laura stand-in. He composed a very well-thought out argument that shut her up. That's pretty much all he does, and he does it very well. Bartlet's going to enter the ring and tell Tyler what he thinks about state's rights and the spread of slavery to the West. He's going to put Tyler in his place... verbally. This isn't a debate. You think Tyler cares about others thinking he's right? No, in fact Tyler will probably want to get down to business and start throwing punches just when Bartlet is feeling at his most smug and self-satisfied. And that won't be good news for the guy with the debilitating nerve disorder.

I don't use just aluminum foil. Only some leftovers get aluminum foil. You wrap hot food in Saran Wrap? That doesn't sound too healthy.

Tony: No, hot food goes in Tupperware, or whatever Tupperware knock-offs you happen to have handy.

Doug: Tupperware? Are you kidding me?

Tony: Well, what the hell else am I supposed to do with soup?

The Chief: Okay, kids. I think we can wrap this debate up. Polls close Friday at 9am MDT. Be sure to vote and comment.

Bartlet vs. Tyler


  1. Of course this week's match-up won't do anything to dispel the rumors of the Liberal bias of this competition. Liberal-leaning readers will come out in droves here. Voting for the "Left-Wing" centerpiece, regardless of the fact that at any moment Clinton...I mean Bartlet... could have a flare-up of a disease that causes, among other things, fatigue, balance & vision problems and the inability to control his own bladder & bowel movements (admit it, if your opponent ACTUALLY sh*t their pants when you entered the arena, that would give you quite a mental edge).

    Really, the only fair match-up for Bartlet is FDR. This is America afterall, we have a Special Olympics, the WNBA and a Women's NCAA Tournament... why not a separate tournament for the Bartlets, FDRs and Dubb-yas to square off with competition more suited to their "special" needs (brought to you by the same country that embraced separate-but-equal).

    Enough Bartlet-bashing, as if there weren't enough reasons to vote Tyler (or not-vote Bartlet), look at the most telling component of JT's HttCttD resume (which, incidentally, was labeled a "con"): The guy fathered 15 children. His... um... "genes" were more powerful than any back-woods, frontier contraception methods and high infant mortality rates. I'm guessing that has some sort of translation to the Gladiatorial Arena.

    After rearing 15 children, slaying Bartlet will be...*glasses*... child's play (cue music)

  2. I think bartlet will angrily and accidentally run his bicycle into Tyler

  3. I'm voting for Tyler because no one else will. Plus, I promised his mother I would after that night I "stormed her beaches." I just hope she's not where he got his fertility, that would blow. Oh, and nice pic of McCartney. And if this is comment of the week, consider this a half- assed attempt, which is all Tyler will give in this one. This is a bigger mismatch than when the undefeated Patriots played the Giants a couple years back!

  4. I wish to further the same point that my commenting colleague brought up: the fact that Tyler had sired and raised 8 kids is NOT a con in the arena. Rather, it shows ridiculous staying power, ability to deal with shit (literal and metaphorical), and don't you think he had to break up a few sibling squabbals or even fist fights? Kids fight dirty, and Tyler probably picked up a few tips. Not to mention, presuming that wifey-poo had died by the time of this fight, Tyler's got 8 kids depending on him to survive so they can have 19th century Cheerios for breakfast the next day. If there is anyone who knows how to shut up a fast-talkin' Sorkinite, it's someone who lives with basically an entire polo match.