Monday, July 25, 2011

Breyer vs. Grant

President Breyer
Fictional president in the an episode of the TV series The Venture Bros.
Voiced by Dana Snyder
Age: Unknown. Late 50s - early 60s, based on his appearance.

PROS: Mixture of winners — For those out there who have no idea who he is, here’s what you need to know about Breyer. He’s a mixture of Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Two of these presidents have already made an appearance in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ and were each able to earn at least 80% of the vote. George W. Bush is yet to fight in his first matchup, but will probably fare pretty well against the old man who spent his entire month-long term with pneumonia.

Breyer was inadvertently bred for this competition.
Breyer is the Secretariat of Presidential Gladiatorial Arena™ combatants,
and is ready to give his opponents a Secretariat-style beat down.

Brash — Breyer is pretty open with his affair with his favorite secretary — who wears a blue dress, by the way. He’s pretty open with the fact that his presidency is in the crapper and he doesn’t have “a Chinaman’s chance” at re-election — his words, not mine. He doesn’t seem to care. Well, that’s not true. He cares enough to drop his current vice president, who is getting indicted. And he’s trying to get squeaky clean astronaut, Col. Bud Manstrong, as a running mate to offset his own scandals.
Man of the Year? C'mon, Tempo. Even Time changed this honor to Person of the Year in 1999.
Why doesn’t Breyer just temporarily clean up his act for the good of his country, the office of the President of the United States and his own political future? Because that’s no fun. Besides, I’m going to go ahead and assume that Breyer didn’t just start becoming a slimebucket just as he reached the White House. His whole political career must be checkered, yet he still got that far. He's gotten to the point where he can get out of anything he gets himself into, otherwise he wouldn’t have been elected president.

CONS: Well, almost everything — Breyer was once trapped in the Oval Office with a few other people. Among these people were Manstrong and his mother who may or may not have programmed his son to assassinate the president as soon as he became vice president. Yes, it's very Manchurian Candidate.

I say “may have.” There’s actually a longer story than that, which isn’t very important for the purposes of this blog. Even if there wasn’t a plot to kill the president, there was still the issue of the washed-up scientist who put up a force field around the Oval Office — again, long story. The fact of the matter is that Breyer and the six other people trapped in the Oval Office were eventually saved by these two boys with the help of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost.
The same boys who saved Breyer.
I can’t imagine what kind of dilly of a pickle I’d get myself into where the kid who accidentally sets his pants on fire would be part of the team who saves me, but it makes me wonder if I’d deserve to be rescued in the first place.

Who? — Stepping outside of how Breyer would actually fare in a fight, there’s a trend I can’t help but notice since the beginning of this blog. Fictional presidents who are not very well-known don’t do very well.

For example, the 40-something rower portrayed by 6-foot-tall almost-Olympian lost to a book worm who is a decade older. Why? Because the younger president was in some less-than-decent TV series, and the older one appears on the nickel and is credited with writing the Declaration of Independence.

The Venture Bros. has its loyal fans, but when push comes to shove, Breyer appeared for one episode of an Adult Swim show. That's not getting him too many votes anytime soon.

Ulysses S. Grant
18th President of the United States
Served: 1869-1877
Ages during term: 46-54

PROS: Military badass — When you consider that he would go on to win the freaking Civil War, Grant's military career actually started out somewhat inconspicuously. He only got into West Point because another cadet dropped out, his nominating papers got his name wrong (he was born Hiram Ulysses Grant), and he graduated 21st in his class, except, his class had all of 32 people in it.

However, Grant soon had a chance to study some real wartime strategy when the Mexican-American War broke out. Of course, the Army just about boned this up, too; Grant was a gifted horseman, but was assigned to be a quartermaster rather than going into the cavalry. However, Grant used the opportunity to study the war closely, and he did manage to get some front-line experience, especially when he served as a messenger running dispatches through sniper-lined streets.

Grant left the Army after the war ended, but was ready to sign right up again once the Civil War began. While he was initially charged with rounding up and training troops in Illinois, he eventually rose to a field command position, and the ass kickings began. Grant pushed troops into Kentucky and Tennessee, and eventually rose to command a large chunk of Union forces (known as the Army of Tennessee). He fought hard-pressed, high-casualty battles, quickly gaining the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. The Confederacy's response? Send a crapload of troops in a single-minded attempt to break Grant. The result was the Battle of Shiloh, the deadliest battle in the Civil War to that point. Grant won it.
He won it even though he looked like he should've been a train conductor rather than a general.
We could go on and on about Grant's service in the Civil War, so we'll try and constrict things to his Greatest Hits. Grant's troops eventually gave the Union control of the Mississippi River, which subsequently split the Confederacy in two. Given more of the Union army to command, Grant then cracked open Georgia, leaving it ready for Sherman's march. Finally, Grant engaged the Confederacy's greatest general, Robert E. Lee, in an intense chess match of bloody battles and tactical maneuvers. Though Lee managed to fox Grant into a statlemate at Petersburg, the writing was on the wall for the Confederacy, and Grant was eventually able to grind Lee into surrendering at Appomattox. Not bad for someone who barely made it into the Army!
Right now, Lee is thinking "I can't believe this asshole outfoxed me."
This teaches us two things — first, Grant will pursue any campaign, no matter how costly. Second, that he has the tactical mind to wear his opponents into submission. That's a powerful combo.

Surprisingly good diplomat — Before, during, and after his time as President, Grant exhibited a definite sense of diplomatic flair. For example, while still serving as General of the Army of the United States (a position that Congress created specifically for Grant), a small crisis broke out involving Irish immigrants and... Canada? Okay, so what happened was that following the Civil War, a large contingent of Irish soldiers went north and met up with Irish nationalists who were looking to start a ruckus. The plan? To invade Canada and hold the country hostage until Ireland was granted independence from Britain.
It was kinda serious; I mean, they had their own flag and everything.
In response, Grant personally traveled to Buffalo, where much of the orchestrating was taking place. He closed the border with Canada and proceeded to defuse the situation by rounding up the Irish lads, arresting over 700 of them. International crisis averted!

Grant was still at it after his presidency. He and his wife embarked on a trip around the world, eventually stopping in Tokyo, where they were received by the Emperor and his Empress. Annnnd wouldn't you know, while Grant was in town, a dispute broke out between China and Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, which both countries claimed. Since Grant was in the neighborhood, he was asked to broker a deal. He responded by essentially playing King Solomon was various island groups, giving most of the disputed islands to Japan while China walked away with Taiwan. Unfortunately, as soon as Grant left, the deal fell apart, and the two countries continued bickering on and off until... well, around 1945. But that wasn't Grant's fault! No, Grant had managed to hammer out a good deal for both sides.
He also, allegedly, planted this pine tree. So, that's nice. (Photo credit: Flickr)
A good diplomat understands what people want, and how to get it to them. Certainly Grant would be able to find a way to get his opponent to tip his hand in a similar manner.

CONS: Something of a failure — Really, there were two Ulysses S. Grants. There was the fantastically successful and popular wartime general, and then there was the guy who Reverse King Midased everything he touched. By which we mean, everything he touched (metaphorically) turned to flies.
Now you know where The Hollies came up with the idea.
Let's start by getting to the root of it: Grant liked himself a drink or five. While there are varying accounts of just how much his drinking affected his life and career, there are a few points where said drinking really screwed him. For example, his first stint in the Army came to a crashing halt when he showed up at a unit function in 1854 rip-roaring drunk. He was subsequently pressured into resigning his post, and proceeded to fail as both a farmer and a businessman. When the Civil War began, Grant was barely making ends meet selling firewood on the streets of St. Louis.

Then there was his presidency. You can give Grant a lot of credit for sticking to the goals of Reconstruction and for supporting a number of civil rights measures, but... that's about it. Grant's time as president was marked by scandal after scandal, summarized in Wikipedia in a handy little table!
The first line, for example, reads "Speculators corner the gold market and ruin the economy for several years." Not a good start.
The scandals eroded what had been a tremendous reserve of goodwill for the ex-general, and he left office in disgrace. Was he finished screwing up? No! We talked about his post-presidential worldwide tour, yes? Well, said tour pretty much depleted his cash reserves, and he ended up in bankruptcy soon thereafter (it didn't help that he got bilked by a Wall Street swindler, but still). He only barely got back into the black by the end of his life by writing and publishing his memoirs.
Still, the pattern here is clear: unless it involves leading large batches of men into battle, Grant isn't that great at, well, things. And the only person under his command in the Arena? Himself. Ruh-roh.

Too single-minded — Grant's successes on the battlefield always came at a price: lives. Okay, sure, that's being a bit dramatic. After all, if you're a wartime general, chances are you're going to have to deal with some deaths, unless you're Henry V and it's St. Crispin's Day.
"We lucky few! We band of broth-- oh... they have guns? Shit."
Grant's penchant for long, protracted battles, however, meant that his results were bloodier than most, and this almost came back to bite him in the ass, several times. In fact, following the Battle of Shiloh, it did come back to bite him, as he was briefly demoted to second in command of the Tennessee Army after Army officials criticized his handling of the battle (it didn't help that he had been rumored to have been drinking before the battle broke out, which may have led to his troops being in an unfavorable position from the get-go). The demotion didn't last long, but his critics spent the remainder of the war nipping at his heels. For every bloody battle, there were calls for Grant's resignation. It was only after he managed to crush Lee that everyone shut up.

Grant only cares about one thing: results. And he's good at getting those results. However, if he takes his eye off the ball, metaphorically-speaking, even just a little bit? He could end up smeared on the floor of the Arena.

The Fight
Doug: There is no doubt that Grant was one of the best generals in our history. He was very good at leading other people on his side to their deaths. He doesn't have the luxury of having scores of cannon fodder. This time around, he has to face his opponent alone. And it's a shame that the U.S. Army didn't take advantage of how gifted he was as a horseman. He definitely won't be able to take advantage of these skills in the Arena. While Grant seemed to be good at avoiding sniper fire, he doesn't seem to have much experience with hand-to-hand combat.

On the other hand, Breyer's past is unknown. Though given the fact that he's part-Clinton and part-G.W. Bush, it's not crazy to assume that they may have avoided military service through some finagling. However, let's not forget the fact he's got a little LBJ in there as well. And he's not one to be messed with.

Tony: Ah, but the thing with Breyer is, he relies on every bit the amount of support that Grant does! It he hadn't been surrounded by super scientists (or "super" scientists, depending on your level of disdain for Venture Industries), he'd have been toast. So, he's going to be losing his support system in the arena, as well.

Doug: True, Breyer needed outside help to get out of his little jam, but he wouldn't have needed Dean and Hank's help had it not been for their father demonstrating how amazing his force field works.
The guy who accidentally transports his body into a wall was able to invent something that worked. It's surprising, yes.
Also, the captioned dialogue may be a spoiler... so... SPOILER ALERT, I suppose.
Tony: Another thing about Breyer: he's this combination of Clinton, LBJ, and Bush II, yes? Now, okay, those guys have a lot of positive traits between them, but they also have some significant minuses. After all, between those three, you've got an impeachment and three disastrous wars. Point being, I don't think it's fair to say that combining those guys will only lead to rainbows and roses. If the crap end of that trio emerges, it won't be pretty.

Doug: Of course Breyer shoulders the weak points of the three administrations as well as the strong points. But of the minuses you mentioned — an impeachment and three disastrous wars — none of these things would actually hurt him in the Arena. It's not like Breyer's going to invade a country while he's fighting. Yeah, he's having an affair with a blue-dressed secretary / intern, but that's not going to matter in the fight. If one of the major strikes against him is that he skirted the question of whether or not he smoked pot in his past with, "I did, but I didn't inhale," then I can't really see how this will work against him.

Tony: Those things wouldn't hurt him in the Arena? They all hinge on one thing: poor decisions. You want to tell me that poor decisions wouldn't hurt him in the Arena? I beg to differ! If Breyer channels any of his combinants decision-making skills, things are going to go south faster than Sherman's Army.
And here's one thing I'll say about Grant. A lot of his faults can be traced back to the hootch. Well, guess what he won't have access to in the Arena? With his personal kryptonite out of the way, Grant will have a clear field to do what he does best. Kick ass, and take names.

Doug: I have trouble with the idea that Breyer's affair (for example) shows that Breyer is bad at decision-making. It's not like he started the affair because he thought it would be good for his presidency and then it backfired. No, he got into the affair because he wanted an affair. He didn't care what kind of mess it would cause for him because he knew that he'd get out of it.

Okay, maybe Breyer's willingness to start a war would hurt him in the Arena, but it's unclear whether or not the U.S. is even involved in a war in Breyer's universe.

And I really don't think Grant should get a free pass for all of his decisions because his faults can be traced back to the bottle. You're suggesting that everything he did would have been brilliant had not been for the drinking? So, he won't be bringing booze into the Arena with him, but does that mean that he won't drink before the fight either? Is the argument here that someone as dependent on alcohol as Grant wouldn't be suffering from massive withdrawal and would be clear-minded and able-bodied enough to win a fight?
No, Grant would be sporting a monstrous hangover and would probably be better off with some booze in his system.

Tony: Well, call me old-fashioned, but I happen to think that cheating on your wife is a bad decision, no matter what twisted logic you use to justify it. Ergo, Breyer's got some problems in the decision-making department.

I think the question of whether or not Grant is hungover or drunk when he gets whisked into the Arena hinges on his proximity to his family at the time of said whisking. History shows that Grant's drinking increased the longer he was away from home. It's not a stretch to me to say that it would work in the opposite direction; he'd get more drunk the longer his home (or family) was away from him. So, really Breyer is playing the equivalent of the Dirty Harry game; does he feel lucky, and think that Grant is on the sauce? Or does he know, deep down in his heart of hearts, that Grant is a tactical genius just ready to be awoken?

The Chief: Two drunks who have been known to make some major mistakes. This should be interesting. Polls close Friday 9am Mountain time. Be sure to vote, leave a comment and tell your friends to do the same.

Breyer vs. Grant


  1. I have to be honest, Normally I think Grant would win, EXCEPT Bryer is a Cartoon! Cartoons are invincible! How many times did we see Tom & Jerry, the Looney Tunes Gang, and virtually every other cartoon character beat the living shit out of each other, only to get right up and have another go at it?! How many times Did Wily Coyote fall off a cliff and survive (with a large bump on the head)? How many times did Optimus Prime get shot up with Megatron's Fusion Blaster only to hop back up and save the day? And cartoons are fast! As soon as Shaggy and Scoobie sees a ghost, they disappear so fast and with that comedic ricochet sound. And when it comes to Living vs. Cartoon, not even Bob Hoskins could hold onto Roger Rabbit long enough to inflict any harm. People, let's be real; Grant could take one swing, and Bryer can slip behind him so fast and pull the pants down on Grant. Grand will fall on his face, and Bryer can pull out an ACME anvil from his sleeve and crush Grant.

  2. There's just one problem with your logic there, Timbo: Maude Flanders. If a recurring character from one of if not the most popular cartoon shows of all time can die from a freak tire related incident, I think a one-off character from a mildly popular adult swim show can be pummeled to death by a US General.

    Not to mention Dr. Nick, Chef from South Park and just about every Disney villain ever.

    Besides the cartoon vs. real argument, I have to go with Grant here. I feel like strategically, he's got Breyer beat. Plus, I just had to scroll up before typing that because I couldn't even remember the other guy's name. I know name recognition isn't really relevant in The Arena, but I would never forgive myself if I voted for a fictional character whose name I can't even remember over a real American President. I'm way too patriotic for that.

  3. I am patriotic too, but for once I thought I'd root for the underdog.

  4. "George W. Bush is yet to fight in his first matchup, but will probably fare pretty well against the old man who spent his entire month-long term with pneumonia."

    Need I remind you all of the FDR vs. Harrison Ford Debacle? Statements like this only lead to heartache.