Monday, August 22, 2011

Kennedy vs. Kovic

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
35th President of the United States
Served: 1961-1963
Ages during term: 44-46

PROS: Knows how to stare down death — Unlike many other presidents who served during World War II, Kennedy was already in the armed forces prior to Pearl Harbor, having joined the Navy in September of 1941. That's some good timing, there, JFK!
Perhaps he knew that, as a hunk, he was going to be drafted anyway.
A year later, Kennedy had risen to the rank of Lieutenant, and was commanding a PT boat in the Solomon Islands when said boat (PT-109, for those of you scoring at home) was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Kennedy gathered the surviving troops amidst the wreckage and asked if they wanted to keep fighting, or surrender. "A lot of you men have families and some of you have children," he said. "What do you want to do? I have nothing to lose." Well, nothing except the massive pile of wealth and privilege he was born into, but, whatever.
For your consideration: the Kennedy family home.
His crew voted to fight on, and he led them in swimming towards a nearby island. Oh, and he also towed an injured crew member the entire way, holding the man's life jacket strap in his teeth. In his teeth, people! Hours of swimming later, his troops were saved. Well, no, they had no food or water, and Japanese patrols were everywhere. So, not saved, yet. Kennedy sent out again, swimming another four kilometers to another small island to procure food and water. He later led his men to this island, and from there, they were rescued. Kennedy received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions, and continued to serve in the Navy until just prior to the end of the war in 1945. Even better, he later developed a witty quip to downplay his heroism; when asked how he became a war hero, JFK later said "It was involuntary. They sunk my boat." 

Once he became president, Kennedy still retained a significant portion of the badassery he had exhibited during the war. Nowhere was this more apparent than a little tete-a-tete he had with the Russians called the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reduced to its essentials, the crisis went something like this: The United States discovered that the Soviets were planting nuclear missiles in Cuba, which was obviously a worrying discovery. Kennedy and his advisers argued a lot about how best to deal with it. Kennedy eventually decided that he would form a naval blockade around Cuba and dared the Soviets to run it. The Soviets eventually backed down, and removed the missiles (Kennedy, for his part, agreed to eliminate similar missiles NATO had placed in Turkey).

That retelling is a little dry, so what you're not getting is that during the three days the crisis raged, the world moved closer to a worldwide nuclear conflict than it had before — as close, in fact, as it would get in the entire cold war.
The stakes.
So, yeah, the guy knows a little something about persevering in the face of adversity.

An Apt Student — En route to graduating summa cum laude from Harvard, Kennedy wrote his senior thesis on the failure of the appeasement policy in England. This was a rather topical issue, as it was 1940 and all. While Kennedy initially preferred to keep his thesis private, his father encouraged him to publish it. Upon completing the thesis, Kennedy did just that. The resulting book, Why England Slept, became a best-seller, and established JFK as a serious analyst of politics and history.
Why? Because it was night. Geez.
Kennedy later repeated the trick while serving in the United States Senate, writing a second book titled Profiles in Courage, which detailed a number of incidents in which senators had gone against public opinion, or crossed party lines, to act on their convictions. And we're not talking things like "Senator Derpface voted against some dinky tax cut/hike," we're talking Robert A. Taft opposing the Nuremburg Trials on the belief that the prosecution would be ex post facto (in other words, because the Nazis were being tried for things that hadn't been defined as crimes before the trial started). The final book was another success; Profiles in Courage became a best-seller, and netted Kennedy a Pulitzer prize, to boot.
You know if was a big deal because they put it on T.V.
As a student of history, Kennedy knows how various tactics can be effective in various situations. Certainly some of that will give him a tactical edge in a fight to the death.

CONS: Blown away, what else do I have to say?

What? No? Oh, fine.

His problems go back, back, back — We mentioned before how Kennedy was already in the Navy when World War II finally reached America. What we didn't mention was that the Navy was Kennedy's second choice. He had attempted to get into the Army beforehand, but chronic back problems he experienced doomed that particular dream. Now, what kind of back problems would prevent someone from serving in the Army, but not the Navy? We have no idea, but them's the breaks.
"Suck it, Army boys."
Now, we'd say that those problems apparently weren't that serious, because Kennedy actually re-injured his back during the aforementioned PT-109 excursion, and he still managed to swim for hours and hours and do all the rescuing and what-not. So, what's the big deal? Well, following his election to the Senate in 1952, Kennedy's back... er... struck back. He underwent a number of spinal operations over the next two years, and became so weak at one point, last rites were performed. He eventually recovered, of course, but said back would continue to bother him the rest of his life. You know what you don't want going into a fight to the death? Physical weakness. Just saying.

Gets by with a little help from his friends — We also made a passing reference earlier to Kennedy being born to a life of incredible privilege. So, about that. Kennedy's family was already a bit of a New England dynasty before JFK was born; his maternal grandfather had served as mayor of Boston and as a three-term congressman. As such, Kennedy attended the finest public schools, and traveled the world extensively with his family. His 1939 trip was something of a barn-burner; he traveled throughout Europe, with stops in France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. He made it back to England on the same day that the Nazis invaded Poland, which counts for some hella-good timing. His family stuck around and were present in the House of Commons when England declared war against Germany. Later, he toured South America, apparently just for kicks.

So what we're trying to say is, the guy came from serious wealth, and that wealth carried with it some serious power. So, remember how Kennedy couldn't get into the Army, but managed to get into the Navy instead? Well, the director of the Office of Naval Intelligence at the time turned out to be a guy who had served as Joseph Kennedy's (JFK's father) naval attaché. So, the elder Kennedy pulled some strings, and boom! JFK was in the Navy.

And about Profiles in Courage? Oh, man, Profiles in Courage. So, as it happens, Kennedy didn't really write most of it. While he did write the tone-setting first and last chapters, and did supervise the assembly of the manuscript as a whole, it was his speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, who did most of the writing. Apparently, this was by arrangement, but aside from a note in the book's introduction, Kennedy never really acknowledged Sorensen's work, even when the book went on to win a Pulitzer.
Then again, would you give this guy a Pulitzer?
Oh, and about that Pulitzer. So, Profiles in Courage was technically never nominated for the prize in question. How did it win? Turns out that Joseph Kennedy was pals with a few select members of the prize committee. He asked them to vote for it, they did, and boom: Pulitzer-prize winning author, John F. Kennedy.

Our point in all this? Kennedy often relies on family contacts or other such behind-the-scenes skullduggery to get things done. He's not going to have that support system behind him in the Arena, just a balky back and an opponent out to kill him. Could be trouble.

Dave Kovic
Stand-in for William Harrison Mitchell
Portrayed by Kevin Kline in the 1993 film Dave
Kline was 45 at when Dave was released

PROS: Excellent health — When he was to take on the presidential stand-in role full-time following the real president’s debilitating stroke, Dave’s first order of business was to sit through a medical examination. The doctor was very impressed. Now granted, he was under the impression that the patient in question had just suffered a minor stroke.

The doctor said that they were amazing results, with no problems. He barely even believed the patient just suffered a stroke, regardless of how minor it was. This is not to say that Dave’s health is great for someone who just had a stroke. It seems to be great, period.
"That's strange, Mr. President. It seems as though your blood type has changed."

People couldn’t believe the amount of energy he suddenly had. Political commentators compared him to a high school track star. So, Dave clearly has the health, energy and youthful exuberance to hold his own in the Arena.

Yet, the only people who were able figure out that Dave wasn't actually the president were the first lady and Oliver Stone, who had a conspiracy theory that turned out to be right. Even though it was a complete coincidence that he resembled the president, the fact that so few people is a bit unnerving. People in the Dave universe should be glad that he only used this talent for good.
Okay, maybe not for "good," but definitely for non-evil purposes.

Not actually president — As we’ve mentioned before, being president is an awfully stressful job. There’s that whole study that says that for every four years a president serves, he ages 10 years.

There’s no study about how much running a presidential campaign ages someone, but given how grueling it is, it probably speeds up the aging process. Plus, there’s whatever stressful job the president holds before that (governor, senator, general, etc.) that gave him enough exposure to be even considered for presidential nomination.

Dave doesn’t have any of that. He was running his own temp agency. I’m sure that has some tense moments, but he seems to enjoy it just fine. It’s not like he comes home moping about how he hates his life. Clearly, there’s a song in his heart. I mean literally. When the Secret Service was waiting for him at his apartment, Dave was singing Oklahoma.

This guy has very little stress to speed up aging. He’s 40-something guy in the body of a 40-something guy who has the energy of a high school track star.

CONS: Not actually president — Having Dave fill in for Bill Mitchell in the Arena sets a dangerous precedent. What was stopping Baxter Harris, Mike Brady or John Tyler from bringing in a look-alike? Why does Mitchell get the special treatment?

Hell, why not just put Harrison Ford in the Arena and see how he does?
No, we won't drop it already.


Not a fighter — Nowhere in the movie does Dave mention any experience in the military or fighting. It is implied that he has some experience playing baseball. He keeps a baseball glove in his desk drawer in his temp agency office, and when he throws out the first pitch at Camden Yards, fires one right into the strike zone, much to the catcher’s amazement.
Mr. President is a pitcher and not a belly-itcher.

Is that all he’s got? Some baseball experience? Woo boy.

The Fight
Doug: Both of these combatants would be very young, so they come out even in that respect.

I don't want to downplay JFK's heroics during the whole PT-109 incident, but that was 20 years earlier. JFK was physically in sad shape. Not just his issues with his back, but he had also been diagnosed with Addison's disease and hypothyroidism. He was in constant pain.

And then there's Dave, who invigorated the Mitchell administration with his sheer energy. I don't think I've seen any pictures of JFK rolling around on the White House lawn with his dogs.

Tony: Being in constant pain would make someone pretty pissed off, I'd bet. That's gonna be a mental edge in the Arena. Plus, you could probably come up with a lot of witty rejoinders around it. "I'm gonna make you wish you hurt as much as I do." That sort of thing. Big plus for JFK.

And no, video of JFK frolicking with the family pets is scarce on the ground. That's because Kennedy wasn't out there invigorating his Administration-- he was out there, invigorating America. Oh, look, Dave Kovic has big robot arms! Who cares! Kennedy dared the country to get off its ass and go to the moon. Dave can't possibly top that kind of energy.

Plus, there's this. Dave Kovic knows damn well he's a fraud. He knows it up and down, back and front, in and out. How's he going to react when he gets dumped into the arena? He knows he shouldn't be in there! It's that other guy, Mitchell! He should be in this fight! And he'd be in a coma! He'd be much easier to fight! No, please! No! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Yeah, Dave may be cute, but in the Arena? He's a goner.

Doug: Yeah, JFK's pain will make him cranky, but if he can't move, he can't move. Maybe in the moment, he might get some adrenaline going... if only he had a fully-functional Adrenal gland... but he didn't. He is severely limited by his health problems.

Pushing the U.S. to land on the moon was neat. True. But all that was was part of a pissing match with the Soviet Union. It made the U.S. feel good. We're #1! We're #1! If getting a man to the moon was so important, then why hasn't anyone walked on the moon since 1972? Because after pissing away billions of dollars, we found out that there's not much to do there except hit golf balls.

Dave's crusade was to tackle unemployment. It may not be as exciting as moon landings — no one's dressing up like a job recruiter for Halloween — but it actually helps Americans. How many children ate breakfast this morning because their parents have a job? Now compare that to the number of children who ate breakfast this morning because our flag is on the moon.
And of course Dave knows he's a fraud. He doesn't care, he's still doing what he has to do, even if it pisses people off. Take for example how he went over the Chief of Staff's head (the one who was angling from the presidency and calling the shots for Dave) and found funding for that homeless shelter. Who else was going to do it? No one. Dave will step up when he needs to. And the Arena will be no different.

Tony: Since when was JFK an FDR-level invalid? He's got some problems, sure, but he can move with the best of them. Just as Norma Jean.

Now, wait a damn minute — are you trying to tell me that the space race didn't create jobs? Spearhead innovation? When did you become a libertarian, exactly? Good grief.

Yeah, Dave tackled unemployment. He did this despite having no goddamn idea what he was doing, and he had to drag his best friend, who was also grossly unqualified, into the mix. Which, let's think about it: how many friends do you have who, if they confessed to you they were in the middle of a coup d'etat, would be all "Cool!" and help you slash millions of dollars in government fundings just for the sheer hell of it. 

Dave is, at his heart, a mimic. And he can only really mimic one guy: President Mitchell. If he could mimic a fighter of some sort, then JFK might be in for a fight. But he can't. So Kennedy is home free.

Doug: JFK wasn't an invalid, but he was on a lot of pain medication. Plus, he wore a back brace for most of the time. I can't remember where we stand on medication in the Arena. In the past, we've allowed for Pierce and Grant to fight while under the influence of alcohol, which means it would only be fair that JFK can be on his pills. The back brace, however, would have to go. He could probably grit his teeth and work through it for a bit, but Dave will be at an advantage since he wouldn't feel the need to double over in excruciating pain.

And yes, of course the space race created jobs. But it wasn't for the sake of creating jobs, it was to show that we could win the space race. Dave's program was to create jobs everywhere. Not just near the places where NASA did stuff. And who the hell cares if Dave knew what he was doing. He still did what he set out to do. I'd argue further, but ability to create jobs isn't going to help anyone win a fight.

It doesn't matter if he's a mimic. He's got energy screaming out of his ears. He can run laps around JFK, who has nothing going for him but good looks, wealth and great connections; none of which will help him here. Ask not what JFK can do in the Arena, because we can't do too much.

Tony: Yea, the brace is out, but he gets to coast on whatever he took before getting in the arena. And that right there could be fun. You never know what's in the Presidential Bathroom Cupboard.

Sorry for dragging us down a tangent, there, with the jobs stuff. It's just that according to everything I see on TV or read on the internet, creating jobs is the absolute most importantest thing a President does, ever. I just let that logic into the Arena, is all.

All of Dave's energy is going to go for naught if he doesn't have a clue what to do when he gets in there, and I'm telling you, not only is he not going to have a clue, he's going to forget what clues even look like. Once Kennedy is through with him, Dave's face is going to look like ein Berliner. Mark it down!

The Chief: A Berliner?

Be sure to vote and comment. Polls close Friday 9am MDT.

Kennedy vs. Kovic


  1. "JF-k-k-k-K is c-c-c-coming to k-k-k-kill me!"

  2. I have a bad back and I can still bowl over a 200 game of bowling. JFK!

  3. Sure, dave is in better physical shape (they're both in their forties but JFK's nerves have to be shot, his stress level is already through the roof, he drinks/smokes like a chimney AND he has crippling back pain whereas Dave is in the best shape of his life), but does Dave have the killer instinct to take down one of America's most beloved presidents, a man he no doubt idolizes? I believe he does. At first I thought Dave was just too nice to succeed in the arena, but in the end, I decided Dave would come out the victor because he doesn't half-ass anything. When he agreed to participate in the deathmatch, he knew what he was getting into (wait, do the contestants consent, or are they just sort of dragged in against their will?). Also, Dave has Sigourney Weaver at home waiting for him. I ask you fellow deathmatch voters: isn't Sigourney Weaver worth killing for? I say yes. As much as I love JFK, Dave just speaks to me.

  4. Sigourney? What about jacki and marilyn? Jfk!

  5. There are no losers in a Sigourney Weaver vs. Jackie/Marylin fight. Just putting that out there.

  6. I love Dave as much as the next person. Probably more, as I recently purchased the movie. Dave has a heart of gold, is willing to go up against the evil Frank Langella and wins over the Sig Weave. But in a fight to the death, Dave just won't cut it. He's all about building people up, not about breaking them down. JFK has that military training and is waaaaay more conniving. Dave would probably just stand there, in awe to be so close to JFK, and then JFK would decapitate Dave. So yeah, it's JFK all the way!