Monday, November 21, 2011

Bartlet vs. Johnson

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.

Arena Experience: Bartlet met John Tyler in the first round, and the results? Weren't pretty. Bartlet steamrolled his way into Round 2, picking up 88.7% of the vote.

PROS: Bartlet has a Nobel Prize (for Economics!) on his résumé, which isn't too shabby. And he probably knows more about the Bible than any five evangelicals combined. And while we're usually loathe to go meta around here, Bartlet has quite the following on Twitter, and when he's involved in online polls, those guys tend to show up in droves.

CONS: Bartlet is often accused (and rightly so) of being too arrogant for his own shoes, and getting overconfident in the Arena is usually bad times. ALSO, there's the little thing that Bartlet has MS, which he hid from the public, and even his own staff, when he first ran for president. So depending on when Bartlet gets dumped into the Arena, he might be unable to move, or he would only be able to walk using braces and crutches. Could be a problem.

Lyndon B. Johnson
36th President of the United States
Served: 1963-1969
Ages during term: 55-60

Arena Experience: LBJ met Chester A. Arthur in the 1st Round and gave him a sound beating, winning with 80.6% of the vote.

PROS: If someone disagreed with Johnson, they got "The Treatment." It's when he literally got into someone's face spouting accusations, cajolery and mimicry until his opponents were stunned into submission. He used this technique to push through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He wasn't all talk, either. He "stared down" the Soviet Union during the Six Day War and ramped up our military involvement in the Vietnam War.

CONS: LBJ's heart wasn't really in the best condition. He had suffered a heart attack while he was in the Senate. Though he gave up smoking in an effort to improve his health, he did have to worry about heart disease. His military record was also... interesting, to say the least. He was awarded a Silver Star, despite the fact that he never saw combat. There was one instance where he said he came under enemy fire, but everyone else on the plane he was on said they turned around due to mechanical problems. Fishy.

The Fight
Doug: I have a feeling that this vote isn't going to come down to who is the ornery, intimidating Southerner with a further reach and who sometimes suffers bouts of temporary paralysis. It's going to come down to who was in the popular television show and who was not.

If only LBJ got himself a Rachel hairdo. If only he was the one who shot C. Montgomery Burns. If only he ended one of his presidential addresses with the catchphrase "DYN-O-MITE," then maybe, the angry guy who escalated the Vietnam War and stood at 6'4" would have a chance against the 5'7" bookworm.
If he were a teenage president and not a teenage doctor,
he could have easily cleaned up.

Granted, Bartlet once earned the Nobel Prize for Fistfighting, so that gives him a strong advant -- I'm sorry, I read that wrong. He has the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Never mind.

Tony: Thing is, it's not like Bartlet hasn't waded through the remains of opponent after opponent. Every time someone steps to him, they're smacked down. Yeah, I'm being metaphorical, as Bartlet didn't physically defeat his Republican opponents in the 1998 and 2002 elections, but still, he's not afraid to bring the heat when it's necessary. Just ask the Qumari Defense Minister.

Johnson may have been intimidating in person, but that'll only get you so far. For example, he couldn't intimidate the country into thinking the Vietnam war was still a good idea in 1968. And since he couldn't do that, he quit. He's a quitter.

Bartlet's not the type of guy who would give in to a bully. Johnson's going to bluster his away around the Arena, turn around, and realize he's not making any headway. Then, he's going to pout his way into a second round loss.

Doug: It's not like the Vietnam War was the first thing he tried to push for and it failed so he gave up. He didn't give up on the idea that maybe blacks and whites should be able to use the same water fountains and attend the same public schools. Sadly, for our disgustingly ugly history, that was a much tougher fight than it should have been. It was risky, too. He knew that when he signed it, he was losing the South. He did it anyway, and he easily took the Election of 1964.
He didn't really need the South, anyway.

I'm not questioning Bartlet's tenacity. Clearly, he has plenty of it. And he may not crumble to LBJ's bullying as easily as LBJ is used to. Truth is, anyone who would make it a habit to bully someone into seeing things his way has got to be a mean old bastard. So when the normal stuff doesn't work, LBJ is going to pick Bartlet up by the ears like he was one of his beagles.
It almost looks like he's going to make Him dance.

Tony: Oh, he won't do anything of the sort. We already know what happens when LBJ can't bully his way into something; he goes into Sulk Central. And the pool of people unable to be bullied by LBJ is surprisingly large, as this is a guy who couldn't talk himself past a group of peeved housewives! Okay, granted what I'm talking about comes from The Right Stuff, which means it was when he was Vice President, and granted, The Right Stuff wasn't exactly a documentary, but it was based on real events, so I'm pretty sure it's legit. Okay, it was based on a book that was based on real events. WHATEVER.

Meanwhile, Bartlet is just waiting to pounce on some overconfident Texan. He's never seen an opponent he doesn't know how to handle (I could watch that clip of him taking down the puissant Dr. Laura stand in on a loop for a full week), and LBJ is going to find that out the hard way.

Doug: Yes, but this isn't a contest to see who can talk their way past a group of housewives or a fake Dr. Laura. We're trying to see who could pummel the other person into oblivion. While both guys have enough fire in them to get pumped up for a good fight, only LBJ has the physical might to back it up.

Despite his character's portrayal in the thing based on the thing based on real events, we're going to see that LBJ does, in fact, have the right stuff. (I'd link to the NKOTB video, but no one wants that.)

Tony: Ah, but the Arena isn't simply a matter of physical prowess. You need to be smart in able to concoct a winning strategy, and to react to overcome any obstacles that get thrown in your way. You've got to have the resolve to plow through adversity. And, most importantly, you've got to have… Faith.

Ha! No, just kidding. You have to have the power to motivate your voting base. And Bartlet?

Yeah, he's got that.

The Chief: Indeed. The polls are now open! They will close Friday morning at 9am, Mountain time. Between now and then, you should vote, and then explain why you voted for your combatant of choice via a comment. We'll be back on Wednesday with more general tomfoolery.

Bartlet vs. Johnson


  1. LBJ started well but lost
    his way. 3rd Term for Bartlet!!!

  2. My money's always on a "lusty, zesty" president, per Jimmy Carter as channeled by Dan Aykroyd. Here's another choice descriptor from the same speech: "seething with vital hormonal secretions." Seething? Hormonal? No matter whether he pummels or satisfies his opponent to death, the end result is a win for the aptly named Johnson.