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

Friday, May 27, 2011

He's In Good Hands, And Not Just With Allstate

Isuro Tanaka be damned, David Palmer proved that he really does have marbles.
"Really, guys? A Major League II reference?
Oh well, I guess it's not the worst Major League movie I've been in."
Though, it should be noted that William McKinley didn't go down without a fierce fight.

McKinley vs. Palmer

William McKinley     11 (45.8%)
David Palmer     13 (54.2%)

The vote involving the president from the TV series 24 had a total of 24 votes. Things were pretty neck-and-neck for most of the week. So much so that HttCttD Staffers were making preparations for a tie and for a double-tie.
DEisenhower34's use of the word "balltastity" wasn't lost on us. Neither was alluding to McKinley wetting his pants as "yellow journalism." Oh, DEisenhower34, your comments amuse us in your own DEisenhower34 way.

We'll hear from David Palmer again in the 2nd Round. His matchup against Franklin D. Roosevelt is scheduled for Oct. 31. Be sure to check back with us next week when Woodrow Wilson fights Thomas "Tug" Benson from the Hot Shots! movies.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

'24' and the 25th Amendment

A couple of weeks ago, we explored how Tom Clancy's Ryanverse went through presidents like Larry King went through wives. HEY-O! No, that was a lame joke, let's just move on and say there was a lot of changing of the guard through unforeseen events.

This also happens a lot throughout the TV series 24. In fact, the presidency here makes the road to the White House in the Ryanverse look standard, maybe even typical. Though, I'd have to say, there were no planes flying into the Capitol building in 24. That was kind of a raw nerve in the '00s that hadn't been imagined when Clancy did it.

In 24, there were two common modi operandi: failed assassination attempts and the invocation of the 25th Amendment.

43) Harry Barnes — 2001-05 — He served one term following the Clinton administration. Nothing of interest seems to have happened in this time. It's interesting that a show about terrorist attacks on the U.S. ignores the biggest terrorist attacks make on the U.S. I mean, it's completely understandable why, the show premiered less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, and they had probably already filmed several episodes. This is all besides the point. Barnes lost his bid for re-election to:

44) David Palmer — 2005-09, with a few breaks — About a year into his term, a nuclear bomb was set to detonate in Los Angeles. He called up Jack Bauer to take care of the bomb while he looked into who was responsible. Then the Cypress Recording surfaced, which had high-ranking officials from three Middle Eastern nations taking credit for the would-be attack. Palmer was set to retaliate, but then had reason to believe that the recording was fake. His Chief of Staff and vice president saw this as an inability to hold office and temporarily unseated him by using the 25th Amendment. This made way for:

Jim Prescott — Since he was acting president, he wouldn't be considered the 45th president. He ordered an investigation and found out that Palmer was right about the Cypress Recording being fake. He handed the office back to:

David Palmer — Who, later that day, was the victim of a biological attack. With him incapacitated, the 25th Amendment came into play again and the presidency went back to:

Jim Prescott — He was acting president, again, while Palmer recovered. That was, until, terrorists attempted to assassinate him. He was unable to serve, so that brought in:

David Palmer — Yes, again. He decided he was well enough to serve. He entered the race to run for re-election in 2008, but he dropped out, making the winner:

45) John Keeler — 2009-10 — He was president until terrorists took control of a Stealth bomber and fired at Air Force One while he was on it. Keeler survived the crash, but was unable to continue his duties. The 25th Amendment to the rescue, making way for:

46) Charles Logan — 2010-12 — He served for a year and a half, but was removed when the public learned that he was involved with selling nerve gas to terrorists. Oh, and he was also involved with David Palmer's assassination. Yes, this was after Palmer had left office, but still. Also, who assassinates a former president? A 24 character, that's who. Logan then passed the presidential torch to his vice president:

47) Hal Gardner — 2012-13 — Either he decided not to seek a term of his own or he lost the 2012 election to:

48) Wayne Palmer — 2013 — Brother of David Palmer. He was convinced to carry the Palmer legacy and make a run for the White House. He did and was elected. Another part of the Palmer legacy? Being the target for assassination attempts. Palmer served three months before an attempt was made on him. It didn't kill him right away, but it was enough to follow the 25th Amendment give the presidency to:

49) Noah Daniels — 2013-17 — His term was pretty uneventful. By uneventful, I mean he served three years and nine months and the 25th Amendment wasn't invoked a single time. One thing he did during his term is pardon Charles Logan. Remember how Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for all of that Watergate business? That didn't go over very well with the voters. How do you think voters took to him pardoning someone implicated in the murder of a former president? Not well. In 2016, he lost his bid for a term of his own to:

50) Allison Taylor — 2017-   — She suffered standard presidential problems. I mean standard in this world: murdered son, daughter imprisoned, husband shot. Taylor and her presidency surprisingly survived to the end of the series, though I imagine Vice President Mitchell Hayworth spent a few minutes every morning rehearing the Presidential Oath in front of the bathroom mirror.
Because we know Chief Justice Roberts isn't very good at winging that oath.
In real life, the 25th Amendment has been used to give the vice president presidential powers a handful of times in its 44-year lifespan. In the 24 universe, it got used, five times within a decade. It was used twice in one day!

I'll just say, after having a string of presidents from tumultuous backgrounds like Jack Ryan, James Marshall and now David Palmer, we here at the HttCttD offices look forward to a nice to return to combatants that aren't completely ridiculous. Who's up next week?
Woodrow Wilson? Oh, okay. There's no silliness there. Who is he fighting?
Oh, for crying out loud!
If you haven't already, please vote in fight between William McKinley and David Palmer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

McKinley vs. Palmer

William McKinley
25th President of the United States
Served: 1897-1901
Age during term: 54-58

PROS: Fighter — McKinley has quite the resume when it comes to scraps. First off, he served in the Union army during the Civil War (under the command of some guy named Rutherford B. Hayes), rising to the rank of captain (and "brevet major," which our research indicates means, "quasi-major-but-not-really").
Also, his civil war photo? Not super-inspiring.
When he was out of the army, he spent some time building a legal career, then embarked in politics, partially to support his old commander, who was running for governor of Ohio.

McKinley then went on to win a number of highly contested elections, first for the U.S. House of Representatives, then for his own governorship. He wasn't always successful (he lost his house seat in 1882, and again in 1890), but he always bounced back. This gave him the advantage of learning how to campaign under any circumstance, from heavy favorite, to heavy opponent. Both tactics would come in handy during his presidential runs; he began the 1896 campaign as a definite underdog to popular Democratic orator William Jennings Bryan, but came back to win handily. In 1900, McKinley's administration was hugely popular, and coming off an easy war, to boot, and he again crushed Bryan. Be his maneuvers political or military, McKinley knew how to deliver victory.

Revolutionary — McKinley's election in 1896 was remarkable for a number of reasons. It marked a realignment of political power into Republican hands, and ushered in a new age of progressive politics. The election itself is one that historians have studied for a good long while, as McKinley wound up winning across large swaths of the electorate, including farmers, professionals, factory workers, etc.
As president, McKinley worked to enact a series of reforms, both to the nation's economic climate, and to civil service regulations. For the former, McKinley's campaign had been largely based on backing the gold standard, as a way to bring the American economy in line with world markets. For the latter, McKinley reorganized civil service in order to ensure that people in federal jobs knew exactly what the hell they were doing.

McKinley's legacy ended up being largely obscured by that of his Vice President, Teddy Roosevelt, who became president following McKinley's assassination in 1901. However, Roosevelt was just carrying out McKinley's policies. Sometimes, life just ain't fair.

CONS: Prone to blunders — We'll be honest. McKinley didn't really screw up all that often. But when he did? Well, let us put it this way: there's a line in one of the Harry Potter books where Dumbledore says something along the lines of "I don't screw up that often, but since I'm always in the middle of some high-level shenanigans, when I do screwup, the consequences tend to suck." Now, we're not really trying to compare William McKinkley to a fictional wizard, but his screwups did tend towards the dramatic.

For example, during his term in the House, McKinley ended up a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. In this capacity, he drafted the McKinley Tariff Act, a bill designed to protect U.S. Goods from foreign imports by dramatically driving up import costs. It backfired spectacularly, with prices on consumer goods spiking, and the result was a Democratic landslide in the mid-term elections of 1890. Two years later, the Democrats took the White House, as well. That is a screw-up of rather epic proportions.
You'd think he could have forseen some of these issues.
When he got to the White House, McKinley almost topped himself, through a little something we like to call the Spanish-American war. We don't want to get bogged down in the war's causes (60% American imperialism, 20% yellow journalism, 19% wanting to beat up on Europe, 1% the U.S.S. Maine), but the simple fact is that McKinley couldn't prevent the wheels of history from moving the country into war.

Problem was: America wasn't exactly in any shape for a war. The army was in tatters, and its ranks had to be filled by volunteer militias (you may have heard of these, as Teddy Roosevelt ended up leading one). Fortunately for everyone involved, Spain was in even worse shape, and America quickly had the whole war wrapped up. Cuba was (briefly) turned over to the United States, and as a bonus, Spain also gave up the Philippines! Yes, a war that began in part to strip Spain of her imperialist trappings wound up gifting those same trappings to America. Still, it was an incredible risk, and it could have had some seriously disastrous results had Spain been able to muster any form of defense. In sum: two big risky moves. One went right, the other was a disaster. Do you really want your odds in the Arena coming out to 50-50?

Couldn't close the deal on civil rights — McKinley certainly talked a good game on civil rights, giving many speeches in support of civil rights causes. He said things like:
Our black allies must neither be forsaken nor deserted. I weigh my words. This is the great question not only of the present, but is the great question of the future; and this question will never be settled until it is settled upon principles of justice, recognizing the sanctity of the Constitution of the United States.
But, yes, about that "sanctity of the Constitution" part: McKinley felt that, in terms of taking action on things like, oh, enforcing the 15th Amendment, his hands were largely tied by his need for support from white southerners. So, he didn't act, and conditions for African-Americans steadily declined, thanks to Jim Crow laws emboldened by the recent Plessy v. Ferguson ruling. 
Maybe that's where he got the "have I forgotten something" look he always seemed to have on his face.
This brings us to a couple of important points: first, don't think you can just waltz into the Arena, talking a big game, and expect to win. You've got to back it up. Second, white southerners ruin everything.

David Palmer
Fictional president in the TV series 24 (2001-2006)
Portrayed by Dennis Haysbert
Age: Haysbert was 48-49 when his presidential episodes aired

PROS: Survivor (usually) — I’m not sure if it had ever been discussed if Palmer had ever had ink done, but he seems to have spent the entire series with a bull’s-eye tattooed somewhere on him.

His first assassination attempt occurred while he was running for president. This was a pretty stressful time in Palmer’s life to begin with. In addition to a presidential campaign and the assassination attempt, he was splitting up with his wife. Why? Long story. Suffice it to say that she seems a little unhinged.

He got through all of this, and wins the election, without gaining a single gray hair, though proper credit for surviving the assassination attempt itself should go to Jack Bauer.

Palmer won the election and a year or two down the line, he’s doing another victory lap. Again, it’s a long story. In short, Palmer was reinstated as president (vice president, Cabinet, 25th Amendment... long story) just in time to avoid war with three nations wrongfully accused of an attack on U.S. soil.
Bauer helped again.
While shaking hands with a crowd of well-wishers after a tough day (oh yeah, the logistics of this show requires everyone to have an unrealistically busy day once in a while), Palmer shook hands with Mandy, who was waiting in the crowd. She had been hired to assassinate him while he was running for president and she wanted to make another go at the Palmer-killing thing. This time, she had a deadly virus in her hand, and he collapses immediately. Yeah, I guess that's how that works.

But Palmer survived to see a third assassination attempt. That time, a sniper shot him while he was in his penthouse apartment. He didn’t live through that one.

With a guy with that many assassination attempts against him, he was bound to be killed eventually. Two out of three ain’t bad.
He was kind of already on borrowed time.
Jack Bauer connection — One thing about this show is pretty clear: Jack Bauer is a badass. I’m not saying Bauer would help him in the arena. Clearly that would be a violation of the rules.

But consider this: a nuclear bomb may detonate in the U.S., and our nation needs our best men to get to the bottom of this. Where’s Jack Bauer? He’s an inactive agent, mourning the loss of his wife. It’s fun to imagine him living in the mountains with an unkempt beard at this time.

The Counter Terrorism Unit contacts Bauer for his help, but he ignores their calls. Then Palmer calls him.
Him taking the call probably looked something like this.
He’s not only willing to answer the call, he stops the whole reclusive thing and goes to save the world... because Palmer told him to.

Someone who commands that much respect — with Jack Bauer, no less — will most assuredly be a force to be reckoned with in the Arena.

CONS: Like we just said, no Bauer — Palmer may have grown accustomed to depending on Jack Bauer to get him out of jams, but he won’t be around to help him. Since it’s Bauer, we’ll probably ensure he’s being held at a secure but undisclosed location far away from the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena, so that no funny business takes place.

How would we do that? I don’t know. Does it matter? He’s a fictional character. In fact, if you busy yourself thinking of all of the logistics of this blog, you're missing the point. You're also probably going to go insane.

Illness — That virus that Mandy uses to try to off Palmer really does a number on him. Six months later, he appears on television and appears healthy and in control. The fact of the matter is that he’s bound to a wheelchair, heavily medicated and Vice President Jim Prescott is running the show.
He's also been pixelated.
It isn’t until Prescott’s assassination attempt renders him unable to serve (what the hell is going on here with the assassination attempts?) that Palmer steps back in. How healthy is he at this point? Healthy enough for the Arena?

The Fight
Doug: When David Palmer learned that his daughter's rapist was killed by his son, and not through some other means as he previously thought, he felt it was important to inform the public. Even if it ruined his chances at the presidency. Why? Palmer always does what he feels is the right thing to do. 

Tony: Wait, so his son killed his daughter's rapist, and this was seen as a bad thing? I mean, I'm all for due process and the like, but if the President of the United States came on TV and said "Hey, look, my daughter was raped, and my son went out and killed the bastard," I would probably think something along the lines of "Well, this is a regrettable circumstance, but this does not really reflect on the administration itself." It seems, at the very least, that Palmer would pick up the "anti-rape" vote, which I would imagine to be a considerable voting bloc.

Doug: Yeah, well we're pretty reasonable. I agree. I'm usually against killing people, but if someone limits their killings to rapists... I mean, there are worse things in the world. And of course, that has nothing to do with the killer's father's ability to hold office. The anti-rape bloc is pretty big, but do you know what's an even bigger bloc? The unreasonable voter bloc.
We're quite familiar
I would think that that Venn Diagram has overlap. People would turn that around to favor of his opponent in ways neither of us could even imagine. Remember when some wouldn't let it go that Barack Obama was once in the same room as a one-time "terrorist" whose body count was zero? Let's just say it throws a wrench in his campaign. But this is all besides the point.

So, Palmer made this public because it was the right thing to do. The right thing to do in this case? Beat up the guy who kowtowed to white southerners on civil rights. Yeah, Palmer's a bit of a cool customer, but he kind of has a lot at stake in terms of the civil rights movement, so I can't imagine he'd go easy on McKinley for that nonsense.

Tony: Look, I'll be the first person to say that McKinley isn't exactly a fun, sexy candidate, but he's got a solid resume, and I don't think he's going down so easy. Palmer may think McKinley's a pushover; he should ask the Confederacy about that, since McKinley spent four years wrecking secessionist grills. McKinley may feel conflicted, but he knows what his mandate is in the Arena. He's gonna win this.

Doug: I don't know if Palmer would think that McKinley was a pushover, but if he did and McKinley got the upper hand, Palmer could handle the pressure and eventually prevail. Palmer handles pressure very well. When he was being pressured to respond to the nuclear device in Los Angeles, he didn't jump to retaliate against the nations who he suspected were being wrongly accused of the attack. He's good in the clutch, even back in his college days when he scored the game-winning basket in the 1979 Final Four against DePaul.

(In real life, DePaul actually did lose to Indiana State in the Final Four in 1979 76-74. It makes me wonder what the guy who actually scored those points feels about this.)

Tony: Palmer may be able to handle pressure well, but how does he handle, you know, actual combat? Seems like he always delegates that stuff to Jack Bauer and the CTU-Tones. Except: whoops! They're not going to be around, are they? Meanwhile, McKinley is a battle-hardened veteran of the Civil War. I mean, it's nice that Palmer had clutch shooting during the Final Four. On a team starring Larry Bird, no less! But McKinley had clutch shooting under slightly more dire circumstances. You gotta like McKinley's chances.
McKinley never needed Larry Bird's help.

Doug: Granted, Palmer hasn't proven himself as a fighter, but he hasn't proven that he's incapable of fighting. He's kind of a wild card. McKinley is going to come at Palmer expecting him to roll over like Spain, but Palmer is no Spain. Yeah, it seems like he's too dependent on CTU and Jack Bauer, but he's not completely powerless.

McKinley's going to come in remembering the Maine, but Palmer's going to come in doling out the pain.

Tony: Sorry, but Palmer's entire portfolio of fighting is based on those CTU guys. If not for Jack Bauer's ability to warp space and time in order to maneuver around Los Angeles in ways none have been able to do before or since, Palmer would be up shit creek. I mean, even more than he managed to make it with his little task force buddies.
Sorry to say, in this match, he's going to be a little...
... under-Bauered.

The Chief: YEEEEAAAHHHHHH! Polls close Friday at 9am.

McKinley vs. Palmer

Friday, May 20, 2011

Marshall Has Nothing To Fear...

... but a righteous kick to the ass itself.
That whooshing you just heard was the sound of everyone's HttCttD office pool going to shit.

Marshall vs. Roosevelt
James Marshall17 (41.5%)
Franklin D. Roosevelt     24 (58.5%)
I just wanted to clarify one thing — everyone out there is aware of the fact that we're asking our readers to vote on who would most likely win in a fight, right?

We have video evidence of how Marshall would do in a fight:

Now imagine if Ivan Korshunov was wheelchair-bound. That would have been a short fight in Marshall's favor.

Eric, winner of this week's COTW, gets it:
For the record, we didn't pick this because he sided with who we thought would win, but because of the pitch-perfect Star Trek reference. A Star Wars reference would have been better — or at least one that didn't refer to Greedo shooting first.
Seriously. Also, you can buy this shirt here.
The commentariat was in top form this week, with mentions of Annie and the Marshall Plan. And to answer the question of FDR's placement in the bracket: yeah, we were basing everything on how well we think they'd do in a fight, not on presidential abilities. We didn't do a perfect job, but we figured with the paralysis and other health issues, FDR belonged in the would-be No. 16 spot because he probably wouldn't fare very well.

Boy were we wrong.

This is why we brought this to the public. We thought the guy who killed terrorists with his bare hands would be a shoe-in for the Ultimate Quad (we're not married to that name, but, you know, Final Four is probably trademarked by someone). Our voters saw differently.

We will hear from Franklin D. Roosevelt again when he is scheduled to make his 2nd Round appearance Oct. 31. Stay tuned next week when William McKinley takes on David Palmer from 24.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


When I was working on the FDR side of Monday's post, something in my brain fired off. I was thinking about how Roosevelt had been diagnosed (properly or no) with polio, and how polio was often treated by some weird contraption called an iron lung. It was at this point that my brain informed me, "Hey, doesn't your favorite band have a song called 'My Iron Lung'?"

Why, yes. Yes, it does.

Naturally, this got me thinking: how many Radiohead songs could be ham-fistedly tied to U.S. Presidents? Having given the matter some consideration, I hereby file the following report:

"Just" - to Richard Nixon.
Nixon's presidency, of course, was undone by the whole "Watergate" scandal, which is really a classic case of the coverup being worse than the original crime. After all, the original crime was organizing a break-in of the Democratic campaign headquarters. Stupid and criminal? Yes, of course. Impeachment-worthy? Debatable, but we'd say "no." The resulting coverup, stonewalling, general deceit? Very, very impeachment-worthy. You did it to yourself, Nixon, and that's why it really hurt.

"How to Disappear Completely" to William Henry Harrison.
Dude held the job for a month, then died. Of course he's getting this song.

"Pyramid Song" - to John Quincy Adams.
This one's officially a stretch, but it's my favorite Radiohead song, so of course I'm going to shoe-horn it in. Anyway, JQA made a name for himself among presidents by occasionally swimming in the Potomac River. That's a pretty strenuous swim, but he clearly had nothing to fear, nothing to doubt. 

"Separator" - to Grover Cleveland. I might be tempted to give this to Benjamin Harrison just on the title alone, but no, let's go Cleveland. Why? Well, what line could better symbolize Cleveland's bifurcated terms than "If you think this is over, then you're wrong"? As a bonus, this line also spawned plenty of speculation when it was released earlier this year as part of The King of Limbs album; fans strung together a series of Paul-is-dead-esque clues to determine that Radiohead were going to release a second part of the album sometime in the summer. Radiohead have since debunked the rumors, which is rather sad.
"Nude" to Bill Clinton. Sure, this song may seem like a bad choice in the context of its first lines ("Don't get any big ideas, they're not gonna happen"), as anyone who becomes president has clearly had some big ideas work out for them. However, once you get to the end of the song, you get this: "You go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking." That's Clinton.

"Sail to the Moon" to JFK. Right? Right. 

"You and Who's Army?" to Teddy Roosevelt, who led his own damn army during the Spanish-American war. Yes, other presidents have been generals, of course, but Roosevelt was the only one who went in as an amateur. That takes a certain amount of chutzpah, and this song embodies that spirit. Kind of. (Bonus Roosevelt entry: "The Tourist". Why? Because he was the first sitting president to travel outside the U.S., of course.)

"15 Step" to George H. W. Bush.
After successfully smacking Saddam Hussein around in the first Gulf War, the elder Bush's poll numbers were riding high, and he might have been forgiven for thinking he was a shoo-in for reelection in 1992. What he wasn't counting on, was the economy, which left voters asking: "You used to be all right... what happened?"

"Optimistic" to Jimmy Carter.
The irony choice. Clearly.

"Street Spirit (Fade Out)" to Barack Obama.
This song goes to the man who benefited from the most successful ground operation in modern presidential history, turning an army of small donors and volunteers into an improbable nomination for to the top Democratic ticket, and thence, to the White House. Of course, Obama is going to want to recapture a lot that magic if he wants to avoid a battle for the "15 Step" crown with Bush I, but that's neither here nor there.

"Vegetable" to Woodrow Wilson. Well... to post-stroke Woodrow Wilson, at any rate.


Can an entire album be applicable to a president? Well, scan down Radiohead's discography, and one entry really jumps out. And we're hereby dedicating said album to a man who benefited from one of the most chicanery-filled elections in history. That's right, we're giving Hail to the Thief to...
Rutherford B. Hayes!

What, you were expecting someone else?


"Packd Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" to John McCain, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and Al Gore. These guys ran for president multiple times, and after many trials and tribulations, they each were rewarded with their party's nomination. And then, they lost. Or as Radiohead put it, "After years of waiting, nothing came, and I realized I was looking, was looking in the wrong place." Dang. That's bad news.

Okay, that's all I've got. Any other ideas, readership? Let's hear 'em in the comments! And if you haven't voted in this week's contest, well, you know what to do. Polls are open until Friday. See you then!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marshall vs. Roosevelt

James Marshall
Fictional president in Air Force One (1997)
Portrayed by Harrison Ford
Age: Ford was 55 when the movie was released

PROS: Medal of Honor — We are told briefly that during the Vietnam War, Marshall flew a bunch of rescue missions, enough for him to earn the highest military decoration bestowed by the U.S. government.

Since more than half of its honorees were done so posthumously, living to get the medal shows a mix of heroics and survivability.

Granted, that was the Vietnam War. What about more recently?

Have you even SEEN Air Force One? — Marshall kicked ass for pretty much the entirety of the movie, and it’s a pretty insane storyline, too.

If you’ve yet to see this movie I should warn you that the following is pretty much going to be a spoiler alert a-go-go. Feel free to skip this section and take our word for it or just read and have the movie spelled out for you.

Three weeks after special forces from the U.S. and Russia apprehended the self-proclaimed leader of Kazakhstan, General Alexander Ivan Radek, six Radek sympathizers (Radekists?) hijacked Air Force One on its flight out of Moscow. They had hoped that with the president as a hostage, they could demand Radek’s release. However, at the first sign of trouble, Marshall is hurried to the escape pod.

The First Family was still on board, as were major top advisers, so there was still plenty of hostage material for the hijackers. But what everyone on the plane didn’t know was that even with his own men getting picked off right outside of the pod, Marshall sneaked out of it before it launched, choosing "killing bad guys" over safety.

While hiding in the bowels of the craft, Marshall was able to pick off a few of the hijackers and get in touch with the White House. At which point, he ordered U.S. craft to fire a missile at Air Force One, knowing that the missile wouldn’t actually hit the craft, but would give enough of a jolt to give him an opportunity to kill more bad guys. He spoke Russian to bait one of the hijackers to the lower level, which allowed him the opportunity to free most of the hostages, including the new Postmaster General-designee.
I told you there were going to be a lot of spoiler alerts.
Then, he killed the main bad guy while giving a typical action movie zinger. And it was a good one, too.
But at that point there was still about 20 minutes left of movie left, so there was still plenty of ass for Marshall to kick.

With all of the bad guys — that they know of — dead, as well as everyone qualified to fly the plane, Marshall took the helm at the cockpit. Remember, he had experience flying in the Vietnam War, but that was with flying helicopters and single-engine planes. Air Force One has four engines, and that’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.
"It's an entirely different kind of flying."
Air Force One was later damaged by a group of MiGs, making it unable to land safely, so a nearby craft rescued most of remaining passengers via zipline. Marshall was left dangling behind the plane as Air Force One plummeted into the Caspian Sea.
In the words of Wilson Philips: Hold on
Though he was not properly secured in his rescue harness, he was still able to get winched in to safety.

I’d say the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena wouldn’t be much of a problem after that ordeal.

CONS: Impulsive — There’s a line between being heroic and being dangerous. Marshall blows past that line with such vigor, he probably didn’t even see the line, not that he would have cared about the line in the first place. There were plenty of times in the movie where Marshall could have easily been killed.

We learn early on that Marshall just doesn’t give a shit. Just before the hijacking, Marshall made an appearance in Moscow. Without telling anyone, he switched speeches just as he was about to make an address during a function in Moscow. In this new speech, he declared that the U.S. will no longer let its self-interests deter it from doing what’s morally right. In other words, if a nation starts dabbling in, say, ethnic cleansing, the U.S. will no longer play the weak hand and impose trade sanctions and things like that. No, the U.S. will go in and remove the genocidal maniac.

There’s no way Congress will go for this and this could totally screw with his chances for re-election, but he doesn’t care. He says it’s the right thing to do.

While I agree and it’s the way the world should work, I can't imagine if we adopted this policy today. You think our military is spread thin now? What if we took it upon ourselves to depose every dictator in the world or if we stuck our nose in every pro-democracy movement going on right now in Northern Africa and the Middle East — not just the ones with oil?

What if we got serious about telling China to knock it off with the human rights violations? Yeah, that's a whole mess waiting to happen.

Gary Oldman — Don’t get me wrong, Oldman is an excellent actor. However, if I’m in a movie and I see him, I’m going to keep an eye on him. I’m no enemy of civil rights, but c’mon. The dude usually spells bad news.

Oldman plays the bad guy so well, there’s no reason not to suspect him of being up to anything. Ever.

It has honestly been a long time since I’ve seen The Fifth Element, but the Wikipedia article tells me that he was the ally of Great Evil, so I’m going to go ahead and assume he was the bad guy. He played the bad guy in Léon. He even played Dracula in Dracula!

For crying out loud, if you’re on security detail for Air Force One, and Oldman shows up posing as a Russian journalist, make a mental note. If he later complains about having to have his bag searched again, keep on him for the entire flight.
Sorry, Mr. Korshunov, but we're going to have to handcuff you to your seat.
You were the pimp in True Romance.
I’m not saying Oldman always plays the bad guy. I’m just saying it’s Air Force One and maybe it's not all that great of a time to start gambling. If Marshall doesn’t put everyone on 24-hour Oldman Watch, then who knows what kind of simple mistakes he will make in the arena?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
32nd President of the United States
Served from 1933-1945
Age during term: 51-63

PROS: Durability — Prior to FDR's presidency, there had been something of an unwritten rule saying that no president would serve more than two terms. The closest anyone had come was, coincidentally enough, FDR's distant cousin Teddy Roosevelt, who ran (unsuccessfully) for a third* term in 1912. In general, though, the "two terms" rule was a generally respected gentleman's agreement among presidents.
Other gentlemen's agreements that were eventually discarded: not letting Nicolas Cage get any ideas.
Funny thing, though: when your administration gets credited with helping turn around something called The Great Depression, people want to keep re-electing you. And when a two-fronted international war breaks out shortly thereafter, people tend to want to not rock the boat that much. All of which means: Roosevelt blew through that two-term limit like it wasn't even there. Which... technically, it wasn't. In the end, FDR was elected to an unprecedented four terms, and even though he didn't quite finish out that fourth term, he still set a record for presidential endurance, which, thanks to that pesky 22nd Amendment, isn't going to be challenged any time soon.
Though some people seem to have missed that.
*-Okay, would Teddy Roosevelt have won his third term had he won in 1912? Well, depends on how you look at it. Teddy became president fairly early into what would have been McKinley's first term. By the terms of the 22nd Amendment, that would have counted as a "full" term. Of course, by the terms of the 22nd Amendment, this would have made Teddy ineligible in 1912, so... never mind? 

Creativity — So, Roosevelt wasn't the first person to think up the idea of spending your way out of an economic catastrophe, but he was definitely the first person to apply those principles to something the size of, you know, the Great Depression. Roosevelt championed a policy of relief, reform, and regulation, which generally translated to "get people jobs, get the economy moving, and clamp down on shenanigans." This meant radically increasing the size of government to unprecedented levels. And whaddaya know, it kinda worked! The economy started to creak back to life, and started chugging back in the right direction... well, until 1937, when the wheels fell off again. Unfortunately, by that time, a bipartisan coalition of conservative legislators had gotten together to help thwart Roosevelt's continued reforms (because when you have someone with a track record of fixing the economy, the best thing you can do is throw a stick into his spokes).
"Because the opposite of 'progress' has gotta be 'Congress,' amirite?"
This led to arguably Roosevelt's most creative plan — an attempt to increase the number of Supreme Court justices, which he could then use to stack the deck in his favor. Sure, it didn't work, but it showed some out of the box thinking that could serve FDR well in the arena. And he wasn't done with unconventional thinking — once WWII broke out, FDR somehow managed to funnel vast amounts of arms and materiel to Britain and China, all while somehow preserving American neutrality. FDR: getting it done.

CONS: Oh, right, he was paralyzed — No real way to sugar-coat this one, but... yeah. While vacationing in Nova Scotia in 1921, FDR contracted a mysterious illness. Initially diagnosed as polio (though it probably wasn't), the end result was that the future president became paralyzed from the waist down.
"Remember, child, no one must ever know about this."
Subsequently, FDR devoted a big part of his life to hiding the fact that he was, you know, paralyzed. With the help of metal leg braces, he was able to stand upright for brief periods, and would otherwise be bracketed by helpful sons and aides whose job was to prop him up. He also managed to learn how to "walk" short distances, and even had a car made with special hand controls to enable him to drive. Aside from that, though, he was wheelchair-bound — not that anyone knew that; Roosevelt generally  managed to avoid having his picture taken in his wheelchair. Somehow, all the subterfuge worked (only two known wheelchair pictures were ever taken, for example), and the American people ended up electing a paraplegic four times.

However, you have to assume any opponent born after FDR's reign is going to know the truth of the situation, and Marshall is definitely born post-FDR. Once FDR goes down, he's not getting back up.

And, the rest of his health wasn't so hot, either — Starting around 1940, a mounting series of health problems started to besiege FDR. And when we say "health problems," we mean diseases including chronic high blood pressure, emphysema, systemic atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease with angina pectoris, and myopathic hypertensive heart disease with congestive heart failure." (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Things were so bad, one doctor, upon seeing Roosevelt in a newsreel in 1944, remarked "It doesn't matter whether Roosevelt is re-elected or not, he'll die of a cerebral hemorrhage within 6 months." Sure enough, five months after being sworn in, FDR made that guy look like a real asshole.
Not that his colleagues were surprised.
Yes, FDR's poor health was very widely known, near the end. We mentioned this whole thing when we were talking about Truman, but FDR's original Vice President was considered maybe a teeeensy bit too "Soviet" for anyone's comfort level, and when the 1944 election got underway, Democratic party leaders decided they needed a new V.P. in case FDR didn't last the term. Yes, Truman was the first guy brought onto a ticket on the "one heartbeat away" reason, and it turns out, it was a fairly valid reason.

The Fight
Tony: Okay, I'll be the first to acknowledge that this might not seem like a fair fight. But you know who knows a bit about unfair fights? Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After all, dude managed to pull off a succession of difficult elections, conduct the greatest war in human history, and go toe-to-toe with Joseph Freaking Stalin, without spilling the beans that he couldn't stand up long enough to sing the national anthem. Dude's been through his share of unfair fights, and if Marshall doesn't recognize, he's going to be left face down in the arena while FDR steams onto the second round.
Plus, what's Marshall's biggest asset? Luck? Yeah, deep down, you don't really want to invest in luck. It has a tendency to give you a horrible ROI.

Doug: Succession of difficult elections? In his four elections, he never received less than 80% of the electoral votes. Oh, I suppose he was really given a challenge in 1944 when Republican nominee Thomas Dewey racked up 99 votes... almost triple digits... oooh!

I sound like I'm arguing for FDR, but really, I'm pointing out that these were political battles.

I don't want to seem like the lesson of The Tortoise and the Hare was completely lost on me, but you really can't get around the wheelchair factor.

Tony: First, I would think that ANY election, especially one for national office, would be difficult if you were trying to hide the fact that you couldn't really walk. But I digress. What you're discounting is that Roosevelt went through two post-paralysis election cycles running for Governor of New York. Given that he only won election in 1928 by 1% of the vote, I'd call that tough, thanks. He did much better in 1930, but there was quite a lot of mudslinging and corruption accusations for that match. Just because he breezed to four terms as president, doesn't mean he didn't know how to scrap in the trenches, as it were.

Okay, yes, we're talking about political battles. Roosevelt doesn't have any combat experience, but he was assistant secretary of the Navy during World War I. That's something, right? Right?

No, you can't get around the wheelchair factor, but consider THIS: Roosevelt could only stand up with the help of rigid metal braces on his legs. Yes, this means he's going into the arena with an advantage: body armor. With a little ingenuity, he can cobble something together that will make his opponent's job a lot tougher. This isn't gonna be a cake walk for Marshall, is what I'm saying.

Doug: Oh, it most certainly will be a cake walk, alright. It will be much like Claude Debussy's Golliwogg's Cakewalk — only less racist.

Tony: Anyone who drags Debussy into this argument is a Clair de Lunatic. Goodness.

Doug: Look, I'd call shenanigans on FDR being allowed to wear leg braces, since it was argued that Kang wouldn't be allowed a breathing apparatus, but I'm not going to. I'll leave that for The Chief or for the voters to do. Marshall can take care of FDR, even with FDR's leg armor. An unarmed Marshall beat up armed terrorists — multiple times.

The leg-braced FDR that Marshall would be fighting would be Tin Man-esque at best.
Only with a heart

Tony: No, we're clearly going to have to defer to the readers on this. Isn't that what we did with Kang? And Kang won. So, I guess I can see why you'd want to keep the voters out of it, as their precise and focused judgment spells doom for your boy Marshall.

Doug: I find you referring to me as a lunatic oddly ironic.

Tony: Ironic? Okay, this I'd like to hear explained.

Doug: You're calling me a lunatic, yet arguing that FDR — who couldn't even stay standing for the lengthy of the national anthem — has a chance against Marshall — who has killed a Gary Oldman character. Not only are you implying that FDR has a chance, you're making it sound like FDR would turn the Arena into an almost literal "Temple of Doom" for Marshall.
While terrible, another Harrison Ford character survived Temple of Doom

And I never said anything about wanting to keep the voters out of it. No, believe me, I want voters to tell us who they think will win: the paralyzed man (with or without the leg braces) who led us through our Nazi killing period or the guy who fought terrorists. Like, literally. Hand-to-hand. And won.

The only thing that might stop Marshall from obliterating his opponent is that he might take pity on FDR. Marshall probably doesn't want to beat up FDR, it's not the right thing to do. Is that why you think I said I didn't want to take this to voters? Because I was afraid the pity vote would come out?

Get off my plane! (That's my Air Force One equivalent to "Get out of town.")

The Chief: As always, polls close 9am on Friday. Vote and comment!

Marshall vs. Roosevelt