Friday, March 30, 2012

Obamacare Sends Roosevelt to the Death Panel

We have to admit that we thought Teddy Roosevelt was a shoe-in for the HttCttD Championship. Even as late as early this week.
But Barack Obama closed the gap midweek and pulled ahead in the final day of voting, earning him a spot for the final match.
Obama vs. Roosevelt
Barack Obama38 (55.1%)
Theodore Roosevelt     31 (44.9%)

Obama is the second fighter to get double-digit votes against Roosevelt, which leads us to believe that Teddy's weakness could be politicians from Illinois.

As we stated, we thought Roosevelt was going to the end. In the past two weeks, we've revealed our personal picks for the entire tournament, and Roosevelt was the one thing we could agree on in the finals.

Are we surprised that he didn't make it after all? Of course.

Are we upset? Well, that sound you hear is Tony rocking back in forth in the corner, curled up in the fetal position as both of his finalists have gone down. But hey, if we had gone through all of this trouble of maintaining this blog for 62 weeks only to have things turn out exactly as we had planned, that would have been kind of boring. So it's kind of nice that we're getting a surprising finale.

That being said, we're still glad it's not Bartlet.
That's something we didn't even consider. Teddy may have been rugged, but he was a fancy pants born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Obama came from the South Side. He looks cool calm and collected, but maybe he's probably got some inner-agitation just waiting to get out. He could step into the Arena, see Roosevelt on the other end and bust out his best Tim Meadows from Mean Girls.
"Hell, no! I did not leave the South Side for this!"
The rest would be HttCttD history!

Obama will meet Andrew Jackson for the HttCttD Championship April 9. Join us next week when Roosevelt takes on George Washington for the battle for 3rd Place.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Doug's Picks

Last week, we took a look at the Presidential Bracket picks I made before we got this train rolling. This week, it's time to take a look at what Doug picked. Yes, we'll be comparing what Doug picked... what, 15, 16 months ago? Anyway, we'll be comparing them against the official BEWB of HTTCTTD. Also, we'll be comparing them against my picks, because... of course we will.

Anyway, here's his bracket.

Hmm, there's some familiar stuff here, isn't there? Time to dig in.

Jackson Bracket
Yeah, okay. Right off the bat, there are a couple of "Whoa, really?"s. I mean, he started out so well. He nailed the first two matches. Then, he went and pegged David Rice Atchison as a winner over Dwight. D. Effing Eisenhower. And that, my friends, is something I think we can safely call "Crazyballs."Atchison was never really president! I mean, really! Ah, but it gets better: he pegged Love Actually's Unnamed President as beating James Monroe. Yeah. He did that. Aside from that? Well, to be fair, he did peg the popularity of Kang and Whitmore, and once you get past his second round, things even out.

Points for this bracket: 22. Which, um... beats my 17 points. Damn.

Doug's response: Oh yeah, picking Atchison was really, really crazyballs. Except:
The later-to-become Border Ruffian got as many votes as Dwight D. Eisenenhower (who, by the way, was in terrible health condition). So really, instead of  "Crazyballs," I imagine you meant to say "Crazy Close." As for me picking Unnamed over Monroe... meh. I'm okay with missing that one. It's not like I had Billy Bob taking it all.

Washington Bracket
Quick aside: Doug and I are trivia nerds. Surprised? No, you're not. But what I'm talking about is the semi-competitive pub trivia type of trivia. And in that game, there's nothing more frustrating than when you come up with the right answer, then erase it and put down something else. Which of course, brings me to Doug's projected winner in the Polk/Truman match. D'oh! He had Truman, then he crossed that out and went with Polk. Oh, and he rode Polk to the next round. Whoopsie-daisy! Other than that, well, he picked Nixon over Tom Beck, but... I did that also, so I guess I can't give him too much crap. And he also had Reagan in the third round, which: no. But other than that, yeah, great!

Points for this bracket: 19. I win this one! Woo! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Doug's response: Yeah, that kind of sucks that I changed that one. My thinking was that Polk was known as "Young Hickory" because he was kind of like Andrew Jackson. Plus, the They Might Be Giants song had to have gained him some nerd votes, right? No, apparently not. And Reagan? I still hold that he should have made the Round of 16.

Marshall Bracket
Oh. Uh. Okay, I'm sorry, my friend Prince has something to say about this:
Yeah. Well, to be fair, Doug made one of the same mistakes I did: assuming that a president who personally dispatched terrorists off his plane could kill a paralyzed man. Ha! We're so silly, the two of us. Unfortunately for Doug, he took Marshall all the way through the bracket which... didn't turn out so well in real life. The rest of his first round went slightly better; yeah, he had John Quincy Adams instead of Franklin Pierce, but that was a tossup. However, things just went off a cliff after the first round, as he had only one correct pick in the in the remaining matches. Oof.

Points for this round: 8. Brutal. I mean, I had 9 and all, which... okay, let's move on.

Doug's response: Yeah, no. This is just awful.

Roosevelt Bracket

And Doug rebounds from the ugliness of the Marshall bracket with this far more respectable entry. Doug fell into the Dubya trap, and backed Camacho for a little too long. He also had Dave over JFK, which is another one of those coin flips that I can't really fault him for, wont though I am to do just that. Still, the Dubya/Camacho thing really hoses the lower half of his bracket. Nice first half though, you have to give him that.

Points in this bracket: 17. This was the bracket I killed with 22 points, so... yeah.

Doug's response: Of course I backed the future five-time Ultimate Smackdown Champion. He's the future five-time Ultimate Smackdown Champion!
Just look at how his vice president disappears!
Oof. Doug came into the Rushmore Four with three of his four picks intact, and what's more, he already aced the first Rushmore Four match. I don't really know how the math shakes out, but... I guess it's possible he could win this thing? I feel ill. It's going to come down to the final showdown to settle this thing, isn't it? And that means... it's on.

The Chief: Any of you who have read this far know what the deal is here, so... we'll see you on Friday.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Obama vs. Roosevelt

It should be noted:
We here at Hail to the Chief... to the Death intend that this blog be for entertainment
and wise-ass only purposes. We do not condone, nor do we encourage, violence
against any president: former or current, living or dead, real or fictional.

Barack Obama
44th President of the United States
Serving: 2009-Present
Age in office: 47-49

Arena Experience:
1st Round: 90.48% of 21 votes against Andrew Johnson
2nd Round: 76.47% of 17 votes against Thomas "Tug" Benson
3rd Round: 76.19% of 21 votes against David Palmer
4th Round: 53.88% of 701 votes against Josiah "Jed" Bartlet

PROS: He's young, athletic and in great shape. He's got smarts and he's a cool customer. He also doesn't back down from a challenge, even if he is an underdog.

CONS: He maybe has a tendency to be too thoughtful. This is a good thing when you're in the Oval Office, trying to come up with a way to revamp the nation's health care system. It's not so good in the Arena.

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
26th President of the United States
Served: 1901-1909
Ages during term: 42-50

Arena Experience
1st Round: 100% of 19 votes against Baxter Harris
2nd Round: 100% of 21 votes against Mays Gilliam
3rd Round: 73% of 37 votes against Abraham Lincoln
4th Round: 88.6% of 44 votes against John F. Kennedy

PROS: Was an avid adventurer and all around physical specimen. Survived an assassination attempt in spectacular fashion. Was Teddy Effing Roosevelt.

CONS: Physical fitness was mostly a ruse to cover up being physically dubious. Boxing matches while president had a tendency to leave him slightly blinded.

Pre-Fight Analysis
Doug: Roosevelt's going to be a tough one for Obama. While Obama is quite athletic and keep good care of his body, Roosevelt is, well, Roosevelt. He stormed San Juan Hill. He hung out in the Badlands. He hunted big game. And yes, he once gave a speech, despite the fact that he had just been shot in the chest.

Being a Chicago politician, Obama is prone to the occasional voter irregularity in the Arena...
In case you don't feel like scrolling up a bit.
... I believe that this was more of an anti-Bartlet movement and less of a pro-Obama movement.

So, although Obama has plenty going for him, this is going to be Roosevelt's show.

Tony: By now, everyone knows that TR was my choice to win the entire tournament. So, I obviously have a little skin in this game. But man, this is gonna be a tough one for ol' Ted. He's been holding his own against some tough competition, but Barack Obama is definitely the toughest opponent he's faced to this point. Like JFK, Obama is relatively young. However, unlike JFK, Obama is physically sound. Will that be enough to make a difference?

Well, considering the last time Theodore Roosevelt faced a young and able competitor, he won with 73% of the vote, I don't think Obama is going to fare much better. It's gonna be tough, but TR will make it through to the championship. Obama's consolation will be a third-place matchup, and an education into how a true Progressive fights. Roosevelt for the win!

The Chief: I'm sure, at this point, you understand the concept of Semifinals; the winner of this match goes on to the Championships. So make it count. Be heard! Vote and comment. Voting closes Friday at 9am Mountain Time.

Obama vs. Roosevelt

Friday, March 23, 2012

Two Generals Walk Into The Presidential Gladiatorial Arena...

George Washington may have won our independence from Britain, but Andrew Jackson won a spot in the HttCttD Championship.
As expected, it was the closest match either of them had been in, and it's not going to get any easier from here.

Jackson vs. Washington
Andrew Jackson     27 (54.0%)
George Washington     23 (46.0%)

Though the voting numbers were slightly in Jackson's favor, our commentariat was leaned towards Washington heading to the Championship.

Good point. Washington took 100% of the electoral vote. Twice! Even James Madison, who ran unopposed in 1820, couldn't even manage that.

Though Washington was defeated, he will return to the Arena April 2 and attempt to gain the 3rd Place spot.
Jackson will return April 9 for the HttCttD Championship.
Join us next week when Barack Obama and Theodore Roosevelt vie for the chance to go up against Jackson for our final fight.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tony's Picks

The day before Andrew Jackson and William H. Taft entered for the first fight in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena, Tony and I decided to sit down and fill out our own brackets. We each filled in our own brackets, sealed them in an envelope and taped the envelope to the back of the Big Effin' White Board (or BEWB) which hung in my living room. It was decided that when we got to the Semifinals and compare results.

Fourteen months later, I've moved to Arkansas and I've taken the BEWB with me, but the Semifinals are here, so now it's time to take a look. We've decided the best way for us to do this is to have each of us look over the others' bracket and criticize them harshly. So I proudly bring you Tony's picks.
It's a lot to digest at once, so I'll break it down by bracket.

Roosevelt Bracket
Tony actually kind of killed it here. With the exception of the Gilliam-Madison 1st Round and the whole George W. Bush thing, he went perfect. And as much as I like to fault Tony for things, even (or especially) for things beyond his control, I can't really get on him for this. Because, seriously, there's no reason why Bush should have lost against a 68-year-old man on his deathbed.

Points for this bracket: 22

Tony's Response: Well, it wouldn't be the first time Dubya let me down. Hey-o!

Marshall Bracket
This quadrant fell most victim to, what I like to call, the Idiot Voter Factor. That's when people say that the guy in the wheelchair will beat the terrorist killer with the reasoning of "Yeah, but FDR killed Nazis." No, he actually didn't personally fight a single one, so I'll have to assume you're an idiot. While Tony was way off with James Marshall and Jed Bartlet, I can't really fault him for being wrong.

Tony did, however, rely on his heart a bit much with the Adams Family. He wanted that father-son fight and he let it cloud his judgment. Gerald Ford may have been a stumblebum, but not to the "lose to John Adams" caliber.

Points for this bracket: 9

Tony's Response: In my defense... um... yeah. I've got nothing on this.

Washington Bracket
Another admirable attempt. Except...

Nixon's Head going to the Round of 16? The dude was a head. True, he had a headless Spiro Agnew fighting for him, but that only raised more questions. I understand the entire premise of this blog is silly, but Nixon's Head going to the Round of 16? I feel like I'm that character Graham Chapman plays in Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Of course, it's kind of difficult for me to play the "don't be too silly" card when I post a video clip that ends with a Terry Gilliam animation.

Points for this bracket: 22

Tony's Response: Clearly I over-estimated the effect of the Futurama voting block. Sigh.

Jackson Bracket
Ooh. Okay. Let me bite my tongue for a bit while I talk about what's good about this.

He went 8 for 8 in the 1st Round. And the bottom half of this bracket is immaculate.

But then we get to the idea of Bill Clinton defeating Andrew Jackson and getting to the Rushmore Four. My reaction to this could be summed up with something that happened on Community last week. If only there were some sort of medium where we could get a clip of Community that lasts about a second or so. It wouldn't even need to have sound.

Oh wait, I just remembered that we have the Internet. Okay, so where was I? Oh right...

Clinton beats Jackson and goes the Rushmore Four?
If it's not moving, click the damn thing.
Yeah, that'll do.

Points for this bracket: 17

Tony's Response: First of all, there's no way Clinton doesn't fight like a dirty sonofabitch. So, the fight with Jackson should have been much much closer. Second of all, I think we're ignoring the greater truth of my bracket, and that truth is that it kicked ass. So to you, I can only say...

Tony's going into the Rushmore four with a total of 70 points. And fortunately for him, he quickly distanced himself from his prior mistakes (Clinton and the more understandable LBJ) by picking Washington and Roosevelt to go on to the Championship. Luckily for him, those are the two of his Rushmore Four picks that are still in it.

It's possible he could sweep this from now on. Or he could be shut out. We'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, get your votes in. The winner of this week's Jackson vs. Washington fight goes on to the Championship.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jackson vs. Washington

Andrew Jackson
7th President of the United States
Served: 1829-1837
Ages during term: 62-70

Arena Experience
1st Round: 86.8% of 38 votes against William Howard Taft
2nd Round: 94.7% of 19 votes against James Dale
3rd Round: 57.5% of 40 votes against Dwight D. Eisenhower
4th Round: 69% of 29 votes against Thomas Whitmore

PROS: Jackson's entire life was spent getting kicked in the teeth in various ways. He not only overcame all that adversity, he thrived off of it. And we are once again obligated to mention the whole Richard Lawrence assassination attempt thing, which... seriously.

CONS: Jackson was not exactly a spring chicken by the time he made it to the presidency... but that's about all we've got. Oh, except also, there was the genocide. Don't want to overlook the genocide.

George Washington
1st President of the United States
Served: 1789-1797
Age during term: 57-65

Arena Experience
1st Round:  92.5% of 40 votes against Mike Brady
2nd Round: 93.7% of 16 votes against Grover Cleveland (24)
Round of 16: 95.24% of 21 votes against Martin Van Buren
Quarterfinals: 67.86% of 28 votes against Jack Ryan

PROS: Washington took a ragtag army with very little supplies and took on one of the biggest superpowers. And he freakin' won! He also knew how to fight and box as well. So he has the tactics, the ability and the physical stature of a fighter.

CONS: Though he led the colonies to the win, it was a pretty sloppy victory. Like imagine a quarterback throwing four interceptions, but winning anyway. Only instead of football, it's a war where the general almost got himself captured and where New York City fell under British control.

Pre-game Analysis
Doug: Hoo boy, this is a tough one. But I'm definitely going to have to go with the experienced general who is a Pisces.

Ha! See what I did there? It's funny because they're both... okay, I'll move on.

Both of these guys are ready to fight, but I'm guessing Jackson will go the "flailing wildly while blind with anger" route where Washington would be a bit calmer. Not to say that Jackson's style wouldn't do any damage, but it would probably tire him eventually. So while this kind of fighting worked fine against the likes of William H. Taft or even Thomas J. Whitmore, it may not work as well against Washington, who doesn't know how to give up.

Washington's been in the shit. He froze his ass off in Valley Forge while his soldiers were dropping like flies around him. He knows how to turn things around and end up on top. Washington will be a bloody mess, but just when Jackson thinks he's in the homestretch, that's when George comes alive and brings the pain onto the fatigued Jackson.

Tony: Here's a practical question: when has Jackson's blind-rage bezerking ever failed him? Oh, how about never. On the other hand, George Washington has a career fighting record that is distinctly less than 100%. What's up with that?

Here's the thing, though: Jackson wasn't just a wrecking ball filled with bile, he also represented a new wave of American politician, one that valued the "common man" over the elites favored by Jeffersonian Democracy. Now, obviously, you could rightly argue that the man who best represents the values of Jeffersonian Democracy was... Thomas Jefferson. He's obviously not in the picture at the moment. But, I'm guessing George Washington would make for a pretty good stand in. Thus, this fight isn't between two of America's great leaders, but a battle for the future of the country itself. A battle for the soul of Democracy. With those stakes, Jackson isn't going to back down easily.

Besides, Washington isn't going to be able to bottle Jackson up at Yorktown and hope that he gives up before hurricane season. Jackson's going to send Washington to the great Mount Vernon in the sky.
Does Sky Mount Vernon have slavery?

Jackson vs. Washington

Friday, March 16, 2012

What Else Do We Have To Say?

Once again, Theodore Roosevelt earned his place on another Rushmore. He's apparently very sculptable.
(NOTE: Yeah, we know this isn't a picture of Mt. Rushmore. This photo was taken sent to us by one of our loyal readers visiting Houston where they apparently have 20-foot tall presidential busts just lying around.)

Roosevelt vs. Kennedy
Theodore Roosevelt      39 (88.6%)
John F. Kennedy       5  (11.4%)

We can't help but notice that this week, we had less than 7% the number of votes than the last week. What did we do to offend those other 657 voters? I guess we'll just never know.

This was the biggest (non-Bartlet) win since George Washington's 95% victory over Martin Van Buren in the Round of 16. Washington and Roosevelt really know how to bring the pain into the Arena. Our commentariat seemed to think JFK didn't have a chance.
Hmm, maybe we should install security cameras for the parking lot. Not to keep things like that happening, but to ensure that a Teddy vs. Teddy fight would be recorded and kept for the ages.

Roosevelt moves on to the Rushmore Four and will fight Barack Obama in a Semifinal match March 26.
Join us next week, when Andrew Jackson and George Washington battle for a spot in the HttCttD Championship.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today's the day...

We'll be honest with you. We've been doing this for over a year, and quite honestly, we're getting burnt out with this Wednesday Feature nonsense. Since Theodore Roosevelt is up this week, we were going to just leave a silly video of Mt. Rushmore and call it a day.

We feel that this video is so delightful that alerting our readership of its existence should almost count as a public service announcement or community service; thus, it would probably be able to carry itself as a post. However, being the teachers of all things that could be easily Wikipedia'd we are, we realized that the Roosevelt connection doesn't end there.

For starters, there's the fact that the Teddy bear originates from Theodore Roosevelt. Back in 1902, Roosevelt was on a hunting trip with Mississippi Governor Andrew Longino. Someone in the group had cornered a black bear and tied it to a tree after the bear had been exhausted after being chased by the hounds. The group had presented the tied up, near-dead bear to Roosevelt and told him to shoot it. Roosevelt thought it would be unsportsmanlike to shoot the bear in that condition and told someone else to put it out of its misery.

TRANSLATION: "Dick move, guys. Besides, I only shoot bears that I personally wrestle."

The story made its way to the press and Washington Post political cartoonist Clifford Berryman made it the subject of a cartoon.
WARNING: Dramatization may have overstated cuteness of bear.
The cartoon gave Morris Michtom an idea for creating little stuffed bears for his shop's window. After getting the OK from the president to use his name, Michtom named the stuffed toys "Teddy bears." The bears were quite successful, and Michtom later launched Ideal Novelty and Toy Company. Ideal later gave us the ideas for the Magic 8-Ball and the Rubik's Cube.

Just think, if Jimmy Carter's swamp rabbit incident had shaken out differently, we could have also had "Jimmy rabbits" today.
Hmmm, maybe not.
The popular toy also made way for the song Teddy Bears' Picnic, composed by John W. Bratton in 1907 -- during the Roosevelt administration.

Moving forward to the 1920s, when someone got the idea of carving four presidents' heads into the side of a mountain in South Dakota. That idea had been coming along swimmingly (for the most part), and by 1933, the U.S. National Park Service took control of Mt. Rushmore.

The previous year, songwriter Jimmy Kennedy put lyrics to Bratton's Teddy Bears' Picnic. Though, some would argue that the song's narrative is sloppy...

... we're glad all of these parts lead up to the delightful animation of the Mt. Rushmore Barbershop Quartet singing the song for us -- even if the Teddy bear made way for more unfortunate products.

Meanwhile, away from the forest, the battle between Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy rages on, and only one will chisel his place in the Rushmore Four.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roosevelt vs. Kennedy

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
26th President of the United States
Served: 1901-1909
Ages during term: 42-50

Arena Experience
1st Round: 100% of 19 votes against Baxter Harris
2nd Round: 100% of 21 votes against Mays Gilliam
3rd Round: 73% of 37 votes against Abraham Lincoln

PROS: Theodore Roosevelt took exactly zero shit from anyone, including his own body, which he worked into peak condition after a frail childhood. He was hella manly, and he was one of the youngest presidents ever. Also, there was the time he got shot before a speech, proceeded to give said speech, and did not go to the hospital until said speech was concluded.

CONS: Roosevelt could get into funks like few before him and few since. Also, his physical condition was built upon a body that seemingly could not actually sustain it, which is not what you want when fighting for one's life. Also, as a commenter pointed out in his last time around, Roosevelt had a penchant for getting his retina detached during boxing matches. Hmmm.

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

Arena Experience
1st Round: 73% of 15 votes against Dave Kovic
2nd Round: 56% of 25 votes against Dwayne E.M.D.H. Camacho
3rd Round: 53% of 30 votes against George H.W. Bush

PROS: While serving in the Navy during World War II, when JFK's ship sank, he swam for hours in shark-infested waters while towing an injured crew member by his life jacket with his teeth. If that's not a clear enough sign of him being able to handle pressure, he got us through the Cuban Missile Crisis. And to show that he's well-rounded, he also picked up a Pulitzer Prize.

CONS: By the time he made it to the White House, JFK was suffering from a number of ailments, including Addison's Disease and chronic back pain. His body was pretty much ready to self-destruct, so it's safe to assume his "towing someone with his teeth" days were far behind him.

Pre-fight Analysis
Doug: What is JFK still doing here? He beat someone who was his age but was in perfect health, a five-time "Ultimate Smackdown Champion," and a guy who enjoyed jumping out of planes so much, he did it well into his 80s. How is any of this even possible? The man was no slouch, but he was in terrible shape.

Is he getting votes because he had mistresses? That shouldn't be the basis for advancing in the Arena. If it was, then Warren G. Harding should have gotten past the 1st Round.

One would think that this week will be all Roosevelt -- it should be -- but who knows?

Interesting thing that we should remember about Roosevelt's detached retina. Roosevelt challenged that other guy to the boxing match while he was president. It's almost as if this Arena was built for him.

Tony: Roosevelt is going to come into this fight confident, but not too confident. He's had a relatively easy go of it so far, of course, up to last round, but when he spies his opponent, he's going to know he'll have to bring his best stuff. After all, JFK and Teddy Roosevelt aren't too dissimilar in age. Granted, Roosevelt won't have any way of knowing that JFK isn't in as prime condition as he might appear.

So they're probably going to circle each other, warily, until one of them makes the first move. After that, it's going to be all Roosevelt. Which is sad, because I can imagine the two of them getting along very well, in a weird sort of way. Bully for them both! But mostly for Roosevelt.

The Chief: Bully, indeed. Voters, it's time to have your say! Which of these two illustrious Presidents will move on to the Rushmore Four? You've got until 9 a.m., MDT, to vote. We'll be back Wednesday!

Roosevelt vs. Kennedy

Friday, March 9, 2012


As always, when things heated up, Barack Obama remained cool.
And now he's making his way to the Rushmore Four after defeating Jed Bartlet in our toughest fight yet.

Obama vs. Bartlet
Barack Obama701 (53.9%)
Josiah "Jed" Bartlet     600 (46.1%)

We'd have to say, there's a strange feeling in the HttCttD Offices this week. We can't help but think that there may have been some voting irregularities on both sides. However, since there's no way of proving anything, we'll have to accept the possibility that we had over 1,300 legitimate voters this week.

If that's the case, then we welcome our new voters, over 1,250 of you! There is nothing absolutely fishy about any of this.

We're curious if Snowball Simpson voted this week.
Bob Terwilliger voter, Snowball, hangs out in heaven, waiting for more crooked elections.
We appreciate the outpouring of support this week, all in the name of good fun. This has our most exciting race to date, and not just because we've had seven times the number of voters more than our previous record.

This week, we have to say goodbye to Bartlet, who has done wonders for attracting voters; even if they did only show up when he was fighting. In our 59 weeks of fights so far, we've had a total of 3,142 votes. In the four weeks Bartlet was up, we've had a total of 1,684 votes. Just as comparison, the four weeks Jack Ryan fought brought in 127 votes. Since those four Bartlet weeks account for more than half of our votes, we thought we'd have one of our co-bloggers offer some final words for Bartlet.
Doug: Bartlet was truly amazing to watch in The West Wing. He was tenacious, strong-willed and highly intelligent. If this had been a contest on who would win in a debate or a popularity contest, Tony and I probably wouldn't have gone through the trouble of creating a bracket of 64 presidents. We'd probably have just said, "No doubt, Bartlet's the best," and the discussion wouldn't have gone beyond that afternoon in Dec. 2010. 
But no, it was actually a question of who would win in a physical fight. We wanted people to consider physical strength, build, age, health and wits. While Bartlet has oodles of the latter, that's pretty much all he's got going for him. He wouldn't be the weakest fighter in the pool, but he's not exactly the complete package either. 
In the Round of 16, I knew Franklin Pierce didn't stand a chance. He was up against Bartlet, who had somehow beat Lyndon B. Johnson with 81% of the vote (which is just absurd, but whatever). I suspected that Bartlet supporters were sent to our blog to vote without even considering what was being asked, so I thought I'd goad Bartlet supporters into commenting and explain their reasoning. Maybe if they could answer for this, even in a fun way, I'd be better with this. Maybe I didn't know about one scene of one episode where Josh, C.J. and Toby were sitting around and agreeing with the idea that if Bartlet were to fight all of the U.S. Presidents, he'd win. If that were the case, then it was in The West Wing canon. I'd have to accept it. 
The answers I did get didn't really make me feel better.
Wait, so you voted for Bartlet because Pierce supported the Confederacy? Is the argument here that supporting the Confederacy automatically makes one a weaker fighter? That's, at best, specious reasoning. That's like saying that Federalists were better singers or that people who are pro-choice are automatically better at cribbage. 
So, either Bartlet supporters couldn't be bothered to read what our blog was about before voting, or they just didn't care and voted for Bartlet anyway. The irony in this astounded me, given that The West Wing was one of the most intelligent shows in television history. Maybe next, we should create a blog called "Who Sucks?" and laugh when Bartlet wins in a landslide against some universally despised president. 
Bartlet supporters could have been much smarter in finagling their guy to victory by planning ahead. By only showing up on Bartlet weeks, they were making their intentions and their blatant disregard for the question at hand obvious. 
For example: Bartlet got 81% against LBJ in the 2nd Round. That seems a bit unbelievable. LBJ was a big, angry guy. True he had health issues, but so did Bartlet. Bartlet's advantage could have been that he was clear-headed. I could have accepted it if he won with under 60% of the vote, but 81%? No, that raises some red flags.  
What would have been even better? Not just voting in Bartlet weeks, but also influencing who Bartlet met in later rounds. Bartlet getting 81% against LBJ is unbelievable. But what if LBJ narrowly lost in the 1st Round? Then we'd have a Bartlet going up against Chester A. Arthur in the 2nd Round. That sounds like a much more reasonable win for Bartlet. 
Either way, it looks like some of our other readers got sick of this and recruited some help to put an end to these shenanigans; possibly by employing some tomfloolery of their own. And to that, I say, "It's about freakin' time." 
Of course, I'm doubt that most of you are even reading this, so whatever.
The Chief: Thank you, Doug. I hope you're not the one who gives my eulogy.

The comments this week either support some part of Doug's tirade, or prove its veracity.
However, we're going to give this week's Eisenhower Memorial Comment of the Week to this person who captures the spirit (and the point) of HttCttD.

Obama goes on to the Rushmore Four where he waits to find out who he'll be fighting in his Semifinal match scheduled for March 26. Join us next week for our last Quarterfinal match, when Theodore Roosevelt fights John F. Kennedy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Remember When Network Dramas Were Good?

Every time President Bartlet comes up in the bracket, I know that inevitably, I will lose a chunk of my week going through clips of The West Wing on YouTube. That's just how it works. Last time, I went back and watched some of the second season, starting with the opening two-parter, "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen." Those two episodes are incredibly riveting television, balancing the aftermath of an assassination attempt against the President* with a bit of origin story for the show, telling us how most of the major players came together to be on Bartlet's team. I have long thought that the two episodes, and especially the opening of the first part, rank among the finest moments of television ever aired. It's Aaron Sorkin at his finest, with everyone in the show firing on all cylinders, down to the minor guest stars. We were too far into the week last time for me to pull this particular post off, but I knew I had to do it when Bartlet next got into the Arena: a running diary of the show's opening minutes. This is that diary.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, here's what's up: early in the first season, Bartlet hired young Charlie Young to be his "body man." The two of them hit it off, because they are both awesome (it also helped that Bartlet had no sons of his own). Charlie also hit it off in a slightly different way with Bartlet's daughter Zoey. Charlie and Zoey started kiiiind of dating, drawing the ire of white supremacists (Charie is black, FYI), who, as the President was leaving a speaking engagement in Virginia, opened fire from a building across the street.

And now, without further ado... (all time stamps approximate)

00:00- Okay, I have to digress. Remember when TV was making the transition to widescreen? I think the first season of TWW was in "non-widescreen" format, and they moved to widescreen in the second season. Of course, since their flashbacks were in standard, we get... standard flashbacks. Weird transitional period for TV, is what I'm saying.

00:08- And of course, that's future-past-ad woman Elisabeth Moss as Zoey Bartlet, and future-CSI Jorja Fox as Zoey's Secret Service agent.

00:14- Also, if you're confused, this is Vice President Hoynes (Tim Matheson), talking with Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford). Lyman used to work on Hoynes' office before Hoynes became VEEP.

00:22- Oh, shiiiiiiiiiiit.

00:26- It kind of looks like the Secret Service is doing a shitty job covering Bartlet in this shot, doesn't it?

00:39- The super-somber title card: appropriate for The West Wing, not at all appropriate for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Just sayin'.

01:31- Great reveal showing that Ron Butterfield has a wounded hand. But... given the chaos, when did he have time to dress his injury? Especially without Bartlet noticing? Of course, that's not all Bartlet hasn't noticed...

01:37- Coop is probably thinking "aw, geez, don't drag me into this."

01:47- My only beef with this scene is that when you first watch it, it's pretty damn hard to see why Butterfield starts freaking out. For the record, I think the blood first starts creeping into Bartlet's mouth around here.

02:05- I know it might strain credulity a bit to be all "how did no one notice he was shot," but apparently this bit is based in part on the Hinkley shooting of Ronald Reagan. They were on their way back to the White House when someone noticed Reagan was shot, and then they hightailed it to GW. Anyway, obviously this is when shit starts getting real.

02:09- Daaaaaaaaaamn that's some slick driving. Maybe this guy missed his true calling?

02:36- The paramedic here is... not that reassuring. C'mon, dude.

02:54- One of the great elements of this opening is how the energy/emotional levels keep shifting, as information is withheld and then revealed. We just saw Bartlet's Secret Service detail flip into DEFCON 1, and now we're back with people who have no idea what just happened. It's a great play towards keeping the tension building.

03:35- How come nobody's asking "Where's Mandy?" Seriously, though, this bit is jarring when you watch the series on DVD. Mandy's there, and then... she's not. What?

03:48- It's funny how, no matter how many times we watch this bit, and in how many different locations, it always gets extremely dusty in the room when we hit this point.

03:52- And I just have to thin-slice this part; Toby's (Richard Schiff) reaction increases the dust in the room by exponential levels.

03:58- Of course, it's funny how only the primary cast members hear Toby's shouting.

04:03- Credits! The West Wing's theme is pretty fantastic, in case anyone here wasn't aware of that. Note how we're back in non-widescreen.

04:20- Shout-out to Janiel Moloney, promoted to first-string after a season of both a) knocking it out of the park on a weekly basis, and b) making the aforementioned Mandy redundant.

04:49- And now we're back to an emotional low point. If this were set in modern day, Bartlet's shooting would already be all the Twitter trending topics within 30 seconds. But here we are at George Washington Hospital, and they don't even have a T.V. on in the lobby to let them know shit's going down.

05:24- And here, things start to turn, and we're about to start tumbling down the roller coaster, again, some more.

05:36- "Yeah, I guess I should've just taken his word for it when he said it was a drill." Also: C.J. just said it was Monday night: why are all the kids coming down with alcohol poisoning?

05:39- This is the second-best reaction shot we're going to get, by the way.

06:08- I like to think that one line got that guy his SAG card.

06:13- I have a slight nit to pick, in that I always think that the visiting national championship teams come around the White House in the middle of the day, or at least, before it gets dark. However, the caption at the beginning of the show told us it was 9:30 at night? You're receiving an NCAA championship team (I presume the national women's basketball champs, but it's unclear) at 9:30 P.M.? But, that minor quibble I have is always overshadowed by...

06:41- That. That is the look of a man who knows he is fucked. And in case you were wondering, that is the single best reaction shot we're going to get, because... damn.

06:45- Good thing there weren't any reporters around to capture the Vice President shitting his pants. Oh, wait.

06:59- Unnecessary shouting!

07:43- President Bartlet, everyone! Of course, we in the audience know he shouldn't be treating that question so glibly...

07:46- Annnnd we're back down again. Okay, yes, I shouldn't be banging on about this anymore, but... still. The way this episode is constructed is something of a master class in putting riveting televison together.

08:11- Couldn't get a Tom Brokaw cameo? Whaaaat?

08:21- Another fantastic element of this episode: Sorkin knows when not to have people talk.

08:37- Every time Peggy-- I mean, Elisabeth Moss-- shows up in TWW, I flip out a bit. Complete tangential side-note: here, she's playing Catholic Zoey Bartlet. In Mad Men, she plays Catholic Peggy Olson. Stop type-casting Elisabeth Moss! Let her play a Protestant for once!

08:43- Slipped a pretty good joke in on us, didn't you, Sorkin? You sly devil.

08:47- Another great reaction shot, and another example of Sorkin airing it out for his actors. Second tangential side-note: I was channel surfing one afternoon, and caught a bit of John Spencer** playing a role on one of those shitty syndicated sci-fi shows (you know, like one of the Stargates***?) as like, a spaceship captain or something. IT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING EVER. That's Leo, not Captain What's-his-face! But I digress.

09:17- You've almost forgotten about Josh at this point, haven't you? By the way, the way this is structured is a subtle call-back to the pilot episode of the show, where we meet the cast in a series of rapid-fire bits where they learn that POTUS was in a bike accident while on vacation. Here, we're getting the same thing, only the stakes are a billion times higher, and there are no trees involved. Or bikes.

09:37- Those last four lines give us a lot, even though they don't really seem to. Again, this is where a lesser show would flunk the "subtle writing" test. And by "lesser show," I mean, "a show that shows you establishing shots of Paris, and then has to give you a caption to say, 'hey, we're in Paris, y'all!'" Cough.


10:01- And here, Mrs. Bartlet and Zoey get their own punchlines. Love it.

10:13- Subtext: "Fuck this up, and I will END YOU."

10:55- This raises a whole lot of questions. Obviously, Dr. Lee needs to know this because it will affect how he treats the President... but... wouldn't everyone else in the room wonder why he's doing what he's doing? I honestly don't remember if they ever bring this scene up again in season three, but... hmmm...

10:55- Also, the way this scene is blocked means we miss out on what is probably another fantastic reaction shot. Rare slip-up on Thomas Schlamme's part, eh?

11:19- In case you were wondering how they catch the guy at the beginning of the next episode, this is the only clue you get. Of course, this mini-scene is really only serving to get us to lower our guards, because...

11:26- Here comes the cavalry!

11:34- We hear CJ Cregg, but... where is she? Seriously, is she in this shot at all?

12:19- Annnnd, we're out. It's been a helluva ride, hasn't it? I could go on with this for quite a while, but... well, this episode has already been recapped by people better at it than I, so... yeah. Also, I don't want to be up until three in the morning writing this post.

Anyway, I maintain that the twelve minutes we just barreled through were incredible television. Dense, emotionally churning, with a few good jokes. It was The West Wing at its absolute finest, and I don't know if you can find its equal on network TV. Hell, I'd put it up against some of the best cable TV, though with the caveat that I have not yet succumbed to The Wire. But this twelve minutes of television puts me through the ringer every time I watch it. That's no small feat, and it's why The West Wing was the best. Hats off to everyone involved.

Also, if anyone knows who is responsible for keeping this show off Netflix streaming... tell me their address; I have fifty-thousand angry letters to write.

Okay, that all I got! The matchup between Bartlet and President Obama rages on! We'll be back Friday to survey the remains.

*- well, actually not... spoiler!
**-also, R.I.P. John Spencer. :(
***-IMDB suggests it was The Outer Limits, which... doesn't seem right. Did I dream this whole thing? Possibly.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Obama vs. Bartlet

As always:
We here at Hail to the Chief... to the Death intend that this blog be for entertainment
and wise-ass only purposes. We do not condone, nor do we encourage, violence
against any president: former or current, living or dead, real or fictional.

Barack Obama
44th President of the United States
Serving: 2009-Present
Age in office: 47-49

Arena Experience:
1st Round: 90.48% of 21 votes against Andrew Johnson.
2nd Round: 76.47% of 17 votes against Thomas "Tug" Benson.
3rd Round: 76.19% of 21 votes against David Palmer.

PROS: Obama is one of the youngest and most physically fit in the entire bracket. He entered the presidential race knowing how how big of a challenge that would have been AND if he did win, how much of challenge inheriting the presidency in 2009 would be. He did it anyway, and the U.S. didn't tip over into Great Depression II territory. Point being, he's always up for a challenge and he beats the odds.

CONS: He thinks too much and he doesn't really show anger. Really? That's all we've got? No, I guess these are valid. Some other combatants are just walking balls of rage and that's working quite well for them.

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

Arena Experience:
1st round: 88.7% of 97 votes against John Tyler.
2nd Round: 81% of 100 votes against LBJ.
3rd Round: 88.6% of 186 votes against Franklin Pierce

PROS: Has incredibly impressive intellectual heft on his side, with deep knowledge of a broad range of subjects. Remains incredibly popular despite not having added much to the political discourse in the better part of a decade.

CONS: Diagnosed with M.S., which most voters apparently haven't heard of, despite apparently being slavish fans of The West Wing.

Pre-fight Analysis
Tony: I mean, I don't really know what to say, any more. Bartlet's been one of the most consistently dominating competitors in the Arena, outclassing his opponents, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Despite the fact that his body has all the dependability of an [insert ethnicity you wish to slur] car, Bartlet's been battering, bullying, and bashing bastpast all comers. And you know what? Good for him.

However, I think if one was to make a Venn diagram of Bartlet supporters overlapping with Obama supporters, the result would look like a singularly oblong purple circle. Will Bartlet's supporters stick with him, or will they defect to the (relatively) new kid in town? I honestly have no idea. This should be fun.

Doug: Yeah, if we came up for taglines for each of the fights, this week's would be "Obama vs. Bartlet: Suck it, liberals; you have to vote against one of them."

I'm pretty sure Bartlet supporters would vote for him even if he was up against a 20-foot tall Theodore Roosevelt.
Granted, the big stick wouldn't be allowed in the Arena, but he'd still be 20 feet tall.
And I guess that makes sense; Bartlet's smart and a great debater. He even cursed out God... in Latin! None of these have anything to do with athleticism or ability to fight, but that's all apparently beside the point in the Presidential Gladiatorial Arena.

The Chief: As always, voting closes Friday 9am Mountain Time. The winner moves on to the Rushmore Four.

Obama vs. Bartlet

Friday, March 2, 2012

He's Winning, He's Winning, He's Winning

George Washington knocked Jack Ryan down like a cherry tree.
Washington's trek to the Rushmore Four has been smooth sailing; way easier than crossing the Delaware.

Washington vs. Ryan
George Washington     19 (67.9%)
Jack Ryan 9  (32.1%)

However, hhis marks the first time that Washington received less than 90% of the vote. It could be a sign of things to come for Washington. It will be an uphill battle for him.

This week's numbers were eerily similar to last week's result, which had Jackson over Whitmore 20-9. However, unlike last week, all was quiet on the commentariat front this time around. That means we're forced to sift through our Tweets.
We share this because it leads to a discussion question: If Ryan loses points because he was once portrayed by Ben Affleck, would being portrayed by Chris Pine help or hurt him? We ask because this is supposedly happening.

Adding to the list of other characters like Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Donaghy, would having Captain Kirk on his side in the Arena help Ryan?
Or, at least, it was announced over two years ago. After all of this time, there still seems to be no sign of this actually happening, so we guess it doesn't really matter.

Washington will meet Andrew Jackson in the first Rushmore Four match, March 19. The winner of that will obviously advance to the Championship. The loser will get another chance at a victory and try for 3rd place. Next week, Barack Obama will meet Josiah "Jed" Bartlet.