Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Follies-Presidential Death Match

Sometimes presidential campaigns can seem like life or death, but in the United States at least, it doesn't ever really come to that.  However, I recently saw this link on one of my friend's Facebook wall, and I was intrigued.  Sort of like the old Superman v. Batman question, only with presidents.

In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why?

(excerpted from link)   Hello everyone!

Teddy, kicking butt, taking names, and killing wildlife.

One of my most-visited sites on the web is, and one of my favourite subreddits is HistoricalWhatIf, an online community that debates historical hypotheticals. Earlier today someone asked the question, In a mass knife fight to the death between every American President, who would win and why? Someone beat me to the obvious answer that a final showdown would see Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt doing a dagger-wielding version of a Mexican standoff, so I took it too far and walked through how I thought every president would turn out. An hour later the result greatly exceeded the maximum 10,000 character limit for a post, so I’ve decided to blog about it instead.

To begin, here were the original conditions of the hypothetical, as suggested by the redditor Xineph:
  • Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.
  • The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the [1] Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
  • Each president has been given one standard-issue [2] Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife [3] presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
  • There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
  • FDR has been outfitted with a [4] Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
  • Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.

Like this, only with less singing and dancing (maybe).

I, much like everyone else, believes that Theodore Roosevelt would be the final contender.  The man was an avid hunter, and a pro with the knife.  The conditions, as outlined, would definitely favor his skills.   However, after that opinions diverge.  My number two person would be George Washington.  He was very tall, athletic, and a noted dancer, which implies a certain amount of agility.  As someone who was engaged in warfare during the pre-Revolution and Revolutionary period, he had a lot more experience with hand to hand combat than those who came later.  My number three would be a certain Richard Milhouse Nixon.  Nixon played football during his younger years, and he has a certain low cunning that would see him through up until almost the end.

Of our last 4-5 presidents?  I think Obama might last a while.  He takes out many of the early presidents quickly.  They, not understanding that a black man is president, keep trying to order drinks and food from him.  He takes advantage of their confusion and shanks them.  However once it sinks in that he is a president as well, it's all over for Obama, as this is one situation he won't be able to talk his way out of.  Dubya and George Bush Sr. make it into the top ten.  They would have each other's back, and Bush Sr. at least, has sufficient guile to be able to exploit situations to his fullest advantage.  Bill Clinton goes out early.  He is no fighter, and will probably be stabbed in the back while trying to hide.  Reagan, similiarly also goes out early.  He was pretty old, and he can't move all that quickly.

Bush, making preparations...

Which presidents do you think would make it to the end?  Which ones do you think go down quickly?


  1. GHWB and JFK both have significant military experience, but JFK's back and GHWB being older as president would be an issue.

    Bubba would be toast. Obama and GWB would be toast - no real physical fight in them. I actually don't think Lincoln would get all that far - awesome president, but not a knife fighting man.

    Jackson was older during his presidency - and see, that's one of the main things Teddy has going for him: not only was he fit, interested in exercise, and strategic, he was younger than anybody else. Washington was old. So if you had them in their physical prime, rather than presidential physical prime, GHWB, Jimmy Carter (who went to Annapolis), JFK (pre-back issues), Jackson, and Washington would go further. Honestly I think it would be Jackson versus Teddy at the end in that case, and Jackson might win: he was a badass.

    1st down would be Taft, unless he sat on Madison (who was tiny).

    If strategy came into play then Van Buren, Nixon, and LBJ would last awhile. LBJ would last a long time, I think. He was a tough bastard (I say, affectionately). Wilson, Polk, and Jefferson would be thinking to hard to notice that Teddy had already knifed them.

  2. Too hard. Must get coffee now.

  3. I think the final 2 would be Teddy and Grant, and in that fight I give Grant the edge (assuming he would have sobered up during the course of the rest of the melee).

  4. Well, I have seen Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, and based on that documentary, Lincoln was seriously underrated. Lol. Considering that alliances are possible, any father/son or cousin duo has to have a serious advantage over anyone else.

  5. Grant is a contender. He was military, he was tough, and the drinking didn't seem to hurt one bit (the supposed Lincoln quote pretty much says it all there). And I could see a situation in which Teddy was overconfident, and Grant would take him down. I actually think W would hamper HW. The Harrisons and Adams' would not be serious contenders. And I don't think Teddy liked FDR enough to team up with him. I think he'd use Taft as long as he could.

  6. Hmm, I was thinking Taft's girth might give him an advantage, protecting his organs from a deep, penetrating wound, but then I checked the length of the knife and 6.87" blade is pretty long.
    You spoke of Nixon's football prowess, but I cannot believe you omitted Ford. The man was a star football player. Although he was in his early 60s as President, I don't think that would slow him down.
    WH Harrison was pretty tough in his day, but I think the fact that he got sick so soon after he began might indicate a lack of prowess by the time he became President. Tough to say. Might have been a bug that could fell any President today. I also like Zachary Taylor for similar reasons.
    Grover Cleveland had no compunction against executing someone himself, so that presents a mental advantage--few others had that type of experience, even the military heroes like Ike, Taylor, Jackson, Washington or Harrison.
    I think BHO would do better than suggested. He is among the youngest and he is still a decent basketball player. I don't think he'll go out early due to racial animus, but I think he might actually tip his hand too early that he is athletic, leading to a gang-up to take out that threat.
    There are some natural pairings that would be pretty fierce: The Harrisons. Grandpa and Grandson kicking butt together. Hayes & McKinley--Hayes mentored McKinley and both were pretty tough soldiers. I think that kind of unity and loyalty would lead toward victory for them.
    My final 5 are those two pairs plus Ford. Ford would then be taken out and it'd be down to the 2 pairs. Hayes and McKinley would turn on each other while the Harrisons attacked both. Then WH Harrison would allow his grandson to win.
    Victor: Benjamin Harrison

  7. Benjamin Harrison over Teddy??? Scandalous :-) Ford played football, but his strategy was sorely lacking. I'll reconsider the Harrisons, but Hayes and Mckinley are no match for Grant or Teddy in my book. Hey, wouldn't it be cool if Teddy and Grant worked together? Maybe with Ike?

  8. I have to agree with Jay that being able to team up is just an enormous advantage. Some people come into the arena with natural alliances, and having someone else be able to defend you while you attack has to put you in the top half at least. After that, it's pure aggression, guile, and athleticism.

  9. While I did omit the natural alliance of the Adamses, I felt their prowess would be lacking. I really don't see TR and USG working together as a unit.
    I'll wager 2000 quatloos on B. Harrison.

  10. Way to put your money where your mouth is. Harrison was a recon man, then fought under Sherman - but Grant fought and taught recruits before commanding them, and he went to west point. Without troops, I gotta like Grant's chances over Harrison if we're going off of military experience. I just don't think, if we're going off best presidential physical shape, that WHH has a chance. Dude was 68 (at a time when that was physically older than it is today) and died of pneumonia a few weeks after he was sworn in. Of the team-ups that I see as useful, honestly like an LBJ/Nixon (if you believe The President's Club, that's possible) or even a Nixon/Ford (because then Ford gets the benefit of Nixon's strategy) would be more effective than the related pairs.

  11. But the ability to team up has to be based on trust. I would not trust Nixon, nor an LBJ to have my back in that situation, would you? The related pairs are better, since there already is natural trust. I don't think most of the natural pairings would turn on each other until the end. And if you are on the attack, you go after the easy pickings first, the weak, alone and/or tiny, like Reagan and Madison, but you would want to avoid two-on-one situations until you absolutely must take them on, no matter how frail the participants might look.

  12. I'm really starting to come around to Grant. Teddy was a badass, but Teddy was obvious, and I think any two-person teams would go after Teddy as soon as possible. Grant, on the other hand, was capable of keeping his mouth shut. Grant's only real problem is that he doesn't have any natural alliances, unless Lincoln would join him. Now Lincoln and Grant would be a pretty interesting team.

  13. My first thought was yours, Emily, that Jackson and Teddy would be the last two standing (and I gave the final victory to Teddy -- he's a white man, so Jackson maybe wouldn't instinctively be as vicious :>). But team-ups didn't occur to me, so now I have to rethink this. And now I have that gang dance/fight music from West Side Story in my head.

  14. I'm sticking with Grant. If we're surmising teams, he'd pair up with Lincoln ("Grant is my man and I am his the rest of the war"), and Lincoln would do well in a knife fight - long arms. If they both made it to the end, well, we all know who was susceptible to a sneak attack from behind (and if I remember right, Grant actually survived an assassination attempt on the same night as Lincoln was shot, though it may have just been because he had better guards).

  15. I have the fight scene from West Side Story in my head, but unfortunately the music is "Luck Be A Lady." Terrible, just terrible.

    I divide the presidents roughly into four quadrants- weak defenders/weak attackers/strong defenders/strong attackers. I tend to think it is better to be a weak attacker than a weak defender, but much better to be a strong defender than a strong attacker. As a weak attacker, at least the strong attackers won't think of you as easy pickings and come after you first. However, with the strong attackers, every time you attack, you expose yourself to greter injury and risk than waiting for someone to bring the fight to you. A strong defender conserves energy.

    However, the ability to team up changes the landscape and strategy for everyone who is willing to take the risk of joining up with another person. It is a huge risk, with a big payoff, mostly for everyone except the strong attackers. Strong attackers immediaIf there isn't a lot of trust there, the situation will lead to large knife between the ribs. I tend not to think of sheer political alliances being enough to overcome the natural distrust in that situation. Natural friendships and family bonds might just be enough (perhaps).

    I think teaming up is enough for two weak defenders (like the Adamses) to transform into strong defenders. Strong attackers like Teddy or Jackson won't go after them right away when it is clear that they are a team. For the Bush guys, it would be enough to transform a weak attacker (Dubya) and a strong defender (Sr.) into a strong attacker. (Sr. Bush would rather defend, but Dubya can't be controlled, so he would be dragged along into the mess). Having someone be able to watch your back would be invaluable. For the natural lone strong attacker, they don't gain much advantage by teaming up. The temptation to stab the strong attacker while they were otherwise occupied would be too strong for pretty any other person.

  16. But see, strategy changes a lot of that. In Lincoln/Grant, you have guys who understand that it's best to let other people take each other out and wait a bit. Teddy wouldn't be able to help himself, he'd attack. Jackson could be controlled by Van Buren, but otherwise Jackson would attack, too. I agree that in theory, the Bushes are stronger together, except that I think there's a family issue, too - would W really just listen to his smarter father? Or would he argue? No question JQA would listen to his father. Don't know about the Harrisons - Benjamin was 7 when his grandfather died. And I continue to think that Nixon/LBJ could be a dangerous duo - but you're right, they couldn't really trust each other for very long.

  17. Having seen half of The Hunger Games qualifies me to weigh in. I'll put twenty on Jackson.

  18. The first half or the last half? I'm now wagering all my ducats on Grant :-)