Your Required Weekend Reading: The Presidential Knife Fight

 

Ok, so you’ve had a long week of presidential politics. You’ve been so thoroughly saturated with convention coverage that you’ll likely fire a handgun at your television the next time you see David Gergen’s face (don’t fight this instinct…it’s what separates us from the animals). And now it’s Labor Day weekend, college football is coming back, and the last thing you want to do is think for even a second about the American presidency. Hold that thought. You need to read this first.

Over at Face in the Blue, Geoff Micks has compiled an essay as epic as its title: “In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why?” And yes, he’s breaking down all 43 competitors for you. A few of my favorites:

4) James Madison. He’s just too short. I’m sorry: You need reach in a knife fight. The bravado of the philosophy behind Manifest Destiny only gets you so far. He’ll die early, and his small corpse will be one of the least important tripping hazards as the battle wears on.

27) William Howard Taft. What did that man look like in his prime? I suspect even at his most physically fit he could go toe to toe with the stereotypical 21st Century Wal-Mart patron. I just don’t think he was ever healthy enough to make a good showing in this arena. Dead early, and his corpse might well be used as a low wall or some sort of artificial hill to lend advantage to his conquerors.

28) Woodrow Wilson. A brilliant mind and a delicate physique. Dead very early. If Teddy Roosevelt in his prime knew that Wilson would be president after him, I suspect Wilson would be a hunted man early in the fight.

39) Jimmy Carter and a knife fight is a comical thought to me. Among the first dead would be my suspicion.

Read it all. Now. You can thank me later.

There are 31 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Awesome. That is all. 

    • #1
    • September 1, 2012, at 5:22 AM PDT
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  2. Robert Barraud Taylor Inactive

    I don’t know. William Henry Harrison had an illustrious combat record from an early age. I think I would place a bet on him to show; make it into the top ten, maybe into the final three. Jackson: tough but also accident prone. Could trip on knife and self-eviscerate. Difficult to estimate form.

    • #2
    • September 1, 2012, at 5:26 AM PDT
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  3. DocJay Inactive

    You really don’t want me of all people to comment on this one Troy. Suffice to say that I love it.

    • #3
    • September 1, 2012, at 5:36 AM PDT
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  4. Robert Barraud Taylor Inactive

    Lincoln also formidable physically; splitting rails makes for quite a physique. While President he could still hold an axe horizontally extended, just his fingertips holding the haft, until he got bored. Try it sometime. Eisenhower and Ford were also top athletes in their prime; psychological mindset difficult to judge. Would not recommend them to the casual bettor.

    • #4
    • September 1, 2012, at 5:37 AM PDT
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  5. Sabrdance Member

    This is a vile -if good natured -libel of many presidents who might have only made good had politics really been a knife fight. Especially once you throw in negotiations and alliances. Oh sure, Teddy and Wilson might have tried to get Taft, but you better believe Taft would have every president from Harding to Reagan banding together to defend him. And anyway Taft was big -not fat. Heavyweigh wrestling champion at Yale and an outdoorsman during his time as Governor-General of the Phillipines. And Garfield was shot in the back, didn’t realize it, and it took his doctors more than two months to kill him with their antiseptic prodding and poking.

    I will give him Teddy and Jackson as the top two -only because death itself is afraid of those two. It only took either of them because they were lonely and wanted to see their departed loved ones (son and wife respectively). Lincoln -maybe. I’ve always been under the impression that Lincoln’s choice of broadswords for a duel was a bluff.

    And William Harrison is one of the fiew who might have ever been in a knife fight, at either Thames or Tippecannoe.

    • #5
    • September 1, 2012, at 5:41 AM PDT
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  6. Drew Hankins Inactive

    Awesome. I like the commentary on Obama.

     “He’d probably try to negotiate an end to hostilities, and while seeking a middle ground some loon would get the better of him.”

    I could see him standing in the center of the melee with his arms raised yelling like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House: “Remain calm. All is well!”

    I would probably have to give it to TR, also Ike could be a force to be reckoned with.

    • #6
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:05 AM PDT
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  7. Alan Weick Member

    First, I’ll thank you, Troy, now! I, immediately, thought of Lincoln as the top dog for reach and strength. But, I can see the logic for TR and Old Hickory as being in the top three. However, I agree with several others that Washington, like Ali, was the Greatest. He had strength and length, along with athletic ability and agility. He was, after all a marvelous dancer. And, remember, he was extremely cunning. I see TR and Old Hickory taking each other out in the end leaving Washington and Lincoln as the only ones left standing. This is as it should be.

    • #7
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:20 AM PDT
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  8. Percival Thatcher

    I came up with the same top three as Mr. Micks did, with a possible breakthrough by Washington. You just can’t count George out – he was very strong. One time some of his men were tossing around an iron bar, the Frisbee not having been invented yet. One of them asked George if he wanted to have a go, and when he had, he told them that if any of them could beat his distance, he’d go again. None of them could.

    • #8
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:24 AM PDT
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  9. Sandy Member

    Loved it, but Obama would “try to negotiate an end to hostilities” and would seek “a middle ground?” Really? I’m pretty sure that since they all had knives he’d find a way to bring a gun.

    • #9
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:27 AM PDT
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  10. Southern Pessimist Member

    George Washington. There has never been an American president more admired during his lifetime as an athlete, horseman and warrior. He was considered a giant among men in every way you measure greatness.

    • #10
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:39 AM PDT
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  11. dreamlarge Inactive

    Erm….a knife fight? Must be a man thing. It’s a clever idea, I guess, but I must admit…. my nose was scrunched up the entire time I read it. Vive la difference!

    *wanders off clutching pearls* 

    • #11
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:40 AM PDT
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  12. DocJay Inactive

    OK, I’ll say it. Obama the one term: killed while bowing, early and if possible, often. 

    • #12
    • September 1, 2012, at 6:51 AM PDT
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  13. Michael S. Malone Contributor

    Great idea, but bad execution. Monroe, Harrison and Garfield are seriously underestimated; all were hardcore fighters, especially Harrison. Ford was the best athlete of the bunch. Some of the little guys — Polk, Truman, TR, Eisenhower — were real scrappers, but it wouldn’t be enough in a knife fight. Personally, I think it comes down to Jackson (the toughest), Lincoln, (longest reach and very strong); and Washington. As already noted, Washington was immensely strong (he also entertained guests by straightening horseshoes), utterly fearless (Braddock’s retreat, Long Island, Monmouth) and a physical giant.

    It would be close, but my money’s on the Father of our Country.

    • #13
    • September 1, 2012, at 7:23 AM PDT
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  14. Eeyore Member

    I think Lyndon Johnson might get further in the top 10 than just on prowess.

    I knew a guy a long time ago who invented a board game which the big companies loved but didn’t think they would be able to get the public to buy. It was called “Screw Your Buddy”. It required making alliances early on to progress and then finding the perfect moment to turn on your partners when they were vulnerable and destroy them. I guess sort of pre-“Survivor.”

    Supposedly Johnson’s files on the members of Congress had more dirt than the FBI’s. He seems a consummate cheater. But TR might not fall for any BS he would try to sling, and LBJ would have to depend on simple viciousness. 

    • #14
    • September 1, 2012, at 7:27 AM PDT
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  15. tabula rasa Member

    Read Destiny of the Republic and you’ll learn that Garfield could take a hit. After being shot by a crazy man, he lived for several months in agony while being treated by some truly incompetent doctors (I like to think this was an early indication of how socialized medicine would work). Given what he went through, he’d take several serious wounds and still be doing some damage. Clearly Top Ten.

    In a knife fight, I think I’d have to go with Jackson, but Michael Malone makes a solid case for George Washington. Any weapons but a knife and I’d pick George.

    • #15
    • September 1, 2012, at 7:48 AM PDT
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  16. Profile Photo Member
    Robert Barraud Taylor: Lincoln also formidable physically; splitting rails makes for quite a physique. While President he could still hold an axe horizontally extended, just his fingertips holding the haft, until he got bored. Try it sometime. Eisenhower and Ford were also top athletes in their prime; psychological mindset difficult to judge. Would not recommend them to the casual bettor. · 2 hours ago

    And he killed all those vampires, so…

    • #16
    • September 1, 2012, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  17. Profile Photo Member

    And don’t forget Clinton. He’s a survivor… they don’t call him Slick Willy for nothing.

    • #17
    • September 1, 2012, at 7:50 AM PDT
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  18. DocJay Inactive
    Trace Urdan: And don’t forget Clinton. He’s a survivor… they don’t call him Slick Willy for nothing. · 1 minute ago

    Killed while copulating and high.

    • #18
    • September 1, 2012, at 7:52 AM PDT
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  19. Profile Photo Member

    The Hunger Presidents

    • #19
    • September 1, 2012, at 8:02 AM PDT
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  20. Fred. C. Dobbs Reagan

    Skill is important, but so is mental attitude. Several of these men were great athletes as well as being trained and experienced in combat — some of it, in close quarters with bayonets, if not knives.

    But only one of the whole lot ever demonstrated the will to kill another man in a duel. Only Old Hickory had the nerve and determination to coolly face another man and end his life. When the dust settles, it would be Andy Jackson left standing.

    • #20
    • September 1, 2012, at 8:10 AM PDT
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  21. Chris O. Member

    I agree with the comments here on William Henry Harrison. He is going to last and might be one of the few given grudging respect by Jackson, who will be taken out by anyone able to keep their cool under his withering, Larry Bird-like trash talk. Washington, Lincoln, T. R., Bush Sr. are all candidates for that honor. Ford will be able to evade, if not deliver a lot of death blows, so he has potential in a battle of endurance. He, Lincoln and T. R. probably have the most strength left for the fight as it enters the later stages. They say be careful about the “quiet ones.” Advantage: Coolidge. You never know.

    Thanks for the fun post, Troy.

    • #21
    • September 1, 2012, at 8:22 AM PDT
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  22. Umbra Fractus Inactive

    Don’t underestimate Dubya. He’s in incredible shape, has a scrappy personality, and has probably been in a few pub brawls in his time, which is probably better training for this sort of fracas than military experience.

    That said, I still can’t really argue with the author that it’ll come down to TR vs. Jackson in the end.

    But I think the one thing everyone who reads that post can agree on: A Romney victory in November will not change the outcome one bit.

    • #22
    • September 1, 2012, at 9:26 AM PDT
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  23. Keith Rice Member

    I’m no historian myself, but it seems that some of these men were mischaracterized by a margin of popular myth. Sure SNL had Ford a falling down fool though he was an Eagle Scout and a respectable football player. But I agree with Michael S. Malone for the most part.

    Nixon might do well by pitting top contenders against each other and hiding under corpses.

    Obama would probably be the first to go after pitching an insulting line of bs.

    • #23
    • September 1, 2012, at 9:39 AM PDT
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  24. Spud O'Chez Inactive

    Was JFK is such bad shape? He did have combat experience.

    I think Reagan may be a dark house candidate for top 10. He was a big guy, good athlete in his yute and still kept in shape tending the ranch. His acting skills could trick a few competitors, and Bonzo may have taught him a few moves.

    If only President Ahnold could have a chance, then the girlie-men Presidents would be sliced up like a rolll of bologna. Ya!

    • #24
    • September 1, 2012, at 9:49 AM PDT
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  25. SParker Member

    We at Activision think this will make the best video game EVER. We’re on it. The writing staff has been terminated* and we have Gordon S. Wood on the phone (he’s excited, very excited).

    *Management lessons learned: Writers consider being asked to help out with motion capture sessions an honor (and that big chance they need to break into acting, their true destiny). Their pathetically limited imaginations never encompassed the use of live ammunition.

    • #25
    • September 1, 2012, at 9:54 AM PDT
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  26. Sabrdance Member
    SParker: We at Activision think this will make the best video game EVER. We’re on it. The writing staff has been terminated* and we have Gordon S. Wood on the phone (he’s excited, very excited).

    *Management lessons learned: Writers consider being asked to help out with motion capture sessions an honor (and that big chance they need to break into acting, their true destiny). Their pathetically limited imaginations never encompassed the use of live ammunition. · 30 minutes ago

    Wait, when did EA buy Activision?

    • #26
    • September 1, 2012, at 10:47 AM PDT
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  27. Steven M. Member
    Spud O’Chez: Was JFK is such bad shape? He did have combat experience.

    He had a bad back. Sleeping on PT boats will do that to you. 

    • #27
    • September 1, 2012, at 10:52 AM PDT
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  28. Hank Rhody, on the blockchain Contributor

    You’ll note that the discussion posits peak physical condition from any time within their term. As much as it pains me to say so, Obama might do better than Reagan simply because he entered office as a much younger man.

    People talk about Ford’s football career, but I don’t know that it’ll be much of an advantage. We’re talking knife fights here, and football is at least one step removed from actual combat. Similarly, I don’t know if Taft’s wrestling experience will help him too much. When you’re wrestling you look to close with your opponent, with a knife fight it’s imperative to keep your distance. It’s better than nothing.

    Also, the author seems indiscriminate about the qualities of military service. Being a general is good, but actually getting down into the mud and fighting it out yourself is better. Which reminds me; don’t expect anyone’s leadership (With the possible exception of Washington himself) to be of much service; you don’t get to be president by following someone else’s lead.

    • #28
    • September 2, 2012, at 2:17 AM PDT
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  29. Profile Photo Member
    Steven M.
    Spud O’Chez: Was JFK is such bad shape? He did have combat experience.

    He had a bad back. Sleeping on PT boats will do that to you. · 1 hour ago

    So will sleeping with Nazi spies…and not having enough spine left to stand up to your father.

    • #29
    • September 2, 2012, at 12:25 PM PDT
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  30. Profile Photo Member

    I say Lincoln. Read up on his epic wrestling match with the town bully, Jack Armstrong. Later, Armstrong’s family becomes an important ally in his early campaigns.

    As for TR, he was one of our great national bada$$es. Jumped off his horse to kill a cougar with his knife. And by cougar, I don’t mean some libidinous blue-haired lady.

    • #30
    • September 2, 2012, at 12:27 PM PDT
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