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Bad Presidents

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

But sometimes fiction can take truth and turn it up to eleven.

We all know how the recent presidential election turned out in the real world. Hilary Clinton won by three million votes, but Donald Trump is going to take office in a week and a half, thanks to the electoral college, James Comey, and some Russian hackers. I've seen a lot of Trump voters saying, yes, Trump was bad, but they thought Clinton was worse, so... lesser of two evils and all that. (FWIW, I don't think Hilary was evil, but even if we accept that premise, no way she was the lesser when up against the Pussygrabber-in-Chief).

I don't want to talk real world politics here, however. We've done a lot of that this past year, and we have four more years of it ahead of us.

Instead I want to expand the "choice of evils" template with a little thought experiment, and weigh Trump against some fictional presidents and presidential candidates.

So... if the recent presidential election had pitted Donald Trump against Francis Underwood (HOUSE OF CARDS) and Gregg Hartmann (WILD CARDS), who would you have voted for?

And if you don't know who Gregg Hartmann is... well, go check out our new Wild Cards website at http://www.wildcardsworld.com/ . Our plan is to keep the site fresh with blog posts every couple of weeks, and the first of those just went up: a rumination by Stephen Leigh on the long and storied career of Gregg Hartmann, aka Puppetman, whose saga lasted from the first volume of WILD CARDS all the way through volume fifteen.

Read it and enjoy, and post your choices here: Trump, Underwood, or Hartmann. With reasons.

NO off topic comments, please.

FWIW, Hartmann never did manage to achieve the White House in the Wild Cards universe. But Leo Barnett did, so I am not sure that's a total win...


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Jan. 8th, 2017 12:41 am (UTC)
Underwood. Yes yes, he is a cold bastard without any moral compass and a murderer, but he's also an efficient leader who can keep his cool.
Mahmoud Mohey
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:41 am (UTC)
Joffrey is better than trumb 😂
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:43 am (UTC)
F.U. 2016
F.U. 2016
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:53 am (UTC)
Frank Underwood of course. In FU we trust.

Edited at 2017-01-08 02:09 am (UTC)
Flynn Pollard
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:54 am (UTC)
That's a rough choice George
But I think I'd go with Underwood. He at least seems transparent
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:56 am (UTC)
You really wanted to highlight a point about the lesser of evils!

I would unfortunately choose Trump as President.
Simply because I could not condone any literal murderer in office.
Regardless of potential, capability and intelligence it is a standard that should never be compromised as it is a fundamental law of human nature.... even if the alternative is a snake oil salesman with bad hair.
Jan. 8th, 2017 07:19 pm (UTC)
Crap. You make excellent points. And I HATE that it makes so much sense. Anyone capable of personally committing murder is far more dangerous and calculating than the man-child.
Don't want a murderer for POTUS - bookish_adw - Jan. 8th, 2017 09:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Tristan Donat (Tenkei)
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:57 am (UTC)
Frank Underwood, no doubt about it in my mind.
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:58 am (UTC)
Anyone but Hartmann
Trump and Underwood can be checked by other government offices. Hartmann would be very hard to stop due to his abilities...
Shara Rondon
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:00 am (UTC)
My initial reaction is that any politician, even a murdering one like Underwood, would be a better president than Trump, simply because of experience. Politics in general is such a cynical and dirty system that uses utilitarianism as a guise and completely distorts it to keep the elite machine running. It's one of the reasons Clinton lost voters and Bernie lost the DNC nomination. Clinton had skeletons in her closet and Bernie was the Jon Snow that no one listens to. Real life is much stranger than fiction.
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:01 am (UTC)
The lesser of three evils.

Hartmann pretends that it's all about helping Wild Card victims, but it's really about him and he hid it very well.
Underwood. Because sometimes you need a bastards' bastard in the Big Chair.
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:03 am (UTC)
Russian Hackers :)
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:04 am (UTC)
President Underwood
I choose Underwood because I honestly don't know Hartmann, and [House of Cards' spoilers coming] even if he killed someone I think he has some kind of moral and purpose that Trump doesn't have.
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:18 am (UTC)
As a Brazilian
as a brazilian, i'm getting used to see political scandal, public money going into private accounts, travels, cars, etc. But here in Brazil, we NEVER thought that Trump could have a chance of winning. It was a very big surprise (in the worst way).

And as a huge House of Cards fan, i'm looking forward to see how the new season will try to be crazy as the real life politics. It won't be easy...
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:30 am (UTC)
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Brad Barclay
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:32 am (UTC)
French toast please?
Can I just be glad I live in a Parliamentary Democracy that would never elect _any_ of these people, and just leave it at that? %-)
Jan. 8th, 2017 12:35 pm (UTC)
RE: French toast please?
But the original FU -- Francis Urquhart, was Prime Minister of the UK in the original House of Cards. And in my opinion, he was far scarier than the US version.
Re: French toast please? - machiavelli_jr - Jan. 9th, 2017 09:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Dan Koifman
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:36 am (UTC)
Up until the election, I thought that Claire Underwood becoming VP was amongst the most unrealistic political things on TV.

But faced with the choices of murderers, rapists, and a Manchurian clowndidate with ties to the mob, I would write-in Petyr Baelish. Underwood's puppy killing was the deal breaker.

I just finished my sixth read of your books yesterday. Every time I get close to the end of Dance, I slow down my pace because once I'm done... it's done and it feels like I lost a friend.

I'm glad we will still have Dunk and Egg once the books are done. As bloody as Westeros may be, the simple goodness of Dunk and the honorable way in which Ned raised his children makes us care because you have shown us it's still a world worth saving.

Edited at 2017-01-08 01:40 am (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:57 am (UTC)
It all depends on the platform available to John Q. Voter, not necessarily what we the audience, with our full knowledge of their respective back-stories, would choose.

Would we instantly condemn FU if he came off as the Lovable "aw-shucks" Frank that he does so well? Probably not. What are his tax policies? His views on illegal aliens, SCOTUS choices, etc? Same for any other TV/Movie President.

Fitzgerald Grant is a sleazeball in Scandal, but the campaign was masterfully played out by Olivia, and if my choice in a real-world election was between Fitz and Reston, without knowing the real story, I'd probably have voted Fitz a second term.

We're made to love Tom Kirkman in Designated Survivor, and he really does appear to be an amazing President, but what if he implemented a 25% VAT to fund his various initiatives and to rebuild the government, and/or set up unpopular security measures in the wake of the Capitol bombing? He'd be trounced by a "better" mainstream candidate.

In the end, though? Even though I'm a very solid rock-ribbed conservative, I'd *still* vote for the West Wing's Jeb Bartlett any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
(no subject) - Dan Koifman - Jan. 8th, 2017 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 8th, 2017 01:57 am (UTC)
This is like those questions that say, if you must die, would you rather be shot, stabbed, or poisoned.
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:15 am (UTC)
Underwood, because he at least has intelligence and understanding of government and the political process. Although he apparently exists in a political world where no one else does (sort of the opposite of what we have now in reality, I guess), seeing as how he made his way to the top with so little effort and no obvious foes?

(also, they do a lot of filming for it across the street from my job, so i have to pick my 'hometown' candidate)

I am not familiar enough with the WILD CARDS candidate to feel comfortable voting for him - sorry, GRRM.
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:29 am (UTC)
Interesting thought experiment. A few rules of thumb, for me:

1) Intelligent evil is better than stupid evil, in most circumstances. An intelligent evil leader will hurt people and screw people over, but might be foresighted enough to still do things that keep the country running well, as doing so is in his/her best interests. It's easier to stay in power if the country hasn't been reduced to rubble under your administration.

By contrast, a stupid and/or irrational evil leader is likely to crash the country into the ground without even understanding that this is what they're doing. They'll make bad decision after bad decision, simultaneously harming the country and harming the people around them, all the while blaming everyone but themselves until all that's left is smoking wreckage.

In short, a Tywin or a Littlefinger is preferable to a Joffrey or a Cersei, and so Francis Underwood is preferable to Trump. I don't have enough exposure to Gregg Hartmann's history to say one way or the other about him, and the article you linked didn't go into enough detail to lead me one way or the other, but if most of his villainy is confined to personal acts of torture and murder he's still preferable to someone who ruins millions of lives through sheer ineptitude.

On that note:

2) Small scale evil/ineptitude is preferable to large scale evil/ineptitude. I don't want a serial killer or a wife beater or a pedophile for President, but I'd take one over an otherwise moral and decent man who consistently acts impulsively and without regard for long term consequences, above all if such impulsive acts could reach up to the level of 'ends human civilization via nuclear war because he was in a bad mood.' Scale matters. So yeah, if Gregg Hartmann goes around torturing individual people but doesn't let his 'hobby' intrude on his governance (Roose over Ramsey), he's still a better choice than a man who openly says things like 'why do we have nuclear weapons if we can't use them.'

3) I'll take selfishness and cynicism over ideological fanaticism. This is Trump's one saving grace: he is, at bottom, a selfish narcissist who very doubtfully believes a large portion of the things he says. A man who lines his pockets at the public expense is bad, but endurable. It's the Hitlers and the Maos and the Stalins, the fanatical believers in causes which necessitated the mass deaths of millions of people, who are the most frightening.

Of course, this is broad strokes stuff. A stupid evil leader might make such enormous mistakes so quickly that they bury themselves in short order, in which case such a leader would be preferable to the scumbag who can hide his malevolence for years. Still, on the whole, I'd take either of these fictional characters over Trump, though with the reminder that I know very little about Hartmann and could change my mind.
Zack Needham
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:32 am (UTC)
A choice

Underwood is cold, and I don't know much about Hartmann. Trump isn't in office yet, and could turn out to be a good president. People expect him to fail, but they also expected him to lose.
Jan. 8th, 2017 03:40 am (UTC)
Re: A choice
A man doesn't become a blank slate when he wins the Presidency. You can make safe predictions about things like competence and morality based on that individual's history, particularly if they've been around for decades.

So no, not holding out much hope for 'good president.' I'll settle for 'not an existential threat to democracy.'
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:33 am (UTC)
Well, knowing what we know about Underwood I guess I would vote for Trump (if I HAD to vote and HAD to pick one of these three). I mean, Underwood is literally a murderer. Even if he is more effective, I believe that ideals matter.

To me, that's the biggest failure of this election. Whatever Trump may or may not do, the American people failed themselves by succumbing to the fear based, racist and mysoginistic tactics of the campaign. He could be impeached day 1 in office, and we would still carry that stain.
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:37 am (UTC)
Between Underwood and Trump... Underwood. Underwood is the greater of two evils here, it's true, but he still didn't create a wave of nationalism. Underwood's evil is personal, but is he really doing that terrible a job as president? His secretary of state was a solid choice. Underwood's attempt at gaining power is through actually *doing* things that make him more popular; the murder stuff is simply what he believes is necessary to maintain his hold.

Trump, on the other hand, wants John Bolton in State and picked Mike Pence as VP. Trump is an inept fool who fueled a massive wave of nationalism for his own power, but his ineptitude means that the people who will actually do things are crazy right-wingers, even though Trump himself is actually a pretty pragmatic guy -- remember the first GOP debate? Half of what he said was pure insanity; the other half was saner than everyone else on that stage. But he's inept, and the people with whom he surrounded himself are insane.

So I'll take the evil guy who still purposely chooses good underlings than the incompetent neutral guy who chooses evil underlings.

I don't know Hartmann yet!
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:59 am (UTC)
Trump v Underwood
We just had the Trump and Underwood election...
Jan. 9th, 2017 10:00 am (UTC)
Re: Trump v Underwood
Yes. I was thinking the same thing.
Jan. 8th, 2017 03:22 am (UTC)
They Are All Liars&Crooks
They seek only one thing, REELECTION. Politicians are all cheerleaders now, they don't want to actually stand behind something because that could cost them precious votes. So candidates feed their supporters with the bullshit they're gluttonous to.

Anyone who is far to the left or far to the right should just stay farthest from me.

But for sake of playing along... I suppose I'd choose Underwood. He seems to be the most intelligent of the trio.

Edited at 2017-01-08 03:31 am (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2017 05:41 am (UTC)
I think it depends on what we know. We've seen behind the curtain for two of these choices, so we know the evil that comes with them. Trump is still, forgive me, a wild card.

I think I'm the only posted so far that is familiar with Hartmann and not Underwood. So comparing just Hartmann and Trump? I think outside of a couple particular instances, Hartmann is less visibly twisted than Trump. I'd probably be campaigning for Hartmann, although I've only read through Turn of the Cards anything like recently.
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George R.R. Martin
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