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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...

Comments

( 68 comments )
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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)
w2irt
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
hand2hand
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.
alethiometric
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.
sdschaffer
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
Trump.

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.
sdschaffer
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.'
Space_Goon
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.
timmypowg
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:37 am (UTC)
Underwood
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!
krunchygoodness
Jan. 8th, 2017 02:59 am (UTC)
Trump v Underwood
We just had the Trump and Underwood election...
mojave_wolf
Jan. 9th, 2017 10:00 am (UTC)
Re: Trump v Underwood
Yes. I was thinking the same thing.
sourbillytipton
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)
enotsola
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.
justanidea123
Jan. 8th, 2017 05:45 am (UTC)
Mr.Martin,

Thanks for the reply! An asteroid wouldn't be the worst thing, maybe a select few of us will get some kind of super powers from it. It would be pretty cool if as you're stranded on your roof as the giant tidal waves the asteroid caused are about to be the end, suddenly a man flies down from the sky and takes you to safety. He shows how society is being rebuilt through the use of the other meta humans. Then he could ask how A Dream Of Spring is coming along.

All kidding aside, I still feel an update post would help both you and the fan base greatly. It seemed to me that the new years post last year definitely stopped the flow of requests on the status of the book, but I'm an outsider looking in when it comes to this.

That being said, I said I'd ask one and only once.


I really appreciate the response, and while I can't I say I hope the Giants win tomorrow, I hope its a good game either way. Too many blowouts this weekend, and because of some questionable calls they leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Thanks,

Jake

P.S I apologize for posting in this thread, but I didn't receive your response to my comment(http://grrm.livejournal.com/514373.html?page=2#comments) until after you had locked the thread. I didn't want to appear rude and as if I didn't deem to respond. If this is considered too offtopic please let me know and I will gladly delete it.
Itamar Widerker
Jan. 8th, 2017 06:26 am (UTC)
This comment section has disappointed me
Simply put, Hartmann is the best choice. A leader who is effective, and works on civil rights? Who appears to be a smart, moral guy? Whose works benefit a lot of people?

Sure, he's a serial killing evil asshat but nobody's perfect.
striker163
Jan. 8th, 2017 06:41 am (UTC)
F.U. 2016
Underwood no question, but here's why. Going off of Hannah Arendt's political theory, where the realm of politics is the relm of appearance. Frank takes the cake. He's like a faceless man in his appearance. He doesn't have an identity. He is what he wants us to see and he wants us to see. He wants the United States to see a president who is firm and carries himself with grace. There was actually a quote from the latest season of House of Cards which I loved, "the president is the people who work for him". I'm just as terrified, if not more, of the horrendous, but expected, choices Trump has made for his Cabinet. When you take away the cabinet, a major purpose of the President is how he appears to the rest of the world. At the very least Frank Underwood presents himself with a sense of professionalism and intellect that doesn't make us look like an international laughing stocks. He also did a much better job at keeping his crimes secret. What can I say, it's possible I've been seduced by the marvelous performance of Kevin Spacey.

Edited at 2017-01-08 06:45 am (UTC)
Shreya Kumar
Jan. 8th, 2017 06:42 am (UTC)
Underwood. (I do admit that I enjoy "House Of Cards" but I'll do my best to be objective)

Francis has a lot of experience as Chief Whip. That alone makes him a better candidate than Trump for the presidency in my book. He is also efficient, good at his job (politics is a lot about understanding people and the dynamics of power as I have learned from asoiaf) and covers his tracks well.

Trump has had more than his share of losses in business, he does not have any political experience whatsoever nor is he diplomatic.
writing_mombie
Jan. 8th, 2017 07:33 am (UTC)
I would have voted for Underwood but...
for CLAIRE ;)
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