Presidential Royal Rumble

Last week, the guys debated which U.S. President was the best, and this week they continue that debate in print for your reading enjoyment.


Chris: This week’s No Right Answer turned out to be one of my absolute favorite episodes ever. Half of this came from the enjoyment of filming, as we had a ton of energy and really sank our improv chops into something as meaty as “let’s have fun with Presidents.” But the other, much larger half (thus making it a very skewed pie graph) turned out to be the response from the comments. Tons of surprises on that front! We made an episode about the two most obvious choices for U.S. Presidents and we got a swarm of alternate choices from entirely unexpected places.

I heard a very quick backing for Polk, and a few mentioning Madison and Taft and a handful of others besides the more obvious Washington, Jefferson, FDR, and JFK. What’s still fascinating me though is the rhetoric a lot of comments still start with. “What, no love for [insert author’s choice]?!” For one last time, let’s all say this together, with feeling: By nature, a debate has to have two choices and therefore has to whittle itself down to two and only two. We didn’t forget, dislike, or otherwise snub other choices. It’s just how it happened this time.

That said, I saw a fun comment that mentioned how this episode in particular showed how much Americans know about U.S. history. I wasn’t sure if it was referring to Kyle and me in the episode, playing it up on purpose for laughs, or at the commenters, the majority of which proved they knew far more than enough about U.S. history. I couldn’t be more proud to read the bevy of comments and just see history lessons popping up into both compact and not-so-compact snippets.

For now though, if there was any doubt that I pulled an Honest Abe and wrestled Kyle to the ground in this debate, there are a few points that I’m honestly sad he didn’t bring up about Teddy, just because I had arguments planned way ahead of time. First, Teddy Roosevelt was known as the Trust Buster for all the trusts he broke up during his Presidency, yet the funny irony is, Taft, his successor and the guy we only remember for getting stuck in a bathtub, busted twice as many trusts in half the time (Roosevelt had 44 in 7 and a half years whereas Taft had 90 in 4).

The other part that Kyle missed bringing up is Roosevelt establishing the FDA and a lot of things as a result of The Jungle, that fun little book about the meat industry by Upton Sinclair. Now, I’ll admit, The Jungle made me more hungry than outraged, but while Teddy freaked out and passed a handful of regulations as a result, the actual book was heavily fictionalized as, you know, fiction books usually are. Oh, and that whole “piranhas can strip a cow in a minute” fact? Also fabricated, specifically to impress Roosevelt. All this leads me to believe is that while Teddy was a man who was larger than life and kicked every single butt that came betwixt his boot and Mars, he was really gullible. I’m starting to believe I could have dissuaded him from fighting me just by mentioning I knew Kaio Ken and then showing him an episode of Dragon Ball Z.

But I can’t just leave without taking a few cheap shots at the other Roosevelt, which could have been another argument in Kyle’s favor – that the Roosevelt name carried on and grew stronger with age. FDR is seen as this mythical man who saved the United States from the Great Depression via The New Deal. Want to know some really tough but easily learned facts? FDR didn’t get us out of the Great Depression via The New Deal. That would be World War II. The New Deal crippled what little was left of the economy and the last Great War saved the day by being a really horrible time for everyone. And then FDR didn’t even finish the war. That was Truman and the Manhattan Project.

Ugh, see? History stops being fun really fast. On an unrelated note, I want to make a Kickstarter for a videogame called Presidential Royal Rumble. Best fighting game ever? False. That would be the sequel, Presidential Royal Rumble: Second Term.

Oh, and fun fact: Kyle and I are both Moderates, bordering on Indifferents, though it still says Republican on my voting info because I registered in Spanish but don’t speak Spanish. Politics!

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Kyle: I wasn’t expecting everyone to take this as seriously as they did. Just throwing that out there. I often feel that the U.S. Presidents are regarded with way too much reverence from folks on the internet in particular. It’s like the Edison vs. Tesla thing.

Centuries have passed. Let it go.

Anyway, I understand that these choices were the obvious ones. You didn’t have to tell us that. We knew. We felt it would be a less entertaining episode if we went for Calvin Coolidge vs. Chester A. Arthur. Lincoln and Teddy are the obvious choices because these two men have crossed over from history into legend. Lincoln fought vampires in a movie this year, for crying out loud. Sorry, that puts him in a special category.

But I stand by my declaration that Theodore Roosevelt is the best U.S. President. Think of it this way: This is the only U.S. President to be awarded both the Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, the foremost award for valor in warfare, and the world’s foremost honor for fostering peace. Same guy.

Sure, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001, a hundred years after his Presidency and eighty years after his death. But he was nominated for the award at the time of his service in the Spanish-American War. And he won that damn Nobel award fair and square for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.

But not only that, he had a background for tough leadership that Lincoln could never hold claim to. When he was a frontier sheriff he captured two dangerous outlaws and guarded them without sleep for forty hours. He was the New York City Police Commissioner. He was a Colonel in a volunteer cavalry unit. He even led expeditions into the malaria-infested Congo and the Brazilian jungles. And that was when he wasn’t being a political badass.

Teddy was shot in the chest by an assassin during a campaign speech. He took one look at his wound, concluded that the bullet must not have penetrated his lung (because he wasn’t coughing blood or dead), and decided to give his 90-minute speech anyway. And he carried that bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.

That’s it. Teddy is so money and he doesn’t even know it. And I don’t even know what that means.


Dan: Wow, did I have fun searching for images on this one! For reasons that only support our choices in this debate, certain Presidents have become internet heroes. The art and worship that these men have garnered makes you wonder if our current Commander in Chief will experience the same artistic renderings in the near future. We might just Google Obama in ten years to find him riding a dolphin and fighting a swarm of nano-bots with Poseidon’s trident. Nice.

Chris won this one by a landslide, and combining that with the fact that I am writing this on a computer that can’t access the episode, I will just say that the points fell where they did because they did. Now that the arguments are out of the way, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about our current President.

Spoiler alert: Our current U.S. president is going to go down in history. All our Presidents are in history, but not all of them get a prominent place. Howard Taft is best known for being extremely fat, and Ford is best known for being a Vice President who perhaps wasn’t ready for the big chair. These are the secondary Presidents, the ones that don’t get put on mountains or money. The big boys are your first Presidents, your Presidents that won wars, and your Presidents that had silver tongues. Our current big boy is all three of those in one!

I don’t want to get into the politics of whether or not his policies are right or wrong. I have several extremist Republican acquaintances who will shut my Facebook account down with Fox News articles about how he is Satan if we get into that. I’m just talking about the handful of Presidents a child can rattle off if asked who all the presidents are. The boys on the bills are easy, but you have to be aware of the Benjamin Franklin loophole. I guess if you invented a lot of stuff and then slept with all the wenches, you get a $100. I don’t think Obama will be put on any money, because we aren’t a nation that changes our currency too often, but he will be on the short list. He was the first black President, which is huge, and he has improved the U.S. image in the eyes of the international community. Like any President before him, there are groups that disagree with his policies and go a little far in voicing that distaste, but on the whole he is pretty likable.

I guess what I am trying to say is, it must have been pretty special being alive when Lincoln or Roosevelt were in office. I wonder if people know that the then-current President was going to be one of the “Big” ones, and I wonder if we are seeing another “Big” one right now.

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Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.